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Life Is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett Hardcover – November 20, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062207067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062207067
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #367,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* At 86, iconic singer Bennett looks back on 60 years as a performer still beloved and loving what he does. Bennett has sung for presidents and royalty as well as adoring fans, carefully singing only well-crafted songs from the Great American Songbook . Bennett attributes his style to the techniques he learned in method-acting school as a young man on the GI Bill as well as from the lessons he learned from others during his long career, from Duke Ellington and Johnny Mercer to Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. Among his memories: a tired and aging Fred Astaire bemoaning the fact that when he went to parties all the women wanted to dance with him, yet spontaneously breaking into a dance; Judy Garland’s practical jokes; appearing with Rosemary Clooney on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, a forerunner of American Idol; collaborating and touring with k.d. lang. Bennett ends each chapter with the Zen of Bennett—the personal beliefs that shaped his success as an artist and a human being. Among them are improve yourself every day, create things of lasting quality, and when you choose friends, you’re choosing teachers. Bennett offers inspiring observations from a joyful life fully lived. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Bennett is revered by many generations, and promotion for this generous, upbeat memoir will be prominent and lavish. --Vanessa Bush


“Bennett offers inspiring observations from a joyful life fully lived … [in] this generous, upbeat memoir.” (Booklist (starred review))

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Customer Reviews

I recommend anyone who is in the entertainment business to read this book.
This book is more of a conversation with a very admirable man than it is a work of prose.
David Travis
I can't say enough good things about this book and I have shared it with my friends.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Evanier on November 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Douglas J. Richardson on November 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Nick Riggio on November 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on November 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.
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