Marriage doesn’t always last forever, with some people getting married more than once, especially in the world of show business. Tony Bennett can certainly attest to that, as he celebrated his third wedding in June 2007. However, the famous jazz singer first met his wife Susan Crow in the most unusual of places.
Born in August 1926, Bennett grew up under the name Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Queens, New York, alongside his parents. In Bennett’s younger years, poor health meant that his father couldn’t make a living, which made things difficult. And Bennett was later to tell Forbes magazine in 2011 that his experience growing up in the Great Depression had left him a Democrat.
Indeed, Bennett’s mother made her living from sewing, while his dad owned a grocery store. However, the future music star’s life was turned upside down when the latter died. That left him without a father at ten years of age. As a result of that, he needed to make some personal sacrifices.
Bennett took an early interest in art and music as a youngster, studying those subjects at New York’s High School of Industrial Arts. Due to his father’s passing, though, he eventually left the institution when he was 16. He then found a job to help his family’s financial situation.
To achieve that, Bennett tried his hand as a singing waiter in Italian establishments, maintaining his interest in music. However, the teenager’s life took another turn when the United States Army drafted him during the Second World War. His front-line duties finally came to an end in April 1945.
After the war, Bennett continued to sing in the army, as he performed under the pseudonym of Joe Bari. Subsequently, during 1946, the New Yorker returned home and decided to capitalize on the G.I. Bill. This particular bill was implemented to help veteran servicemen, covering things such as tuition costs.
On that note, Bennett became a student at the American Theater Wing, where he picked up his musical studies. At that time, he was still using the Joe Bari pseudonym, and he went back to his old job as a singing waiter in New York. In 1949, though, the aspiring musician’s life changed forever.
That’s because Bennett’s talents were noticed by Pearl Bailey that year, which led the singer to offer him a fantastic opportunity. The future jazz star was invited to perform at one of Bailey’s gigs in Greenwich Village, New York. From there, he then caught the eye of a very famous face.
Entertainment legend Bob Hope saw Bennett in action during that period, prompting him to include the New Yorker in his traveling show. However, while he clearly liked what he saw, the famous entertainer still had some advice for him regarding his stage name. With that in mind, Hope provided an alternate.
In place of Joe Bari, Hope put forward the idea of Tony Bennett, a pseudonym that played off the musician’s real name. At that point, Bennett continued to establish himself as a bright young talent, leading to another big moment in his career in 1950. That year, he signed his first deal with the Columbia Records label, and started out as a crooner, singing pop tunes.
Some two years on from that, Bennett’s debut album was released, titled Because Of You. Off the back of that, the singer went on to produce a number of other records during that period, including the likes of Cloud 7, Tony and Alone At Last. In 1958, though, he decided to branch out and try his hand in a different genre.
Bennett took a real interest in jazz music at that time, with his next album reflecting that growing passion. Indeed, he teamed up with famed jazz pianist Count Basie on that release, titled Basie Swings, Bennett Sings. Together they performed a number of classic songs on the record, such as “Chicago” and “Jeepers Creepers.”
After that, Bennett continued to produce new albums in the following years, including Hometown, My Town, Alone Together and To My Wonderful One. However, his career skyrocketed in 1962, thanks to the release of “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.” The title track of that record was a huge hit and earned the New Yorker plenty of plaudits.
Bennett went on to win his first two awards at the Grammys as a result. Indeed, he picked up the Best Solo Vocal Performance and Best Record of the Year gongs. Off the back of that success, the singer then produced several more records throughout the 1960s. However, he started to face some problems at that point.
Much like Bennett did with Basie Swings, Bennett Sings, he wanted to branch out into other music genres, widening his interest. Columbia Records had other ideas, though, as the label wanted him to stick to the sound that made him successful. The situation eventually came to a head at the back-end of the decade.
At that time, Columbia Records attempted to convince Bennett to adopt the sound of artists such as The Beatles, due to their huge success. Before long, the army veteran’s relationship with the label completely collapsed, and he left them at the start of the 1970s. After the split, he then took matters into his own hands.
Bennett decided to start his own record label, which he named Improv. From there, the singer went on to produce some career-defining albums, but they didn’t resonate with the public straight away. As a result of those disappointments, Improv eventually closed its doors in the late 1970s, leaving the founder in a dark place.
Indeed, Bennett was now living in Los Angeles, California, picking up a drug habit along the way. The New Yorker found himself under the influence of drugs such as marijuana and cocaine at that point, which led to a defining moment. While taking a bath one day, he endured a near-death experience.
Bennett subsequently looked to rid himself of his addictions and start making music again, having had his last album come out in 1976. On that note, he recruited his son Danny as his new personal manager, before returning to Columbia Records. From there, the musician produced his first record in a decade, titled The Art of Excellence.
After that, Bennett enjoyed a resurgence in his career, which was to see him release more albums and appear on television in shows such as The Simpsons. As well as that, the jazz singer also earned two more Grammys for his 1994 record MTV Unplugged. His success didn’t end there, though.
