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Life Is a Gift LP: The Zen of Bennett
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2012
As Tony Bennett's biographer, I can attest to the authenticity and beauty of this book of reflections. There is a deceptive simplicity to Bennett's words, for he took to heart the message of all of his mentors--Sinatra, Basie, Astaire, Ellington, Satchmo, and the pianist Bill Evans. Before he died, Evans called Tony and told him to just concentrate on two things: truth and beauty. That is what Bennett has done in his music and his painting. There is much more to Bennett that what is already known about him. His book will help to further expand our understanding of this simple but great artist. Simplicity is what Bennett is all about, focusing on perfecting his art at all times. As Dizzy Gillespie said of him, "I think Tony's spirituality is so profound in his performance that that it cuts through everything superfluous, and what's left is raw soulfulness." And when Tony asked Count Basie if he should change anything in his music, Basie said "Why change an apple?" Or as Frank Sinatra said, "You can only be yourself, but you're good at that." Cherish this book.
--David Evanier, Author of "All the Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett"
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2012
This book shares with you some of the things that make Tony Bennett tick. He shares everything from some of his family history, to his experiences in World War II and how that shaped his philosophies, to his early years in recording, his career renaissance, and more.

Some of this has appeared elsewhere, specifically in "The Good Life," the autobiography he released a few years, together with Will Friedwald. So some of this will seem familiar. Mr. Bennett has earned the right to say and write whatever he wants, and with most memoirs, sometimes the memory is selective. For example, he proudly boasts, correctly, about the "Complete Recordings" boxed set Sony released last year, saying that there wasn't a song he ever recorded that he was embarrassed by. Yet Bennett fans have documented over 60 songs (yes, some clunkers) that were deliberately kept off the set. Was this a rights issue, or was he embarrassed by them? We don't know because the omissions were never acknowledged...and not mentioned in this book. That's his prerogative.

Another section talks about how he refuses to conform to demographic study, that he appeals to fans of all ages...and that's true. But he doesn't acknowledge that this seemingly endless series of duets albums is catered specifically to those craved demographics...that the dollar transcends art with these projects to many of his fans.

But these are minor quibbles. This man is a legend, and it's thrilling to see him, listen to him, or see his beautiful art. This should be read by any type of performer, especially when it comes to how to respect the audience and the material to be performed. He is the master of his craft. Check out the documentary, too...some neat sights of the man at work.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2012
I have enjoyed TONY BENNETT music since 1950. He is and always will be my favorite singer. I have all his records and now books! Tony even gave me a signed watercolor of the Bay Bridge several years ago.

To say that I am thrilled with Life is a Gift: The Zen of Tony Bennett as well as David Evanier's book: All The Things You Are; The life of Tony Bennett would be an understatement!

The more I see, hear and read about TONY BENNETT the better I like it!

There is only one Tony Bennett and thank God for Tony. He is as great of a man as he is a singer and painter!

Life Is a Gift: The Zen of Tony Bennett is simply stated, well written and very informative.

I purchased this book from Amazon and it was very simple to do.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon November 26, 2012
This is yet another book (probably) released (along with a separate DVD with a similar title) in time to capture the Christmas market. Is it an essential book on Tony Bennett? No. Is it interesting? Yes, in spots. If you've read any of the decent biographies (or his autobiography) on Bennett, you won't glean much new information in this memoir on Bennett or his music. I can't comment on the DVD. And before anyone wonders, I'm a long time fan of Bennett's singing (especially his early work), and his artwork. The fact that he can still function at the high level he does is remarkable, and I only hope I can do the same in my life.

The book is written in a relaxed, conversational style, which is nice. But the information is pretty lightweight. This is more Bennett's philosophy of life, rather than a look at his life. There's a couple of sections of photographs, which back up Bennett's musings on life and his career. Also included are some of Bennett's pen and ink drawings, which (for me) are the highpoint. I only wish he would publish a book with his many drawings and studies of all the musicians he's come across in his life.

The chapters are fairly short and easy to read, but there's some interesting (and informative I suppose) asides included about his life and the many fascinating performers he came in contact with. That's what I zeroed in on-the little bits about other musicians and performers. An example-how he almost missed out on recording his (perhaps) most well known song, "I Left My Heart in San Fransisco". Or his thoughts on Louis Armstrong, or working with Duke Ellington. These inside looks at performers and their music, give music fans a little look "behind the curtain" if you will.

Bennett also includes throughout the book his "The Zen of Bennett" thoughts, which are interesting, but aren't exactly deep. As examples-"Nature is the master artist. Killing is the lowest form of human behavior. Be determined to persevere, even in the face of criticism. Do something to improve yourself, every single day." While these are true for the most part for everyone, and Bennett is trying to show something about himself, they don't exactly speak to anything truly new and informative about the man and/or his music.

Throughout the book Bennett talks about the many stars and well known people he knows and/or has come across during his long, fantastic career-people like Jimmy Durante, Mitch Miller, Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Cary Grant, Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, Bill Evans (his duets with Evans are simply great), Aretha Franklin, Bill Clinton, Robert De Niro, his family (of course), and so on.

But anyone thinking this is a truly "inside", in-depth look into Bennett's life and music-by Bennett, should reread the title of the book. "Life is a Gift-The Zen of Bennett". That, and the large, designed-to-catch-the-eye portrait of Bennett, that takes up most of the cover. That's the tip-off that there's nothing truly new or earth shattering in the book. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Does it begin with his early days, and progress through his life? Yes. But only in the most superficial way. And that's okay. His easy going style of writing is very relaxed, almost as if you're having a chat with the man. Ultimately, this lightweight read is okay as (possibly) an addendum to other books about Bennett. But if you're looking for an in depth memoir/autobiography, look elsewhere.

