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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Tony Bennett
Aired November 20, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, legend, icon, one of the world's best loved voices, the one, the only Tony Bennett. After some 60 years and more than 100 albums, nobody does it better, Tony Bennett for the hour next on a very special LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: We're honored to have as our special guest tonight on LARRY KING LIVE an old friend and one of the truly great talents this country has ever produced, the legendary Tony Bennett, winner of 12 Grammys, including one for lifetime achievement.
His new album is "The Art of Romance," in stores this month. He is one our, of course as well, accomplished painters, the amazing story of Anthony Dominic Benedetto of Astoria Queens, New York, who grew up to be Tony Bennett. You grew up during the depression, huh?
TONY BENNETT, SINGER: Yes, that's right.
KING: So, the family wasn't exactly rolling in money.
BENNETT: No, not at all.
KING: Were you a singing kid?
KING: When you were a kid were you in the choir?
BENNETT: I had a blessed upbringing because my family we were extremely poor because my father died when I was ten and my mother raised three children and she was a seamstress and a magnificent lady and all the relatives would come over and help her out.
And, every Sunday they'd make a circle, an Italian circle around my brother and my sister and myself and they gave us such confidence about -- we couldn't wait for every weekend, every Sunday to--
KING: Did you sing then?
BENNETT: Yes, we'd entertain them and it's history in my family that's quite humorous I think to the family. They still can't get over it. But everybody was talking about the big stars of that day and Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor (ph), you know with the radio was big.
So, one day I heard that he did black face, you know, so I went into my mother's bedroom and I was four or five years old and I showed up with all white powder on my face and they fell over, the whole family fell over.
KING: When did you want to be a professional? When did you say to yourself I want to be, I want to sing for a living?
BENNETT: Well, I have a charmed life because I've always known what I wanted to do. I've always had a passion to sing and paint and I've never questioned it. I've been doing it ever since, as a child.
KING: What came first?
BENNETT: Both of them.
BENNETT: I'm really not interested. I've learned everything through those two things the little I know.
KING: So, you're doing what you always wanted to do?
BENNETT: Yes. Yes, I've been blessed with that and the passion is stronger now than it was when I was a child and growing up and doing it.
KING: I know that. When you entertain now your vitality still is there. It comes in your paintings. How do you explain that? You're supposed to slow down.
BENNETT: I think my answer to that is that I'm still learning. You know, I still -- I realize how much I have to really learn to get this thing finished that I want to do, you know, just to get very accomplished with what I'm doing.
KING: Evolution as a singer, when you listen back to your old amazing run of hits, "Because of you" which was your first big hit.
KING: I know them all, "Rags to Riches," "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," do you look back and say that's a different guy?
BENNETT: Well, I think we all start out as amateurs and then we learn but, you know, it takes about ten years to become consummate. I was fortunate. Rosemary Clooney and I we both started together and we were fortunate we caught the end of Vaudeville and you were allowed to go on the road and break in and learn and the audience would tell you what to do, what they liked and what they didn't like, you know and that--
KING: You learned.
BENNETT: You learned and so then finally you just say this is what the public really wants out of me.
KING: You had hits while learning?
BENNETT: Right, right. KING: Was that a benefit?
BENNETT: Well, it was a frightening experience for me and my master, my idol in those days, of course, was Frank Sinatra, ten years my elder and Perry Como was nice enough to give me, because I had a couple of million sellers, the summer replacement on TV on "The Perry Como Show," but the network kind of left me with a bare stage, you know.
All the guest stars weren't there and I was very frightened and I just took a deep breath. Everybody warned me that Frank Sinatra was a very tough guy. You better look out, you know. And I said, I felt, I think I'd get along with him.
KING: He was a guest?
BENNETT: Excuse me?
KING: He was a guest on the show?
BENNETT: No. He was at the Paramount Theater.
