The Crooner and his Backup
Tony Bennett & Danny Bennett
How do you keep an 85-year-old icon's career fresh and relevant? The secret, according to Tony -- whose son Danny has been his manager for 33 years -- is a balance of pure, old-school music, new collaborators and social media. That's partly how Duets II, released Sept. 20, shot straight to the top of the Billboard 200 with 179,000 copies sold during its first week, marking Bennett's first No. 1 album and making him the oldest living artist to debut in the top spot. He's nominated for best pop/duo group performance for the Duets II track "Body and Soul," a collaboration with Amy Winehouse. The original Duets, conceived by Danny to reintroduce his father's hits to a new audience, and also Grammy-nominated, sold 1.7 million copies thanks to big-ticket collaborators such as Paul McCartney and Barbra Streisand. The sequel paired the crooner with next-gen names including Winehouse, Lady Gaga and Michael Buble. "It was very easy to get the artists to agree to the project," says Danny. "People like Gaga and Winehouse grew up with him and knew him." With digital accounting for 14 percent of Duets II's sales, well above the share for its predecessor, Danny can say with pride that his dad's fans cover the demographic spectrum. "Tony is ageless, and what he does transcends -- it's about reinvention without changing the music," says the younger Bennett, 58, who, to inquiring minds, professes, "Tony and I always get along" and says he studied the Beatles' tactics to learn about marketing. "We never think about how many records he'll sell --- only about the sound." The music legend says he likes technology, but Auto-Tune doesn't enter his universe. "A record is about trying to capture a true performance," says Tony. But while he usually needs only one to three takes and forgoes earphones in the studio, Tony does have a gadget jones. "He won't go anywhere without his iPad," says Danny. Tony has held fireside chats with fans from his art studio via Skype -- and he totally gets the monster power of social media. "Lady Gaga kissed me on the cheek at the end of the recording date, and she hit the Twitter, and all of her [18.5 million] fans got that photograph," he says. "It was amazing."
Photographed by Matt Jones on Jan. 25 at Jack Studios in New York City