Two singers, one a native New Yorker and member of the Greatest Generation; the other a Baby Boomer from Oklahoma.
Though they have dissimilar backgrounds and upbringings, Tony Bennett and Garth Brooks have at least one thing in common: a deep and abiding admiration for Frank Sinatra.
And they’ll both be performing on the occasion of the centennial of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ birth on “Sinatra 100 — An All-Star Grammy Concert,” airing Sunday (Dec. 6).
The two-hour special, made in partnership with the Sinatra family and taped Dec. 2 at Wynn Las Vegas’ Encore Theatre, features a bevy of Grammy winners performing songs made famous by “The Voice,” among them Brooks, Bennett, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Adam Levine, Carrie Underwood and Usher.
Bennett, who will be performing “I’ve Got the World on a String” on the special, calls Sinatra “my best friend” and recalls some career-changing advice the Chairman of the Board once gave him as a young, nervous performer headlining his first TV show, “The Tony Bennett Show,” in 1956.
“He said, ‘Just know that the public loves you, and if you’re nervous … they’ll come even closer to you,’ ” the 89-year-old, 17-time Grammy winner tells Zap2it. “And he taught me that the audience is a friend, don’t look at them like they’re enemies. They came in to see you, they did all kinds of things just to come in to see you and they’re your fans. And he changed my whole career by just entertaining the people. All I want to do now in my life is to try and make people happy when they come to see me.”
When people talk about what set Sinatra apart from other singers, they often cite his breathing. But Bennett thinks it’s something else.
“It’s phrasing,” he says. “He had a way of just phrasing. He made this statement, he said, ‘I must tell you that no matter what I do in my life, that when I sing, I believe it’s completely honest.’ And that was a very profound attitude to have as a performer and as a singer. But I also knew, when you knew him up close and on an intimate basis, he just knew how to perform on the stage. He had a wonderful attitude about how to perform onstage.”
Brooks, a 53-year-old two-time Grammy winner who never met Sinatra, marvels at the range of his voice, his ability to “make you hurt for him” in his performances and his sheer longevity. He’ll be performing “The Lady Is a Tramp” on the show.
“You look behind him,” he says, “there’s a swath a mile wide, like a tornado, in the business. Well hell, that’s a hell of a mark. Because in this business, you’re not just competing with your peers, the people around you; you’re competing with a past and you’re competing with a future. And this cat held his own against the past, his present and, come on — we’re having a birthday celebration to him now? And we’ll have one when he’s 200, so that’s a hell of a mark. … They say that time is a friend to all things good and that was definitely him.”