Though they were separated by more than five decades, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett shared a special magic. The “Million Reasons” singer paid loving tribute to her good friend and collaborator on Sunday night (July 30), 10 days after Bennett’s death at age 96.
“I will miss my friend forever. I will miss singing with him, recording with him, talking with him, being on stage together,” Gaga wrote alongside an Instagram photo of Bennett giving her a warm hug. “With Tony, I got to live my life in a time warp. Tony & I had this magical power. We transported ourselves to another era, modernized the music together, & gave it all new life as a singing duo. But it wasnt an act. Our relationship was very real.”
Gaga added that, yes, of course Bennett taught her about music, and showbiz life, but she said he also showed her how to “keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight. ‘Straight ahead,’ he’d say. He was an optimist, he believed in quality work AND quality life. Plus, there was the gratitude…Tony was always grateful. He served in WWII, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and sang jazz with the greatest singers and players in the world. I’ve been grieving the loss of Tony for a long time. We had a very long and powerful goodbye.”
Bennett died on July 21 in his hometown of New York City of undisclosed causes after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016; his family first shared the diagnosis publicly in 2021.
Despite the more than half-century that separated them, Gaga, 37, said Bennett was her confidant, age difference be damned.
“He was my friend. My real true friend,” she wrote. “Our age difference didn’t matter– in fact, it gave us each something neither of us had with most people. We were from two different stages in life entirely — inspired. Losing Tony to Alzheimer’s has been painful but it was also really beautiful. An era of memory loss is such a sacred time in a persons life. There’s such a feeling of vulnerability and a desire to preserve dignity. All I wanted was for Tony to remember how much I loved him and how grateful I was to have him in my life.”
She added, “But, as that faded slowly I knew deep down he was sharing with me the most vulnerable moment in his life that he could — being willing to sing with me when his nature was changing so deeply. I’ll never forget this experience. I’ll never forget Tony Bennett. If I could say anything to the world about this I would say don’t discount your elders, don’t leave them behind when things change. Don’t flinch when you feel sad, just keep going straight ahead, sadness is part of it.”
Gaga was there beside her friend at New York’s Radio City Music Hall in August 2021 when the pals headlined a pair of “One Last Time: An Evening with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga” shows a decade after her dreams of collaborating with her childhood musical hero came true on their first duet on “The Lady Is a Tramp” from Bennett’s Duets II album; Bennett’s son/manager Danny Bennett, announced that his dad wold retire from touring after the Radio City gigs . Gaga and Bennett also recorded two full-length jazz standards albums together, 2014’s Cheek to Cheek and 2021’s Love for Sale.
If she could impart any knowledge, Gaga concluded, it’s to take care of your elders, and if you do, she promised, you will surely learn something special from them.
“Maybe even magical,” she said. “And pay attention to silence — some of my musical partner and I’s most meaningful exchanges were with no melody at all.”