Mr. Bennett is a national treasure as far as I'm-and obviously many others worldwide-are concerned. The world will be a poorer place when he passes. He's an artist of obviously great talent in two (!) areas. Certainly he doesn't (I hope) need the money he'll glean from this book (and DVD). At this stage of the game, Mr. Bennett needs to let his music and his artwork speak for him-something easily accomplished in light of so many fine recordings, and now over the years, his sensitively executed artwork. This apparent exploitation of his "name" doesn't do the man any favors. His music and art do.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2012
Tony Bennett has been around as long as I can remember and I mean that as a tribute to a wonderful singer who has had a long career...a career that has had a very successful second act. In "Life is a Gift", Bennett tells us a few things about himself, but it's mostly what he leaves out that is disappointing.

Autobiographical memoirs are always a little suspect. The author can say what he or she pleases and never have to dive into anything unpleasant. That's mostly the case here. I learned some things about him...a few of his likes (painting, his son, Danny, Astoria, other performers, etc.) and some dislikes (producers, record companies, segregation in the fifties) and so on. But his book is overly filled with advice, which at times sounds patronizing. While it's not unusual for someone who is eighty-six to write about his emotions in this manner, they end up becoming filler for what could have been a meatier, more in-depth book, had he REALLY given in to telling his story.

I'm not sure how hard-core Tony Bennett fans will feel about reading "Life is a Gift". I suspect their reactions would cover a wide range from supportive and enjoyable to a sense of disappointment that, given the chance, the author didn't tell us more.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 11, 2012
If you're looking for a shocking revelation or something you didn't already know about Tony Bennett then this book probably isn't for you. Instead what he offers up is a light and sometimes meandering improv of his life and thoughts throughout the years.
Without going into real detail he touches on the many great people that have influenced his life and delivers poignant thoughts on how life should be lived and viewed.
Throughout the book he touches on his relationships and friendships with some of Hollywood and musics biggest stars...but leaves the reader wanting more.
While this living legend continues to inspire and bring smiles to the hearts of many with his singing and painting..he comes up a tad short in this latest effort.
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Few know that Tony Bennett is both an accomplish singer and painter. His crooning voice can take you on a magical journey. In his memoir: Life is a Gift- The Zen of Tony Bennett, this star goes back to the highs and lows of his 80 plus years.
He recounts first hand stories of some of the greatest performers of all time, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald to name a few. But he does it in a way not to bolster, but to give perspective on these special individuals. The book is also full of sage advice and the importance of discovering your passion and making a difference in the world today.
Bennett has not only been able to have a long career but to stay relevant on the changing times. This book reads as if you were having drinks with a good friend.
Tony has had his shares of woes but he tends to focus on the good times of his life.
He loves to entertain and make people feel special. In his art he works on capturing the color around him. Tony does celebrate the wonders of life in a Zen like way.
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on February 11, 2014
I just finished reading his autobiography before I started this one and I'd swear I was reading the same book. Outside of a few new pictures and an occasional mention of a celeb, it was almost word for word his previous autobio. Certainly at his age he has earned the right to pontificate about anything he wishes so I won't go there, but I can only wonder what a real in depth legacy he could have left us. Obviously lucid and intelligent at 86, he could have given us more. God bless him, but I hope there is another, better book in his future.
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on January 6, 2014
This is an incredible book written by an incredible down to earth entertainer. I recommend anyone who is in the entertainment business to read this book. Tony Bennett puts great value on being an entertainer who sings only quality music. He has refused, over the years, to submit to singing gimmicky songs just to make a quick buck for his producers. He puts great value on the type of songs he sings and appeals to people of all ages. Tony has not let stardom go to his head. His main focus is on pleasing his audience.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2012
Tony Bennett is an acclaimed singer who has lived his life doing what he loves. He never waivered and gave in to what was popular or trendy to do at the time and always stuck to what he knew in his heart was quality music. His story is one that is to be respected and admired. He has lived his life, as we should all aspire to, with character, dignity, integrity and a zest and joy that show in his charismatic smile.

I am of course familiar with Tony Bennett and his legendary songs but not so much with the man himself. I was deeply touched and inspired by his story. It was clearly written by him and not someone for him. His simple style of writing makes it feel like you are having coffee with a friend and hearing his stories, not reading a book. His encounters with renowned musicians and producers and people in the business are fascinating.

He is a simple man with great depth. He got his integrity from his mother whom he watched during the great depression struggle to keep them afloat but even then, did not stoop to do what was beneath her. His love of music at its purest form kept him strong in his resolve to not let it be tainted by what was "in" at the time. This enabled him to remain popular throughout several generations and release classic after classic becoming a music legend whose music will live on long after he is gone.

I think the thing I admired most in reading his story is that he just wrote his first song in his eighties! He never stopped growing and improving and wanting to be a better man even though he was already amazing at what he did. His is a life that he has lived to it's fullest.

This is an inspirational story about a man with true character that will move you to strive to be a better person, to remain true to who you are in your heart and soul and to never stop living life as the gift that it is no matter how old you get! This would be a great Christmas present for the bookworms on your list!!
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The Zen of Bennett
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