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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2001
There's a Bennett anecdote I remember hearing reported on local (San Francisco) radio back in the early '60s: A local woman, gardening in her backyard one Saturday afternoon, was listening to Bennett's then-new "I Left My Heart In San Francisco;" suddenly, she realized, the singing had become somehow stereophonic. Looking up, she found Tony Bennett grinning at her over her backyard fence. In town for an appearance at the Fairmont Hotel, Bennett had been out for a walk; hearing her phonograph, he'd been unable to resist . . .
This is the Tony Bennett you get to meet in the pages of "The Good Life." If you're a fan, nothing in this book will change your mind. If you're not, well then, despite the fact that there does appear a certain sense of "glossiness" in his account of his life, loves, marriages, etc., you may well find yourself coming to nonetheless admire the man.
A word about that "glossiness": It may well arise from nothing more than a yearning towards fairness (and not only to himself). He discusses failed marriage, for example, as well as his work-induced absences as a parent, taking responsibility for his actions without -- on the one hand -- pointing out that it "takes two to tangle," or -- on the other -- seeking to overly justify his absences as the price of building a successful career. He also talks of his marijuana use (as first disclosed by his exwife, years after they'd split) in an explanatory tone, with regret, and without seeking to justify that use. Again, there is a sense of fairness about him, even as he talks of a fairly prevalent drug use among musicians of the era. In his desire to explain the musician's life and its pressures and demands, there is what some may (wrongfully)interpret as an impulse to self-expiate. This is wrong, as evidenced, not only by his own mea culpa approach, but by his account of a conversation with longtime friend -- and onetime collaborator -- Bill Evans, shortly before the latter's death.
This fairness carries over in his account of his early disputes with then-Columbia Records A&R head, Mitch Miller (best remembered today, probably, for his subsequent "Sing Along With Mitch" records and TV series of the late '50s). By all accounts, Miller was -- to say the least -- dictatorial and patriarchial in his belief that he knew what was best for the artists under his control. Bennett could have savaged the man in this account (and justifiably); after all, Miller's long gone from the scene, others have already reminisced about his iron-handed control; so what stops Bennett . . . save for a humanistic impulse toward fairness?
For me, one of the most telling portions of this autobiography occur in Bennett's recounting of his World War II experiences as a G.I. in the European theatre. Without self-aggrandizement, he talks -- movingly so -- of what he saw, and how those horrors turned him against war for all time; strikingly, it is this same absence of 'been-there-done-that' self-absorption that colors (and which underplays) the reminiscences of his considerable involvement in the early-60s civil rights movement down in Mississipi-Alabama. If he avoids the urge to expiate himself, he likewise eschews the temptation towards self-canonization.
From his August 3, 1926 birth (one day too late, by the way, to be my twenty-years-older "birthday twin"), through the intervening years including his "renaissance" for yet future generations via MTV, Bennett presents himself in this autobiography as a man who caught more than his share of lucky breaks (and who, inferentially, made a few more of his own, although you won't get him to admit it, at least in this book) on his way to (as in the title of one his best-known songs) "The Good Life."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2011
I am an unabashed lover of Tony Bennett's singing. If I were forced to live on a desert island with the recordings of only one singer, that singer would be Tony Bennett. So when I received a copy of this book as a gift (albeit a dozen years after it was published) I found time to read it not long after. It confirmed the impression I had always received of Tony from seeing him on TV and at the one concert of his I attended, at Radio City Music Hall shortly after 9/11. He is a decent, lowkey, and sincere individual with a remarkable gift that has not only not faded but grown deeper and more radiant well into his 80s. But his book, while touching on all his trials and triumphs through the late 90s, never really digs deeply; even when he has critical opinions of people, he remains on the polite and gentlemanly side. These qualities are admirable in the man but one looks for sharper reactions in a book. Fans of 20th century pop and jazz music with greater knowledge of these worlds than I will appreciate, perhaps, the many names he drops, but the average reader is bound to feel that they clutter the narrative. It often feels that Tony is honor bound to mention every accompanist, drummer, trumpet player, arranger, and business manager he ever worked with, and they're all described as great or some other term of praise. There are some wonderful sections in the book, such as those about his growing up and his wartime experiences, but