NPR’s Michel Martin remembers the legendary singer Tony Bennett with Weekend Version host Scott Simon, who wrote the e-book “Simply Getting Began” with Bennett.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Our colleague Scott Simon, the host of Weekend Version right here at NPR, really wrote a e-book with Tony Bennett, which got here out in 2016, when Bennett was simply turning 90. It is known as “Simply Getting Began.” And Scott is with us to inform us extra about it. Scott, welcome. Thanks for becoming a member of us. And I am so sorry for the lack of your good friend.
SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Oh. Yeah, it is tough round right here.
MARTIN: So to begin with, how did it come about that you just wrote a e-book collectively?
SIMON: You already know, he preferred what I would written – my dad and mom, as , from a present enterprise background of not quite a lot of distinction. My mom was a showgirl. My father was a comic. He preferred the best way I would written in earlier books about present enterprise. He’d performed a few the identical locations my dad and mom did. He requested me to do that e-book with him of a few of his recollections of individuals in present enterprise.
And I bear in mind having lunch in New York. And I stated, look, it sounds fantastic. I really like you, however I do not learn about being a co-writer on something. And Tony stated to me – forgive my dangerous imitation – (impersonating Tony Bennett) Yeah, , child, I had the identical response. The one time I ever took second billing in my life was with Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington.
SIMON: And I stated, OK, OK.
SIMON: You’ve got satisfied me.
MARTIN: Proper. So what did he let you know about his signature piece, “I Left My Coronary heart In San Francisco”?
SIMON: He had by no means a lot seen a cable automotive when he noticed the music. He was taking part in in Scorching Springs, Ark., a nightclub. His longtime pianist, Ralph Sharon, had the sheet music in a shirt drawer. It had been written within the early ’50s by George Cory and Douglass Cross for Claramae Turner, who’d been a soprano on the San Francisco Opera. They took it out one evening after their present in Scorching Springs. The bartender stated, that is an important music. When you file that, I am going to purchase the primary copy. They reached San Francisco on their nightclub tour. They recorded it a couple of weeks later. It was on the flip facet of “As soon as Upon A Time,” which was a music from the musical the “All American.” And, after all, it turned one of many all-time hits of American standard music.
MARTIN: Do you are feeling as much as speaking extra about him? I do know it is a powerful day for you. Can we preserve going?
SIMON: Oh. You already know, he was – what – I’ll simply always remember the blessing I had in my life to take a seat with him in his artist studio, as a matter of reality, as a result of he turned a really critical painter, and simply listening to him inform story after story. And his tales by no means actually had a villain. He solely informed me the tales about folks he preferred and experiences he treasured and savored. And I bear in mind leaving his studio on daily basis after we would labored collectively and suppose, boy, that is a lesson in life in and of itself, is not it?
MARTIN: One of many issues that I believe people who find themselves, let me simply put it this fashion, of a distinct era perceive about him or learn about him is that he collaborated with artists from very totally different eras and…
SIMON: Who all admired him, and…
MARTIN: …Very totally different genres. After all, Girl Gaga is one which instantly involves thoughts.
SIMON: And Amy Winehouse, whom he worshipped and felt so dangerous when she left us, notably underneath such tragic circumstances. He had a high quality of excellence and style and craftsmanship and professionalism that, I believe, communicated throughout generational traces. And that is what so many individuals treasured about him. And as he used to say to me on a regular basis, speaking in regards to the form of songs that – he stated, it is all classical music.
SIMON: These are songs that we grew up with, that we hear, which might be acquainted factors of references in our life. And I believe no one injected them with the form of humanity and high quality that Tony had in his voice, which, by the best way, he at all times stated was the voice of his father, who sadly died when Tony was 9 or 10. And…
MARTIN: That is the form of factor that would make a person bitter. And I needed to listen to extra about – you talked about his form of elementary form of kindness and decency and appreciation for – not only for different artists, for different folks. Are you able to simply discuss a little bit bit about the place you suppose that got here from? I imply, he is had a tough early go of it.
SIMON: His father…
MARTIN: And that would have made a person form of offended and bitter.
SIMON: Yeah. Properly – and he went by means of some – , he went by means of some occasions like that. When he was 11, he sang on the opening of what we now name the Brooklyn Bridge, not the – I am sorry – the Verrazano Bridge. No, I neglect. He sang on the opening of a bridge.
MARTIN: Huge bridge, actually massive one, yeah. Huge bridge.
SIMON: And a extremely massive bridge in New York for Fiorello La Guardia. And I believe he had – he misplaced his father, however he additionally felt very blessed in life. He had powerful occasions in fight throughout World Struggle II, and he felt very blessed to have survived. He hit very grim occasions within the ’70s. And he was the primary to speak about issues that he had with medication. And naturally, the form of music that he sang was falling out of recognition. However then he returned, not by altering himself, as a result of he could not – did not wish to change himself – by simply asserting yet again his excellence in his craft. And he felt very blessed to have that acknowledged and to have stars of a younger era acknowledge it and be drawn to him and have the ability to collaborate with him, so yeah.
MARTIN: Yeah, I nonetheless would love to listen to extra about how the 2 of you labored collectively. I imply, two veteran professionals, each celebrated, if I could say, in your respective fields, however nonetheless very totally different. Simply – are you able to simply discuss a little bit bit about what it was like?
SIMON: Oh, I am nothing – completely nothing – in comparison with Tony. You already know, I might simply sit there in his artist studio and throw a reputation out at him. I imply, I did do some homework and examine his life, clearly, and knew about his life. I would throw, , Nat King Cole. (Impersonating Tony Bennett) Oh, yeah, I bear in mind the time Nat and I – and he would simply inform story after story. It was an absolute pleasure. And I believe one of many issues that I took from that’s that I believe his life was a sequence of scenes for him, that he would go from one to the opposite. You already know, when Duke Ellington had a music that he needed him to file, Duke Ellington would at all times ship him a dozen long-stemmed purple roses.
SIMON: And – yeah, I do know. And Tony as soon as stated to me, , Duke wrote 1000’s of songs. Boy, that might have been quite a lot of roses if I had recorded all of them.
SIMON: However he felt blessed to be acknowledged by somebody of the expertise of Duke Ellington.
MARTIN: And also you appear to have felt blessed by your time with him, so thanks for sharing a few of these recollections with us. That is NPR’s Scott Simon. He wrote a e-book with Tony Bennett known as “Simply Getting Began.” Scott, thanks a lot for speaking with us and sharing these recollections.
SIMON: Thanks, Michel.
(SOUNDBITE OF MAX RICHTER’S “DEPARTURE (HOME)”)
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This textual content might not be in its remaining kind and could also be up to date or revised sooner or later. Accuracy and availability might range. The authoritative file of NPR’s programming is the audio file.