BENNETT: Doing nine shows a day with Tommy Dorsey's band Reunion and I went up and asked if I could see him downstairs and he went up -- he had me come upstairs and he was so wonderful to me that it was a great beginning of a great friendship, relationship in my life.
KING: That was before you did the television gig so it helped?
BENNETT: I just said -- he said, "What's going on?" I said, "Well the reason I want to see you is I'm completely nervous. I don't know what to do because they've left me with a bare stage and I'm frightened and I don't want to feel frightened."
And he gave me the best answer that changed my whole career. He said, "Don't worry about that," he said. "It's great that that's happening to you." He said, "If you're frightened, the audience is your friend." He said, "They're going to come up and help you out. They're going to support you." He says, "You'll see that they'll come at you." And it really changed, psyched me out to just get comfortable on the stage a lot more.
KING: The only answer is to be yourself.
BENNETT: Exactly, that's right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK SINATRA: Tony Bennett, ladies and gentlemen, maybe the best pop singer in the whole world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Frank once said, he said it to me, he said it publicly in other places that you were the best singer, best singer he ever heard.
BENNETT: Well, Pat Henry said "Well, what does he know?"
KING: When you first had that, when you first heard that, that had to just...
BENNETT: Oh, I was in London and my friends and business associates in New York, they said "Wait until you see what Sinatra said about you in 'LIFE' magazine." And I said, "What? What did he say?" They said, "We're not telling you. You're going to have to wait until you get back." And, boy I had so much anxiety about that but when I read it I couldn't believe it.
KING: Tell me about this -- by the way, "The Art of Romance" is coming out. That's another new collection. You do all these great standards, right?
BENNETT: Well, they're new songs, no, they're new songs.
KING: These are new songs?
BENNETT: Many new songs by Johnny Mandel (ph).
BENNETT: Yes. Yes.
KING: Well, I'll talk about that in a while. Tell me about the Sinatra School.
BENNETT: Oh, it's great.
KING: What is it?
BENNETT: Well, it's the Frank Sinatra School of all of the arts and it's a public school. I don't know how I got a hold of this. I've got a charmed life lately but the public school, you know, Peter Malone (ph)...
KING: The New York City councilman.
BENNETT: Councilman, yes, and he was nice enough to work out a thing with Mayor Giuliani to give me an amazing amount of money for the school.
KING: And it's a public school in Astoria where you grew up?
BENNETT: Public school in Astoria in an area next to the George Kaplan (ph) Studios and it's now becoming a cultural center. They have the Museum of Moving Pictures and all that.
KING: And this is a high school?
BENNETT: And it's a high school, public school, and after three years when I first saw the students that auditioned everybody in New York had come to it if they audition and they're accepted. KING: It's like music and art you got to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BENNETT: Exactly, exactly, very similar. The only difference with this school is we have the students communicate in the audience. They sang for Mandela at the United Nations. They sing for, you know, for old age people, you know.
KING: They get to work in other words.
BENNETT: They get used to being in front of people. They work as apprentices in graphic art studios.
KING: What a great homage to Frank.
BENNETT: Oh, well, you have no idea when I first saw them I said, "Boy we have a job," to myself, you know. After three years we had Jerry Seinfeld come to the first graduating class. Every one of them is going to college, how about that?
KING: What was Frank's greatness?
BENNETT: I think he was the best performer in America. You know, when you see him dancing with Gene Kelly, when you see the great "Manchurian Candidate," films like that, he -- when he had to do it, it was just -- first of all, to start out he's the best popular singer that ever lived. He had this magic. He's like DeStefano (ph) of opera. He had the best voice, you know, Pavarotti's favorite singer. He had a musical voice. He was blessed with being able to hear -- a great musician, you know. He's a great musician.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he touched people, right?
BENNETT: Very -- he was a very misunderstood man. They think of him with the Rat Pack and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and all of that but in the meantime he was very warm.
KING: Oh, yes.
BENNETT: And so full an he had a very strict philosophy. He -- either you were loyal to him and if you did him in, you were off his list and it was permanent, never changed, you know.
