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Tony Bennett honors Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday

In a special edition of Saturday Sessions, Tony Bennett honors his longtime friend, Frank Sinatra, on what would have been Sinatra's 100th birthday
Tony Bennett honors Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday 03:55

Legendary Italian-American singer Frank Sinatra was born 100 years ago on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Tony Bennett, an old friend of Sinatra's, joins "CBS This Morning: Saturday" to honor the man fondly called "Ol' Blue Eyes."

Sinatra had been making "bobby soxers" swoon for over a decade when Bennett's first single, "Because of You," soared to number one in 1951.

Bennett told CBS News' Anthony Mason that he couldn't help but admire the older singer from across the river.

"I heard that no one did it better. He's just a gorgeous singer, understood the art of intimate singing," Bennett said.

Early success earned Bennett a gig as host of a summer replacement series for the "Perry Como Show" in 1956, but he "was left with a very small orchestra and no big guest stars."

"I didn't know what to do," Bennett said. So he "took a chance and went backstage to the Paramount Theatre when Sinatra was there doing four shows a day."

Sinatra had Bennett come up to his room where he asked Bennett, "What is it, kid?"

Bennett told Sinatra about his struggle with the performance, and said Sinatra gave him "the best singing lesson he ever heard" in his life which he said was, "'You have to understand, the public, when they come in to see you. They adore you. They are your friends. They are not your enemies. If you look a little frightened on stage, they'll come up and help you out.' He taught me that the audience are my friends."

That day sparked a friendship between Sinatra and Bennett that lasted through the years with Sinatra calling Bennett, "Kid" until the day he died.

In 1965, Sinatra paid Bennett the ultimate compliment in a profile in "Life Magazine," when he said, "For my money, Tony Bennett's the best in the business."

"It changed my whole career," Bennett said. "All his fans came to see me. Actually, after that quote, I've been sold out my whole career."

A star in his own right, Bennett said, "but to get endorsed by the master... he was my biggest influence."

Though Bennett was never part of Sinatra's Rat Pack, the two masters performed together a number of times over the years.

"The only trouble is a lot of singers will imitate Sinatra. And by doing that they take the loss, ya know? Because Sinatra is Sinatra, and so you just have to be yourself," Bennett said.

Bennett, now 89, has done his part to make sure Sinatra is remembered. In 2001, he and his wife, Susan, founded a high school for young artists in Queens to honor him.

"Because he was such a great friend, we decided, my wife and I decided to call it The Sinatra School," he said. "He was wonderful to me. And he stayed that way his whole career."

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