Feb. 2, 2021 By Christian Santucci
The family of Tony Bennett said that the famed singer from Queens has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to reports.
His wife, Susan, and son, Danny, revealed the diagnosis to AARP Magazine, saying that they first noticed symptoms in 2015 when Bennett could not remember the names of musicians on stage.
“So, we got him a list that he put on the piano,” Susan told the magazine, “but he wasn’t happy about it.”
Bennett got checked out by a doctor a year later and was informed that he had Alzheimer’s – the most common form of dementia.
So far, the Astoria native, now 94, has not suffered from some of the disease’s most well-known or severe effects, such as disorientation that leads to patients wandering from their homes, according to his family. He also hasn’t suffered from “episodes of terror, rage or depression.”
“But there was little doubt that the disease had progressed,” the article states.
Bennett had risen to fame after working as a singing waiter at now-shuttered Riccardo’s by the Bridge and performing at Queens nightclubs like Shangri-La on Ditmars Boulevard.
The AARP article described him as having “the easy, ever-present smile that helped brand him the nice-guy singing idol of his generation.”
Following his diagnosis, Bennett had been encouraged to keep performing by his neurologist so as to help stimulate his brain. The singer continued to tour extensively, although backstage his family said he “could seem utterly mystified about his whereabouts.”
“But the moment he heard the announcer’s voice boom ‘Ladies and gentlemen – Tony Bennett!’ he would transform himself into performance mode,” the article stated.
Bennett last performed March 11 in New Jersey, and soon after the pandemic forced the cancellation of concerts and events. However, he still manages to sing twice weekly – during 90-minute rehearsal sessions with his longtime pianist Lee Musiker.
“He’s not the old Tony anymore.” Susan told the magazine. “But when he sings, he’s the old Tony.”
Susan has since become her husband’s primary caretaker — after the family said they let go an assistant to reduce exposure to COVID-19.
“I have my moments, and it gets very difficult,” Susan said. “It’s no fun arguing with someone who doesn’t understand you.” She added that her family was more fortunate than many other Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones.
In a tweet from Bennett’s account Monday, he expressed gratitude to his loved ones. “Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s. Thank you to Susan and my family for their support,” he wrote.