KING: There was no middle ground with Frank. We'll be right back with Tony Bennett who, by the way in November is going to open up an extraordinary place at the Time Warner Building in New York at Lincoln Center. We'll talk about that and a lot of other things with one of the great, great performers, Tony Bennett. The new album is "The Art of Romance." Don't go away.
KING: There's a great new building in New York, the Time Warner Building. CNN is housed in that building, a lot of terrific things in there, the Whole (ph) Foods Market is the best food market I ever saw in my life. And Tony Bennett and Mr. Marsalis are going to open up jazz at Lincoln Center, right? BENNETT: That's right.
KING: And it's, what kind of place is that?
BENNETT: Well, it's the, you know...
KING: It's around Thanksgiving, right?
BENNETT: It is, yes, right around Thanksgiving. We're there for five days. It's unbelievable. It's the first jazz concert hall. There will never be anything else but jazz. There are three concert halls that are jazz.
Wynton Marsalis started it out and after the great musicians, like Fats Waller and Leslie Young (ph) and Sally Parker, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, the struggles that they had to go through and being so underpaid throughout their life and being such geniuses.
You know actually more and more I'm becoming a traditionalist because we have the greatest culture. We're a very young country and when I travel around the world if I go to Asia or Europe, the first thing they show us, whether it's Britain or Italy or France or Germany, whatever, they show us what they've contributed to the world.
And, as successful as America is financially, the fact that we don't even realize, Americans don't even realize that America and baseball are our only two cultures. This is going to be our tradition. Fifty years, 100 years from now we'll be (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: We have jazz, baseball and musical comedy I think that's all.
BENNETT: Oh, you have films they actually (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: We gave the world.
BENNETT: We gave the world and it's fantastic. It's great but Louis Armstrong who is the master, Frank Sinatra. See, I think what I'm trying to say is that young kids were taught when Alan Fried said "This is your music and your parents like the other kind of music," well all of the merchants of our business went toward that philosophy, the demographic group of the young performers, but they didn't spend time to say study the masters. Study the ones that do it right.
KING: Why do you think you keep remaining in the spotlight? MTV honors you. You appear on MTV. You win Grammys. Your albums sell. Why?
BENNETT: Well, Nat Shapiro and Bob Wightman at the Paramount Theater in those days we did a very inhuman thing, all the performers. That's when Sinatra was making $300 a week with Tommy Dorsey.
And they said, "Look, we do seven shows a day here, very inhuman" and they said "But in the morning we have the youngsters, the teenagers. In the afternoon, we have the old timers and at night we have the young lovers and married couples." They said, "Only sing great songs. Don't sing to a demographic group." Now everything today is all demographic, you know. Everything is split up, you know.
KING: Geared to the 14-year-old.
BENNETT: Yes, right. So...
KING: You don't.
BENNETT: I never did that. I like, you know, I found out that when you sing to everybody and that's what I meant about going to the old masters and studying the old masters. When you see, you know, Bob Hope or Jack Benny or George Burns, they played to the whole family. Charlie Chaplin played to the whole family. Walt Disney played to the whole family. And so, if they hit, everybody bought it. It's not just one demographic group.
KING: One critic said about you, you have infinite taste.
BENNETT: Thank you.
KING: Is that a natural acquirement?
BENNETT: No. No.
KING: You worked at that?
BENNETT: You study at that, yes. You learn -- you learn, you know, I went to the -- I was in the Second World War in France and Germany. When I came out I joined the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) called it the good war. I came out. They gave us under the G.I. Bill of Rights, they gave us a great education, the American theater wing, and I had the best teachers. I can't tell you, I mean, my acting teacher was secretary to Stanislavski.
