November 15, 2017 Tony Bennett Honored in Star-Studded Gershwin Prize Tribute
PBS to Broadcast All-Star Concert on Jan. 12
Press Contact: Gayle Osterberg (202) 707-0020 | Sheryl Cannady (202) 707-6456
Celebrated performer Tony Bennett, the 2017 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, will be applauded and serenaded by some of the nation’s top artists at an all-star celebration in the nation’s capital Wednesday evening, Nov. 15. The diverse group of performers will pay homage to Bennett’s extraordinary gift as an interpreter of America’s songbook—showcasing some his most memorable songs—at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.
The concert will feature appearances by Chris Botti, Michael Bublé, Gloria Estefan, Michael Feinstein, Savion Glover, Josh Groban, Wé McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Lukas Nelson, Vanessa Williams and Stevie Wonder—a former recipient of the Gershwin Prize—with a special presentation by Wynton Marsalis. The honoree will also perform some of his favorite tunes. The host for the evening’s festivities will be actor Bruce Willis.
The concert will air on PBS stations nationwide at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, Jan. 12 (check local listings). The program also will be broadcast at a later date via the American Forces Network to U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.
The celebration honoring Bennett started with a tour of the Library of Congress’ historic Thomas Jefferson Building and the ongoing exhibit “Here to Stay: The Legacy of George and Ira Gershwin.” He also viewed some rare items in the Library’s vast collections. Among them were footage of Bennett’s first appearance on the 1952 CBS program that would be become “The Ed Sullivan Show”; a recording of an NBC broadcast of the 1936 opening of the Triborough Bridge in New York, an event that Bennett attended as a child; a map showing a bird’s-eye view of San Francisco in 1847; Beethoven’s holograph sketches for the fugue of the famous “Hammerklavier” piano sonata op. 106 (1818-1819); Mozart’s holograph manuscript of Violin Concerto K 219 (1775) and the Gershwins’ holograph sketches of “They All Laughed” from “Shall We Dance” (1937).
“The Gershwins created some of our most beautiful music,” said the multiple Grammy Award winner. “Their songs had gorgeous poetry and wonderful musicality. Their music is timeless and will live forever.”
“Tony Bennett joins the list of extraordinary artists whose careers embody the excellence and richness of America’s musical genius,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “He has connected with audiences of all ages and bridged generations through his music. His extraordinary artistic achievements are a testament to his universal appeal and the creativity of his musical vision. His collaboration with a variety of artists, from Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga, has further cemented his name in music history.”
Bestowed in honor of the legendary songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin, the Gershwin Prize recognizes a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding, entertaining and informing audiences, and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson and Smokey Robinson.
During tonight’s event, Bennett will be presented with the prize by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Richard J. Durbin, U.S. Senate Member of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress Patrick J. Leahy, U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives Chairman of the Committee on House Administration and Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress Gregg Harper and U.S. House of Representatives Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch Kevin Yoder.
“Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song” is a co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; Bounce, a division of AEG; and the Library of Congress. The executive producers of the program are Dalton Delan, Carla Hayden and Michael Strunsky.
Major funding for the broadcast is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Additional funding also is provided by the Library of Congress James Madison Council, The Ira and Leonore Gershwin Fund and The Leonore S. Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress Trust Fund Board, Michael Strunsky, Trustee. Air transportation is provided by United Airlines.
Tony Bennett’s music exemplifies the essence of the Great American Songbook. In the last 10 years alone he has sold 10 million records. Bennett has received 19 Grammy Awards, including a 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy for Album of the Year for his 1994 release “MTV Unplugged,” which introduced him to a whole new generation. Later, his 2006 “Duets: An American Classic” was released, featuring performances with Paul McCartney, Elton John, Bono and others, winning three Grammy Awards and going on to be one of the best-selling CDs of the year and of Bennett’s career. The follow up, the 2011 “Duets II,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Album charts, making Bennett the only artist age of 85 or older to achieve this in the history of recorded music. He broke this record three years later with his 2014 collaboration with Lady Gaga, “Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek,” which debuted at No. 1 when he was 88.
His initial successes came via a string of Columbia singles in the early 1950s, including such chart-toppers as “Because of You,” “Rags to Riches” and a remake of Hank Williams “Cold, Cold Heart.” He has had 24 songs in the Top 40, including “I Wanna Be Around,” “The Good Life,” “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)” and his signature song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” for which he garnered two Grammy Awards.
About Tony Bennett
Bennett was born in August 1926 in Queens and his father died when he was only 10 years old. His mother, Anna, raised Tony and his older brother and sister, John and Mary. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan, where he nurtured his two passions, singing and painting. From radio, he developed a love of music listening to Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong and James Durante.
He has been on the front lines of history. He is a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and participated in the liberation of a concentration camp. He marched with Martin Luther King in Selma to support civil rights. He has performed for 11 U.S. presidents. The United Nations has named him a Citizen of the World as one of its foremost ambassadors.
Bennett has been a Kennedy Center Honoree (2005) and NEA Jazz Master (2006). He also received Billboard Magazine’s Century Award (2006).
The iconic singer also continues to paint every day, even as he tours internationally. His work has been exhibited in galleries around the world, and the United Nations has commissioned him for two paintings, including one for its 50th anniversary.
Bennett and his wife Susan Benedetto, a former public high school teacher, founded Exploring the Arts (ETA) to strengthen the role of the arts in public high school education. ETA’s first endeavor was the establishment of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA), a public high school founded in 2001 by Tony and Susan in partnership with the New York City Department of Education. ETA currently supports 33 partner schools in New York and Los Angeles.
More information on Tony Bennett can be found at tonybennett.com.
About the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song
The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song honors living musical artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.
In making the selection for the prize, the Librarian of Congress consulted leading members of the music and entertainment communities, as well as curators from the Library’s Music Division, American Folklife Center and Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.
The Gershwin name is used in connection with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song courtesy of the families of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. GERSHWIN® is a registered trademark of Gershwin Enterprises. More information about the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song can be found at loc.gov/about/awards-and-honors/gershwin-prize/.
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