Tony Bennett's family reveals singer's Alzheimer's diagnosis
94-year-old jazz legend is battling the neurodegenerative disease.
Jazz legend Tony Bennett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
In a new AARP profile, the 94-year-old icon's wife, Susan, revealed news of his condition, adding that he is still working on new material — including a follow-up to his 2014 Lady Gaga collaboration Cheek to Cheek.
After Bennett's diagnosis in 2016, Bennett's family revealed he suffers from both short-term and long-term memory loss, but is still able to recognize friends and family members despite instances of confusion regarding his whereabouts as well as trouble recognizing everyday objects.
Susan, whom Bennett married in 2007, recalled Bennett's first suspicion that something was wrong with his health, as she said he wanted to see a doctor in 2015 after he expressed difficulty in remembering musicians' names onstage.
"He would ask me, 'What is Alzheimer's?' I would explain, but he wouldn't get it. He'd tell me, 'Susan, I feel fine.' That's all he could process — that physically he felt great," Susan explained. "So, nothing changed in his life. Anything that did change, he wasn't aware of."
Bennett's family further discussed his treatment, noting that the singer's caregivers have put him on a Mediterranean diet, medications, as well as a regimen of upper-body and aerobic exercises that his wife and personal trainer help him through.
"Other areas of his brain are still resilient and functioning well," said Bennett's Lenox Hill doctor, Gayatri Devi, who first diagnosed him in 2016. "He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder."
Still, despite the worsening symptoms of the disease, Bennett is capping his illustrious career — which includes 20 Grammys, two Emmys, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a Kennedy Center honor since the release of his first album in 1952 — with new projects, as the AARP piece indicated his new album with Gaga was recorded through his diagnosis between 2018 and 2020. Devi encouraged Susan and Bennett's eldest son, Danny, to keep Bennett immersed in the world of music, as the art form has been shown to improve Alzheimer's patients' connection to their surroundings. Bennett continued to tour after his diagnosis, often performing 90-minute sets on the road in recent years.
"There's a lot about him that I miss," Susan said at the end of the profile. "Because he's not the old Tony anymore. But when he sings, he's the old Tony."