New York Tony Bennett doesn't think Amy Winehouse's life was tragic. He believes the British singer who died at age 27 lived a complete life because she was able to achieve her goal of becoming a respected musician.
"Her dream was to become famous and a beautiful singer, and she accomplished that," Bennett, 86, said Thursday night at the first annual Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Awards and Gala, where he received the lifetime achievement award.
"Even though she had a short life, she had a great life because she ended up praying for the success that she wanted, and it happened. This is what this night's about."
Winehouse died in 2011 from accidental alcohol poisoning. Though troubled, she was a critical darling and earned five Grammy Awards for her sophomore album, "Back to Black." The foundation established in her name assists disadvantaged youth. It was launched in Europe in 2011 and last year in the United States.
Attendees included Winehouse's father, mother and brother, her ex-boyfriend Reg Traviss, Harry Belafonte, Jennifer Hudson, Sean Lennon and producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, who was also honored.
Winehouse and Bennett won a Grammy Award last year for the duet "Body & Soul." Belafonte presented the award to Bennett and said Bennett introduced him to Winehouse's music.
Before he invited Bennett to the stage, Belafonte's cane fell to the floor with a loud thump.
"Excuse me, I just dropped my teeth," Bennett said, to laughter.
Hudson performed three songs at the event, earning a standing ovation.
Hudson called the event "beautiful" and said Winehouse was "such a talent, such a gift."
She wasn't the only one who set the crowd on fire. Bennett also wowed with memorable performances of "Maybe This Time" and "Watch What Happens."
Rapper Nas, who was nominated for a Grammy with Winehouse this year for the jam "Cherry Wine," also earned an award, accepting in a video.