Legendary Singer Tony Bennett and Family Share Details of His Battle with Alzheimer’s

The musical icon was diagnosed with the disease in 2016.

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Posted in , Oct 12, 2021

Tony Bennett holding a microphone

Grammy and Emmy Award-winning performer Tony Bennett and his family are opening up about the 95-year-old’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In an exclusive 60 Minute special that aired on CBS in early October, Bennett’s wife and full-time caregiver, Susan Crow, along with others close to the star, shared details of his battle with the disease.

“Everyday is different,” Crow said. “Late at night, sometimes early in the morning, he’s more alert. I’ll tell him, ‘Tone, you’re going to be on 60 Minutes. You remember that show, 60 Minutes?’ He’s like, ‘I do.’ But in any other given moment, he won’t know.” 

Bennett and his family announced his health status in February of this year, telling AARP Magazine he was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016. He began showing signs of the disease when he struggled to remember the names of musicians whom he regularly worked with.  

Although he doesn’t always know where he is or what’s happening around him, he’s been spared other common characteristics of the disease, which include wandering from home and episodes of terror, rage or depression. Thankfully, he still recognizes his wife and children.

“We are blessed in a lot of ways,” Crow said. “He’s very sweet.”

His doctor, neurologist Gayatri Devi, told AARP that thanks to his versatile brain and its functioning areas, he was still able to do many things, some of which many people without dementia can’t do.

“He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder,” she said. Devi, who has studied the disease for 25 years, strongly encouraged the musician’s family to let him continue to sing and play music because “it kept him on his toes and also stimulated his brain in a significant way.”

While performing in his New York City apartment with his longtime pianist Lee Musiker, whom he rehearses with twice a week, the legendary crooner did something incredible. For an entire hour, he sang his old songs from memory, without the help of musical notes or cue cards.

“When I start playing, Tony is completely engaged, and this is a whole new performance and new phrases, new naunce,” Musiker said. “Nothing short of a miracle.”

Bennett’s older son, Danny, who’s been his manager for the past 45 years, wanted to give his father another chance to perform on stage. He came up with “One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga,” which took place in August in New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, where Bennett shared the stage with longtime friend and collaborator, Lady Gaga, to perform two farewell shows. 

On opening night—and his 95th birthday—the legendary showman performed more than a dozen songs before he was joined by Gaga. “Woah, Lady Gaga!” Bennett exclaimed when she came onstage.

“That’s the first time that Tony said my name in a long time,” the singer told CBS. “It was very special.”

Although admitting it’s been hard to watch her dear friend and mentor change, Gage said it’s been inspiring to watch him and his talent continue to shine. 

“I think he really pushed through something to give the world the gift of knowing that things can change, and you can still be magnificent.” 

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