MAY 23, 1928-JUNE 29, 2002

By Tony Bennett
Updated December 23, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
Rosemary Clooney: Getty Images

Tony Bennett remembers Rosemary Clooney

Observing all the frenzy over the popular TV show ”American Idol,” I couldn’t help but remember that 50 years ago Rosemary Clooney and I helped pioneer that show’s premise. It was called ”Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” and what made it a little different was that it showcased rising young talent rather than pure amateurs. I was fortunate enough to get a spot on the program along with an unknown Rosemary Clooney. Rosie won that night [in 1950], and it’s funny: I can remember perfectly her performance of ”Golden Earrings,” but I still can’t recall the song I sang.

Our joint appearance was a shared beginning for us, as we both got signed to Columbia Records at the same time. We were the two new kids on the block, so to speak. One of my fondest memories of working with Rosie in those early years was our participation in a show called ”Songs for Sale.” The idea behind the program was to have us perform songs that were sent in by amateur songwriters. The lyrics of these forgettable tunes were on cue cards, but often the stagehands would hold them upside down and Rosie and I would just make up lyrics on our own (it was live TV back then). Shortly thereafter, Mitch Miller landed a 15-minute network radio show on CBS called ”Steppin’ Out,” which Rosie and I did together. It helped to introduce us to the public, and we were on our way to selling millions of records.

Through the years we maintained a wonderful brother-and-sister relationship in music and life. Take my word, not only was she Mother Earth, she was perfect. She was a natural singer and entertainer. I think the best description I ever heard of her came from the filmmaker Mike Nichols, who said she ”sings like Spencer Tracy acts.” (Clooney died of lung cancer in Beverly Hills.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Tony Bennett has been a hitmaker for 50 years, singing with everyone from Count Basie to k.d. lang.