Outside of Bennett’s musical exploits, he also maintained his passion for art, as he continued to paint throughout his life. Such was the quality of the entertainer’s work, some of his pieces ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In an interesting move, though, he ensured that each of the paintings was signed with his real name.
Meanwhile, Bennett’s love life proved somewhat intriguing as well, with the New Yorker getting married twice ahead of June 2007. At that point, he celebrated his third wedding, as he tied the knot with educational activist Susan Crow. However, it turns out that the pair first met in an unusual way.
As Bennett turned 90 years old in 2016, he released a memoir titled Just Getting Started. In the book, the veteran musician recalled meeting Dayl and Marion Crow at one of his gigs in San Francisco, California, in 1966. The trio then posed for photograph together, but he noted that someone else made it into the picture.
“As fate would have it, Marion was pregnant at the time,” Bennett wrote in Just Getting Started. “With… Susan! It’s a photo we all laugh about knowing the incredible turn of events that followed.” Indeed, he met his third wife before she’d even been born, but their unlikely connection didn’t end there.
Born in September 1966, Crow grew up in San Francisco with parents Marion and Dayl, eventually becoming a fan of Bennett’s music. During her teenage years, the future philanthropist was then named the president of the musician’s fan club in the Bay Area. Away from that, though, she also showcased a lot of academic promise.
Crow enrolled at Columbia University’s Teachers College and Fordham University in New York, graduating from both colleges. While studying in the Big Apple, she earned an internship at the White House as well, with the San Francisco native working out of the Office of Presidential Advance. After receiving her college diplomas, she then started her career.
However, before Crow became a teacher and branched out into social activism, she met her future husband for the first time, face-to-face, as a teenager. Indeed, the youngster was attending one of Bennett’s shows in San Francisco in the mid-1980s when she tried to see him backstage.
“When [Crow] was 19, she had tickets to see me perform at the Masonic Temple in San Francisco,” Bennett recalled in his memoir. “And she put in a request to say hello backstage after the show, probably not expecting a response.” At that point, the singer spoke about the moment that changed both their lives.
“The request was sent to me, and it tickled me that someone of her age was so devoted to my music,” Bennett continued. “I not only agreed to say hello to her backstage, but asked her to be my date for the evening, and that’s how it really all began. Foreshadowed by a backstage photo taken in 1966!”
Off the back of that meeting, Bennett and Crow eventually became a couple, with the pair doing plenty of philanthropic work together. Indeed, they went on to start up close to 20 schools across Los Angeles and New York, including the The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Before that, though, Bennett and Crow also founded Exploring The Arts back in 1999. It is a non-profit charity that helps children pursue art in their education. After setting that up, the latter became the president of the organization’s board. A few years later, the couple then earned some notable accolades for their hard work.
Their wedding in 2007 saw Crow take on Bennett’s real last name of Benedetto. Three years later, the ASCAP Foundation recognized the pair. A charity based in New York, the foundation looks to help aspiring musicians develop their talent by means of different initiatives, including education and humanitarian aid.
Along with that particular honor, Bennett and Benedetto also received the George Washington University President’s Medal in July 2015. They received the honor for their work in the arts sector. “All students deserve access to a high-quality education, and a belief in the profound impact of the arts is what fuels our work,” she said at the ceremony.
“I just think that the more artists there are in America, the more hopeful it will be for the United States in the long run,” Bennett said after being honored. “I could never dream of anything this beautiful happening to me. After years of work and wondering where it is all going to end up, this is a great experience in my life.”
However, while Bennett and Benedetto have gone on to do significant things together, the jazz singer did have doubts about their relationship in the beginning. Citing the four-decade age difference between them, he noted the initial difficulties that had come with that in his memoir. But things eventually did become easier.
“Susan Benedetto has shown me how love gives you the confidence and courage to be your best self,” Bennett wrote about his beloved wife in Just Getting Started. “And the inner peace and contentment that come with them.” Outside of their work together, though, the pair have continued to push on in their own individual careers.
Indeed, Benedetto works at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. There she serves as both the assistant principal and one of the teachers. Meanwhile, Bennett’s musical resurgence only continued as he got older, with the New Yorker taking part in several successful collaborations. His work on A Wonderful World particularly stood out, as he won yet another Grammy.
After that, Bennett worked on Duets: An American Classic in 2006. That album saw him team up with the likes of Sting, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Celine Dion, covering a variety of classic songs. Five years later, the veteran artist then released a follow-up to that, simply titled Duets II.
Much like before, Bennett covered well-known tracks, this time in collaboration with artists such as Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. His work with Winehouse proved incredibly significant. That’s because as they worked together on the last track she recorded before her untimely death in 2011. That song in particular won a Grammy the next year.
As for Bennett’s more recent efforts, he produced Tony Bennett Celebrates 90 in 2016. And that album earned him yet another award at the music show. His latest album arrived in September 2018, as he collaborated with jazz musician Diana Krall. Titled Love Is Here to Stay, the record has been nominated for two Grammys at the 2019 ceremony.