AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

1/19/12

The Last Song: Tony Bennett Shares 'Body And Soul' With Amy Winehouse


 By Winnie Bonelli
   
Tony Bennett couldn’t have done it without the ladies. A follow-up to his first platinum selling collaboration album, “Duets II,” released last September, immediately rocketed to Number One status on the Billboard charts.
          
Earning three Grammy nominations, including Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, “Duets II” has also been chronicled for a PBS documentary, “Great Performances: Tony Bennett Duets II” airing Friday, Jan. 27 (see local listings for showtimes.)
   
Appearing at the recent Television Critics Association’s winter press tour in Pasadena, the 85-year-old legend took journalists on a half-hour musical journey via time-tested standards like “The Good Life” and “The Way You Look Tonight.” Backed by an intimate group, consisting of piano, guitar, bass and drums, his well-honed vocals were flawless, his timing impeccable, and his delivery almost playful.
          
Casual, relaxed and flashing a warm smile, the natty-dressed Bennett was eager to talk about his costars on the upcoming TV special. Topping the list was Lady Gaga, who joined Bennett in the recording session on “The Lady Is a Tramp.”

LISTEN TO TONY BENNETT AND LADY GAGA DUET HERE
          
The Astoria, Queens native shared his personal impressions, “I was amazed. Lady Gaga was so prepared and so knowledgeable. She’s as good as anyone you could come up with. She is very, very talented.”
          
Bittersweet, Bennett reserved his strongest and longest praise for the late Amy Winehouse, who he joined at the famed Abbey Road Studios on the track “Body and Soul.” It reportedly was the tragic songbird’s very last recording session.
           
He recalled, “She just instinctively had the gift of knowing how to sing that good. She was influenced by Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald. Her dream was to become very, very famous doing that.

LISTEN TO TONY BENNETT AND AMY WINEHOUSE DUET HERE
           
“I was performing for my 85th birthday at the Palladium and the BBC was going to televise it. I wanted her on that show. My son, Danny, called two months after we did the record, and she had just died. The whole world just stopped. No one could believe it, especially in Britain.”
          
A few months later, Bennett had a chance to speak with Amy’s parents when they made a trip to America. He confided, “I remember her mother saying, ‘You know, everybody feels so tragic about her dying, but as a mother, I’m very different. All she ever really wanted to do in her life was to become world-famous. To me, even though she had a short life, she had a very successful life because she got what she really wanted. What she had dreamed about her whole life happened.’ It was so different than anything I had ever heard.”
   
The remaining roster of ladies featured with Bennett are: k.d.lang on “Blue Velvet”; Aretha Franklin with “How Do You Keep The Music Playing”; Sheryl Crow on “The Girl I Love”; Queen Latifah on “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)”; Norah Jones with “Speak Low”; Natalie Cole with “Watch What Happens”; Faith Hill on “The Way You Look Tonight”; Carrie Underwood with “It Had to Be You”; rounded out by Mariah Carey with “When Do the Bells Ring For Me.”
           
Whether Bennett makes the trek to the podium Feb. 12 during CBS-TV’s broadcasting of the Grammy Awards seems almost inconsequential. Since Bennett still possesses that same degree of passion that first whet his appetite to succeed when he dropped out of high school at age 16 to help support his family.
          
Vowing to never retire, Bennett modestly admitted, “The fact that I have a hit record at 85, it feels wonderful.”

Winnie Bonelli writes for The Newark Star-Ledger, Life & Style Magazine, New Jersey Monthly and The Herald News. She is a member of The Women Film Critics Circle.

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