Feinstein pays tribute to Tony Bennett with Palladium concert


As founder of the Great American Songbook Foundation, Michael Feinstein has a great appreciation for Songbook Hall of Fame member Tony Bennett.

Feinstein became friends with the legendary vocalist, who died at age 96 in July 2023.

Feinstein, artistic director for the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, will present “Because of You: My Tribute to Tony Bennett” at 8 p.m. May 17 at the Palladium at the CPA. Feinstein, who will be joined by Carnegie Hall Big Band, shared some thoughts of the tribute and his relationship with Bennett.

How special is it to do the tribute to Tony Bennett given your close personal relationship?

I would not have been able to achieve what I do if it weren’t for the individuals who preceded me and imparted their knowledge, one of whom was Tony Bennett. I had the privilege of knowing Tony personally – I once had the opportunity to sing with him and I spent time with him socially, along with his wife, Susan. Thus, being able to express gratitude and celebrate his legacy, as well as to discover different and novel ways to interpret his music, presents a significant challenge because he’s not just an icon. He is a legend.

Continuing his music for new generations in “Because of You: My Tribute to Tony Bennett” holds great importance to me and our audiences, an importance I know Tony shared because of his dedication to the arts and educating the youth about music. Bringing the production to Carmel is incredibly special because of everything the city, the people, our foundation and venue mean to me. Indiana is home, and to borrow from “The Wizard of Oz,” there’s no place like home.

Therefore, I am doing this not only for myself but also in honor of Tony, especially because of you.

Can you describe how important Tony’s contributions are to the history of the Great American Songbook?

Tony Bennett’s work has left a significant mark on the Great American Songbook, making timeless classics shine even brighter. His songs, ranging from the iconic “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” to the uplifting “The Best is Yet to Come,” show his unique ability to bring freshness and depth to well-loved tunes. Whether he’s delivering the smooth elegance of “Fly Me to the Moon” and “The Way You Look Tonight” or the heartfelt simplicity of “Smile,” Bennett’s performances are a showcase of his emotional depth and commitment to the music. His impact on American music is undeniable, ensuring that these songs will be cherished by future generations.

Do you have personal favorites of Bennett that have particular meaning?

For the Tony tribute, I’m performing the songs associated with him, including a lot of the Cy Coleman pieces, like “The Best is Yet to Come,” which he introduced, and “I Want to Be Around,” which Tony also made famous. Of course, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” will be included, along with Gershwin songs because his first commercial record featured Gershwin’s work. Then, songs associated with people he worked with, like Judy Garland, Nat King Cole, Sophie Tucker, will be part of the repertoire. So, it’s going to be an overview of his career through all of that music.

Do you share stories and anecdotes of your time with Tony?

The first time I met Tony Bennett was in 1983. I was doing a benefit with Rosemary Clooney and Tony was asked to participate. I remember talking to him on the phone first because he wanted to perform some unknown Gershwin songs that I had access to, thanks to my work with Mr. Gershwin – Ira Gershwin. Then, I met Tony in ’83 backstage at the concert, and he was great. Being a young kid who knew his world, I knew his music and the songwriters, so it was easy for us to start talking and become friends.

Do you have other appearances planned with the tribute?

“Because of You: My tribute to Tony Bennett” will be performed nationwide and there are plans underway for the show to cross the pond to the U.K., Europe and beyond. We have a rather full calendar in the United States. The specifics will be announced at a later date.

For more, visit thecenterpresents.org.