Tony Bennett, 94, and his family are opening up about the singer being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
The legendary artist, began showing symptoms of the disease in 2015, according to a feature by AARP magazine, who he thanked on Twitter for letting him tell his story.
“Life is a gift — even with Alzheimer’s.Thank you to [his wife] Susan and my family for their support, and @AARP The Magazine for telling my story,” he wrote.
Bennett was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016, but the public had been unaware of his declining health because he kept on performing.
At the encouragement of his team of neurologists, Bennett has continued to sing and play music at home to help stimulate his brain in positive ways.
He’s also keeping a special diet and exercising regularly with a trainer. Bennett’s wife, Susan, and his eldest son, Danny, described how Bennett could perform even while confused.
“Both Susan and Danny said that backstage, Tony could seem utterly mystified about his whereabouts. But the moment he heard the announcer’s voice boom ‘Ladies and gentlemen — Tony Bennett!’ he would transform himself into performance mode, stride out into the spotlight, smiling and acknowledging the audience’s applause.”
A follow-up to 2014’s “Cheek to Cheek,” a collaboration with Lady Gaga, will be released this spring. The two recorded the album between 2018 and early 2020, and according to AARP, Lady Gaga knew about his diagnosis when their recording sessions were also filmed as a part of a documentary.
“Tony was a considerably more muted presence during the recording of the new album with Gaga. In raw documentary footage of the sessions, he speaks rarely, and when he does his words are halting; at times, he seems lost and bewildered. Gaga, clearly aware of his condition, keeps her utterances short and simple (as is recommended by experts in the disease when talking to Alzheimer’s patients). “You sound so good, Tony,” she tells him at one point. “Thanks,” is his one-word response. She says that she thinks “all the time” about their 2015 tour. Tony looks at her wordlessly. “Wasn’t that fun every night?” she prompts him. “Yeah,” he says, uncertainly. The pain and sadness in Gaga’s face is clear at such moments — but never more so than in an extraordinarily moving sequence in which Tony (a man she calls “an incredible mentor, and friend, and father figure”) sings a solo passage of a love song. Gaga looks on, from behind her mic, her smile breaking into a quiver, her eyes brimming before she puts her hands over her face and sobs.”
Gayatri Devi, M.D., a neurologist who diagnosed Bennett in 2016 said proudly, “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.”