Legendary singer Tony Bennett has Alzheimer’s disease and was diagnosed in 2016, according to a profile in AARP magazine.
At his neurologist’s recommendation, the 94-year-old continued to tour and record music after his diagnosis, and because of music’s “peculiar power” to rouse deep memories in dementia patients, “audiences and critics never suspected his condition.”
Bennett continued to record and tour up until March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic ended live musical performances.
Since then, his condition has worsened, his caregivers told AARP.
“Just how therapeutically beneficial performing had been for Tony soon became obvious when his world shrank to the confines of his apartment,” Dr. Gayatri Devi, Bennett’s neurologist, told the magazine.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, a term that refers to the loss of cognitive functions like thinking and remembering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50 million people have Alzheimer’s disease, which is believed to be caused by the buildup of certain proteins in the brain.
Describing him as free today from some of the condition’s worst symptoms — anger, disorientation — the magazine noted that there is still “little doubt that the disease had progressed.”
AARP reported that Bennett’s “increasingly rare moments of clarity” show how far the disease has advanced; a fork and a set of house keys were “utterly mysterious to him.”
Lady Gaga’s forthcoming collaboration with Bennett, recorded from 2018 to 2020 and scheduled to be released this spring, was among projects that helped slow the progression of his condition, the magazine noted.
Bennett’s son, Danny, and wife, Susan Crow, said theydecided to share the news of Bennett’s condition because they know he will be unable to do promotional interviews for the new album.
They are reportedly eager for “as many ears as possible to hear and enjoy what may very well be the last Tony Bennett record.”
In an email, Danny Bennett said serving as his father’s manager “has been a privilege and an amazing journey.”
“He never ceases to inspire me with his passion and dedication to all that life has to offer. The last four years has been no exception. He continues to sing and stay fit on a daily basis. I speak for the whole family in thanking his wonderful wife, Susan, for all the support and love she has given to him.”
“Our wish is that by openly sharing his challenges with Alzheimer’s that we will give hope to all that face this condition and will help end the stigma surrounding this disease. Above all else, we want to be able to help raise awareness, advocate for advancing new therapies and one day soon, finding a cure.”