But there was a statement in the review that made me think about something other than this strange mix of singers who came together mostly by happenstance. That statement had to do with how Bennett was still relevant despite all of the changes in music that had occurred since he first made a name for himself singing what are now considered old standards.
What has Bennett done to continue to be so popular with one generation after another when others his age – some long since passed and others not far from it – have not faired so well? It occurred to me that the answer(s) could be pertinent to companies and individuals as well.
While this is by no means a scientific look at Bennett’s career, I don’t think this is too far off the mark:
- Stay true to your vision. Through the highs and lows of his career, he has never deviated from his style of singing (though recording execs tried to change him when he signed with Columbia Records in 1950). It isn’t that he’s afraid to get out of his comfort zone, but he knows what works and what doesn’t – and he’s okay with that.
- Be authentic. Tony has never tried to be someone he’s not. He was never Frank Sinatra, although Tony definitely brings his own definition of cool to the stage.
- Don’t be afraid to bring in new blood. Two words – Lady Gaga. Really, who would have seen this duo come together two years ago? But they did and Tony has helped her realize she can sing, and she’s helped expose him to yet another new generation of music lovers.
- Stay passionate about what you do. Tony always looks like he’s having a great time. There’s no hint of boredom. Nothing that reeks of “I’m doing this just for the money.” He loves what he does and it shows. Otherwise, he couldn’t sustain being on the road since he was first discovered 1949 – literally by another authentic singer/performer, Miss Pearl Bailey (look her up).
- Set a high bar. In an age when it would be easy for even Tony to perform with an open shirt and sport coat, he wears a full on tux. And it’s pretty clear he’s not doing it for him, he’s doing it his way – because that’s the way he wants it to be.
While the above may seem like a big fat slap to the forehead, the key is not in doing one or two of these, but doing them all and doing them all exceptionally well. Quality in everyone of these elements is critical. In an age when numbers have become meaningless because they are either too big (trillions of dollars in debt) or too superficial (likes and follows), a focus on quality has to be pervasive. If Tony Bennett can do it at the age of 88, what’s stopping the rest of us?