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Music Legend Tony Bennett Diagnosed With Alzheimer's Disease; Keeps Singing As Always

NEW YORK (CBS SF/AP) — Tony Bennett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease but it hasn't quieted his legendary voice.

The singer's wife and son revealed in the latest edition of AARP The Magazine that Bennett was first diagnosed with the irreversible neurological disorder in 2016. The magazine says he endures "increasingly rarer moments of clarity and awareness."

Still, he continues to rehearse and twice a week goes through his 90-minute set with his longtime pianist, Lee Musiker. The magazine says he sings with perfect pitch and apparent ease.

"He's not the old Tony anymore," his wife, Susan, told the magazine. "But when he sings, he's the old Tony."

A beloved interpreter of American standards, Bennett's chart-topping career spans seven decades. He has long been associated with San Francisco through his signature classic, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," for which he won Grammys for Best Male Solo Vocal Performance and Record of the Year in 1963.

On his Twitter account, Bennett said, "Life is a gift - even with Alzheimer's. Thank you to Susan and my family for their support, and @AARP The Magazine for telling my story.

Bennett, 94, gained his first pop success in the early 1950s and enjoyed a career revival in the 1990s and became popular with younger audiences in part because of an appearance on "MTV Unplugged." He continued recording and touring constantly, and his 2014 collaboration with Lady Gaga, "Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

While he was born and raised in New York, San Francisco has considered Bennett an adopted son for the success he has had with the song for which he is widely known. After his 90th birthday, a statue of Bennett was erected outside the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where he had first sung "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" in 1961. The tune is played at Oracle Park following every San Francisco Giants victory.

Bennett performed the song at the then-named AT&T Park before the third inning of Game 1 of the 2010 World Series, and belted out "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch. Bennett also performed the song during the Giants 2012 World Series victory celebration in front of City Hall.

Last April, Bennett helped lead a a city-wide singalong of "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" designed to lift the spirits of citizens forced to shelter at home because of the COVID pandemic and honor health workers.


© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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