a lot of space is occupied with a litany of gigs and stars he appeared with. Somehow, he manages to rattle off the many compliments and awards he received with a sense of modesty, but he does build a protective veneer about his private life that, while mentioning some of his personal setbacks, never goes beyond the surface. See Claire Bloom's Welcome to the Doll House, where she describes her marriage to Philip Roth, for the ultimate in such revelations. In Tony's book, all such personal issues are disposed of with a bit more discretion than this reader would have liked. Still in all, one comes away with increased respect and fondness for this remarkable artist, a man who is not only our greatest living pop singer but an extremely talented and highly respected painter as well. A color section showing samples of his work is a wonderful supplement to the book.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 1999
Tony Bennett's story would make a great movie, and while this book tells alot about the man I really wish it was a longer story. Guess I hated to see it end so fast, but it did give insight on things I did not know about Tony. He was in the Army and saw action in Europe during WW2, even if only for about 4-5 months, he saw alot and came very close to becoming a statistic himself. Most enjoyable, though, was Tony recalling the days when he first started out professionally and how he fought to make records that were important to him, not what the pop charts dictated. The mutual admiration between Tony & Frank(no last name needed)is also mentioned quite a few times, making it clear there was great affection between these two superstars. Highly recommended for all Tony Bennett fans, and please, how about a movie version starring that kid on Happy Days(Eddie Mekka-who portrayed the Big Ragu)who sings just like Tony? Oh well, just a suggestion...
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 1998
I came away disappointed by this book. While there are many insights into how Tony became such a great man and the best singer this planet has ever know, the book is too much of a long list of names and dates, and not much more. It needed more depth in some areas and less of "<name>, one of my all-time best friends and the greatest <singer, pianist, drummer, whatever> ever." Still, Tony's fans need to read it anyway, to understand his committment to excellence and to appreciate how he never wavered from that committment, for which we can all be thankful -- it is why we will always have his legacy. Jazz musicians in particular will love the introductory quote from the surprising source of John Steinbeck.
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on July 31, 2014
I became a Tony fan at the age of 7.5, the summer of 1951, when my sister, then 17, bought the 78 RPM single of his version of Hank Williams' "Cold Cold Heart." Became a Hank fan due to that recording. Two summers later, my sis bought the single of "Rags to Riches", and six months after, "Stranger in Paradise." I purchased my first Tony record with my own money in the summer of 1957, "In the Middle of an Island." So Tony and I go way back. I saw him in concert two months ago, and even at $100 per seat in our area's new performing arts center, it was glorious. In his mid-80's, now with 65 years as a paid singer, he still has a strong voice and gives an incredible show. Last week I was browsing in my city's Friends of the Library used book store and found his autobiography, published 15 years ago. To me, it was a great read. He covers his life from birth to 1998, the highs and lows and inbetweens, the broken relationships, the drug years, and the more numerous triumphs. We'll never see a career like his again, and if you have a chance to catch him in person before he quits, take it at any price. I was able to list the songs and years of my introduction to Bennett not because I have a great memory, but because Tony put a discography in the back of his book with release dates. Great touch for long-time fans.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I loved being let in on Tony's life and times. This book just shows he's as loveable and human as he is talented and adored.
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on July 26, 2015
I had previously read a copy of his autobiography and wanted to own one for myself to reread again at a later date.
One of my favorite singers growing up in my teenage and young married life.
So nice to see and hear him yet today!!
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on July 15, 2014
I enjoyed this book and learning more about singing legend Tony Bennett. I recommend it for all his fans and those interested in the entertainment world.
Jane Gilbert
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on April 19, 2013
Well written with lots of anecdotes - my husband is a great fan and he could hardly put the book down - a great man from a great era.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 1999
Thank you Tony - for your great story! Well written & well told, never a dull moment. What a warm, wonderful & multitalented man! I agree with the reviewer from NY, Tony's story would make an excellent movie. God Bless you, Tony, & keep those glorious albums coming.
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