“I will miss my friend forever,” she said of Bennett, who passed away on July 21. “I will miss singing with him, recording with him, talking with him, being on stage together. With Tony, I got to live my life in a time warp. Tony & I had this magical power. We transported ourselves to another era, modernized the music together, & gave it all new life as a singing duo. But it wasnt an act. Our relationship was very real.”
Gaga went on to share in her Instagram post how he taught her about music, life and maintaining a positive attitude.
“He also showed me how to keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight. ‘Straight ahead,’ he’d say,’” her post on Sunday continued. “He was an optimist, he believed in quality work AND quality life. Plus, there was the gratitude…Tony was always grateful. He served in WWII, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and sang jazz with the greatest singers and players in the world.”
The singer added that they had a “very long and powerful goodbye,” and although there was a large age gap between them, he was her “real true friend.”
“Our age difference didn’t matter – in fact, it gave us each something neither of us had with most people. We were from two different stages in life entirely – inspired,” Gaga said. “Losing Tony to Alzheimer’s has been painful but it was also really beautiful. An era of memory loss is such a sacred time in a persons life. There’s such a feeling of vulnerability and a desire to preserve dignity. All I wanted was for Tony to remember how much I loved him and how grateful I was to have him in my life. But, as that faded slowly I knew deep down he was sharing with me the most vulnerable moment in his life that he could – being willing to sing with me when his nature was changing so deeply. I’ll never forget this experience. I’ll never forget Tony Bennett.”
The legendary singer died in his hometown of New York City at the age of 96, his publicist Sylvia Weiner shared. “Tony left us today but he was still singing the other day at his piano and his last song was, ‘Because of You,’ his first #1 hit,” read a message to his official Facebook page.
While a cause of death was not given, Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016, a diagnosis that was shared with the public five years later in 2021.
Still, he continued performing both in the recording studio and on tour. The neurologist who diagnosed him, Dr. Gayatri Devi at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, said at the time “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”
One of those things was headlining two shows with Lady Gaga at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in August 2021. Shortly after, Bennett would announce he was canceling his fall tour.
The treasured American storyteller, singer and showman has received 20 Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement honor in 2001, has sold around 60 million records and has charted albums in every decade since the 1950s.
He earned his final Grammy in April 2022 for his work with Gaga on the album Love for Sale, which was his second acclaimed collaboration with her and made him the second-oldest winner in history. Gaga performed the album’s title track “Love for Sale” solo as a tribute to Bennett during that year’s televised ceremony, after Bennett briefly introduced her over video, waving and sending a kiss. Gaga was left in tears after the moment: “I love you Tony, we miss you,” she said.
At the 2015 Grammys, the duo had the audience on its feet when they shared the stage to perform their duet title track “Cheek to Cheek” and Gaga ended the performance with a kiss on Bennett’s cheek. They took home the award for best traditional pop vocal album that year.
Gaga and Bennett first collaborated on “The Lady Is a Tramp” from Bennett’s 2011 Duets II.
Bennett was king of the duet, teaming over the years with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Billy Joel, Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion, George Michael and more on songs that contributed to the longevity of his storied career. “Tony abhorred demographics,” his oldest son Danny Bennett told The New York Times in 1999. “He believed he could play to the whole family. I told him that in order to do that, you have to go to them.”
John and Joel were among the Friday tributes. John, who recorded with Bennett for his 80th birthday on 2006’s Duets: An American Classic, wrote on Instagram, “Without doubt the classiest singer, man, and performer you will ever see. He’s irreplaceable. I loved and adored him.”
Joel, who recorded with Bennett on two of his albums and performed with him “New York State of Mind” at the closing of Shea Stadium 2008, wrote, “I will always be grateful for his outstanding contribution to the art of contemporary music. He was a joy to work with. His energy and enthusiasm for the material he was performing was infectious. He was also one of the nicest human beings I’ve ever known.”
The Amy Winehouse Foundation shared a photo of the pair and a note that read, in part, “Today marks the end of an era … A true star, a true gentleman and a wonderful friend and mentor to Amy.”
President Joe Biden wrote in a statement, “For more than 70 years, Tony Bennett didn’t just sing the classics – he himself was an American classic. Resisting the pull to adjust his style to fit in with the times, his distinct voice gave melody and rhythm about the good life, how the best is yet to come, the way you look tonight, and leaving your heart in San Francisco.”
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, shared a personal tribute about naming his son, Tony Bennett Sarandos, after the singer. “The truth is, I thought it was important to name my son after someone he could look up to and aspire to be like. Tony Bennett was an amazing figure who did what he loved for more years- than most of us hope to live. I asked him on his 86th birthday if he would ever retire. He said “Ted, I paint and I sing…retire from what?” He only just retired, he performed at Radio City Music Hall, “One More Time” at 95 years old, last November,” he wrote on Instagram. “The only thing that finally slowed him down was Alzheimer’s and even then he sang and performed for us and watching him , you knew that he loved to make the audience cheer.”
And Sony Music Group chairman Rob Stringer said in a statement, “There are few people in life who could surpass the achievements of the legendary artist Tony Bennett. His biography reads like an inspiring and principled socio cultural history of nearly a century. His artistry in recording and performing will be admired forever.”
In addition to his wife Susan Crow and son Danny, survivors include another son, Dae; daughters Joanna and Antonia; and nine grandchildren.
Carly Thomas contributed to this story.