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Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: A musical love supreme

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett sings duets on a new album out this week. How that collaboration came about is the story we've asked Anthony Mason to explore:

They seem an unlikely couple: the gentleman jazz singer and the flamboyant pop star.

"When I met her, the first thing I said [was], 'Let's do an album together,'" recalled Tony Bennett. "She said, 'Okay.' It was just that quick."

"I was a jazz singer since I was a little girl," said Lady Gaga, "and nobody had really picked up on it. So when Tony asked, I got really excited."

She's 28. He's 88. But Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga like making music together.

Mason asked her, "What was it like performing with him? It must have been a little bit intimidating?"

"Oh, yeah," she replied.

"Oh, no," Bennett interjected. "Come on."

"He asked me the question!" she laughed.

They met at a charity event a few years ago and hit it off. When Bennett went to one of Gaga's concerts this year, she climbed a ladder to the balcony to serenade him:

"When you started climbing up the ladder, I said, 'What's going on? Why is she doing that?'" he said.

She replied, "I had to get closer to you. I told you, I don't like to be anywhere but cheek-to-cheek when you're in the room."

To listen to an excerpt of Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga singing Cole Porter's "Anything Goes," click on the player below.

There may be 60 years between them, but they're both singers . . . both New Yorkers, who live just a block apart along Central Park.

"We sing all the time duets right over 6th Avenue," said Gaga. "It's just nobody knows it's us."

They're both art lovers. As a student, Bennett studied the masters at New York's Metropolitan Museum.

And they're both Italian-American. She was born Stefani Germanotta. He: Anthony Benedetto

Mason asked, "I was wondering if the Italian connection between you and Lady Gaga was important?"

"To me it is, yeah," Bennett said. "She understands me, and I understand her."

At his studio, Bennett showed Gaga and Mason a photograph of his mother. "It was during the Depression when I grew up. And she was working on a penny a dress to feed three children, 'cause my father died when I was very young."

"What a beautiful photo, Tony," Gaga said.

"She was such a wonderful person. You remind me of her," he said to Gaga. "Very similar to her."

"Thank you," she replied.

Singer Tony Bennett in the 1960s. Don Hunstein/Sony

Bennett grew up in Astoria, Queens, and started singing in restaurants. "Yeah, I was a singing waiter, I was a saloon singer."

"Were you a good one?" Mason asked.

"Yes. I loved doing it, and I'm still doing it!"

At first he performed under the name Joe Barry. Then one night, Bob Hope gave him some advice: "He said, 'Look, you're an Italian-American. What's your real name?' I said, 'Anthony Dominick Benedetto.' 'Well, that's a little long,' he said, 'but why don't we call you Tony Bennett?' Bob Hope gave me my name!"

Signed by Columbia, Tony Bennett's first single, "Because of You," went to Number One in 1951. He'd score 20 Top 40 hits in the decade.

And just as this living legend has supported the younger Gaga, an older Italian-American singer supported him. In a 1965 Life magazine interview, Frank Sinatra said,

"For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business, the best exponent of a song. He excites me when I watch him -- he moves me."

"He changed my career," said Bennett. "All of his fans wanted to find out about what he was talking about."

The man who sprinted on stage at London's iTunes Festival this summer is in his seventh decade of performing. He had a few lessons to share with Lady Gaga about longevity:

Tony Bennett on studying art and music 01:50

"Once you go for 45,000 people a night in a big stadium, you become very famous over anybody else," he said. "But then, sooner or later, someone else comes up and starts taking it away from you. This album will prove to her that through the years she'll always be around, 'cause it proves that she's a great performer."

"Do you think she was worried about that?" Mason asked.

"No, I was worried about it."

"You were?"

"'Cause I like her a lot as a person. She's a great performer. And I know that eventually by doing what she was doing at just that one thing, sooner or later, someone's gonna come and top her."

"You've seen that happen," said Mason.

"Oh, yes, many times."

Lady Gaga's 2009 debut album, "The Fame," sold more than 4.5 million copies and won the Grammy for Best Electronic/Dance Album. Interscope

Gaga's rise was also meteoric. Her first two singles, "Just Dance" and "Poker Face," went to Number One in 2009.

But her latest album, "Artpop," released last year, failed to be the blockbuster the industry expected.

"You yourself were quoted as saying last year, 'People think I'm finished,"" said Mason. "Did you feel that people thought you were finished?"

"I felt like people were -- some people -- were holding me to a very high standard," she replied. "Everybody's hooting and hollering because, you know, I didn't sell 20 million records this time, which I did with my first album. You know, it's not easy to replicate that. And you just -- I don't have a formula."

And after six years of working non-stop, Gaga says she was exhausted:

"You know, it's one thing to put a train on the tracks. But it's another thing to keep the train on the tracks. You just can't let a train out on the tracks and just run out. It'll -- I crashed."

"You crashed?"


"When did you crash?"

"Well, I'd say some time in the middle of last year. With everything that was happening, I just didn't even want to make music anymore."

Performing on the YouTube Music Awards last November, she nearly broke down. Mason asked what happened that she got so emotional.

"You know, I'm not really legally allowed to say exactly what happened that day, but, you know, my partner left me, and he told the whole world that I left him."

"You're talking about your split with your manager?"


"That's where all that emotion came from?"

"That was very hard."

The news, which broke just days before her album was to be released, shocked the music world. Troy Carter had nurtured her career for seven years. But Gaga felt her managers were taking her for granted.

"And I think I felt like they weren't very proud," she said.

"Why weren't they proud?" asked Mason.

"They had moved on to other things, other business ventures. I felt abandoned. But, you know, that's my own issue. Every artist needs different things."

Lady Gaga on fashion advice 01:07

"You got so much so fast," said Mason. "What do you want now?"

"Just want to be happy. And I can't tell you how happy singing this music makes me," she replied, tearing up.

"Let me ask you this: Why do you think all the other stuff didn't make you happy?"

"It did. It does. It made me so happy. I love so much every song, every performance, every moment that we've had because I had stuck to my guns. It's just that I got tired fighting to keep it my way. And you know, Tony, that's one of the first things he said to me: 'Don't you ever, ever, ever, ever again or in the future let anybody take down the quality or the intelligence of what you do.'"

The day Mason visited the studio where Bennett paints," Gaga brought him a gift.

"I'm kind of embarrassed to give it to you now," she said, explaining to Bennett that she paints when she's sad. "It's just I was really sad. And I just wanted to put all of that feeling somewhere else. And I made this -- "

"That's the demon!" Bennett said.

"YEah. And I wanted to give it to you, 'cause you have so much to do with it being gone."

"Yeah, I could see how intense it is, the feeling of it. Thank you, sweetheart."

In San Francisco last month, where Tony Bennett celebrated his 88th birthday, he looked out his hotel window that morning: "And there was this plane with big letters saying, 'Happy Birthday, Tony, love Lady Gaga.' For about three hours it went around San Francisco."

"What did you think when you saw that?" Mason asked.

"She has such a taste in making wonderful things happen," he said.

Mason asked Gaga, "What do you think you brought to Tony in this?"

"Styling tips!" she laughed. "I'm just kidding. You can;t style Tony. I like that about him! But I hope what I've given Tony is a moment for him to really bask in how many people's lives he's really changed."

To watch the music video for Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga's rendition of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby" (music & lyrics by Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields), click on the player below.

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