The nonagenarian singer expresses his gratitude to many of the people who have helped him along the way.
With the help of NPR host Simon, Bennett presents not so much a memoir as a collection of sweet, uplifting tributes to people ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Lady Gaga as well as places, including Astoria in Queens, New York; the small town of Pyrites in upstate New York; and, of course, San Francisco, where Bennett famously left his heart. Each chapter concludes with a lesson the author has learned or a bit of wisdom gained from the subject of the chapter. Duke Ellington taught him never to worry “about going into or out of style,” and Lena Horne’s resilience made him think, “when life sends you difficulties or misfortunes, don’t get mad or sad—get busy.” From both Fred Astaire, who “used to float past” Bennett’s house on his regular morning walk, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the singer learned the same lesson: trim your work down to its essence. His own chapters are neat and modest. If they don’t tell readers much about Bennett’s inner life, home life, or any turmoil he might have experienced over the decades, they do paint miniportraits of many of the people who helped him on his path. Many of them, as might be expected, are musicians or songwriters, like Amy Winehouse, whose death he laments, and Ella Fitzgerald, whose albums provide a “purely joyful experience.” The author also salutes family members, like his father, who died when Bennett was 10, and painters such as Picasso and John Singer Sargent. The volume is illustrated with small reproductions of many of Bennett’s paintings, which he signs with his birth name, Anthony Benedetto.
In the past decade, Bennett has been experiencing a renaissance among listeners. Many of them should be happy to hear how he got to this point.