I mean unbelievable, you know. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who was in a brown stone right across the street from 52nd Street where the awnings from her window said Art Tatum (ph), Billy Holliday (ph), Count Basie, George Schering, Errol Gardiner (ph), Stan Getz and she said, "Don't imitate singers because you'll just be one of the crowd if you imitate another singer." She said, "Listen to musicians and get -- see which musicians you like." So, I liked Art Tatum and Stan Getz because Stan had this beautiful melodic honey sound.
KING: You tried to sing like they played?
BENNETT: Yes. I phrased -- Art Tatum would always change tempos and all. In those days everybody had to do a dance tempo and Art was the first one to just make a performance out of the songs.
KING: There's no one like him. He's one of a kind. He's Tony Bennett. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with Tony Bennett, born Anthony Dominic Benedetto.
BENNETT: Thank you.
KING: In Queens, New York and just like me losing a father at age ten, mother raising in my case two boys, your case two boys and a girl, right? Tough times but you learn through tough times.
BENNETT: Right. But, you know, you mentioned Dominic, Anthony Dominic Benedetto, you know...
KING: Easy to see where Bennett came from.
BENNETT: Back to telling the young people that might be listening that the old timers were the ones that helped me out. They were ten years my elder and it was Milton Berle, Jan Murray, Red Buttons, people like that, that heard about me.
KING: Pearl Bailey gave you a boost.
BENNETT: Put me on Leon and Eddie's, you know, to help me out.
KING: Famous old nightclub.
BENNETT: Right. And then -- then Pearl Bailey had me down in Greenwich Village and Bob Hope came in to see me and he took me from that show and put me right on the stage at the Paramount and he said, "What's your name?" I said, Anthony Dominic Benedetto. He said, "Well, that's too long for the marquee. Let's simplify it and call you Tony Bennett."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB HOPE: You know it's been about 16 years since I discovered you singing in a Greenwich Village nightclub. How come this is your first appearance on my television show?
BENNETT: Well, I've been waiting for you to make good.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's the one...
BENNETT: He announced me that way on stage. It's the first time I ever heard that name and, you know, he had no idea that there would ever be a singer called Englebert Humperdinck.
KING: You once had a different stage name though, didn't you?
BENNETT: Joe Barry (ph) which is right from a section (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
KING: How did you come across that -- how did you come across "Because of You?"
BENNETT: Well, it was just a hit song that Mitch Miller gave me. He heard that Bob Hope had me on the road with him. He took me on the road and showed me how to perform actually. It was wonderful. Every night he'd say show the people you love them and showed me how to work on the stage and Les Brown's band was unbelievable every night. The band got better and better.
KING: Mitch came up with the song at Columbia?
BENNETT: And Mitch came up with the song, right.
KING: You were always with Columbia.
KING: You were forever Columbia.
BENNETT: Right. I took a break for a while in the middle of my career, recording career, and I went to England and I sang with an orchestra that Sinatra called the governor, rather fun and it influenced all the musicians in America.
KING: Did you like "Because of You?"
BENNETT: I loved it, yes.
KING: Do you ever sing it?
BENNETT: Oh, yes. I love it.
KING: Now, everyone started to imitate you when that was a hit with the lisp.
KING: Because of you there's a song, did you enjoy that?
BENNETT: No. It wasn't true, I mean...
KING: You didn't lisp but you had a rasp.
BENNETT: There's nothing more complimentary...
KING: Than imitation.
BENNETT: ...than someone like being in a crossword puzzle or something. That means everybody knows who you are, so it's wonderful. It's a caricature but it's a wonderful compliment.
KING: How would you describe your voice? It's not the run of the mill baritone sound.
KING: Right. I just think I learned it from Bill Evans, the great masterful pianist and he taught me to just think of truth and beauty, whether I paint or sing, just be very, you said it earlier, just be honest, be very honest and that's all I work on. That's all I think about.
KING: You don't think about how the sound is coming out, you just be you?
BENNETT: Oh, I had very good training. I mentioned (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and I had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) teacher, DeAndrea (ph), Pietro DeAndrea and Mimi Speer (ph).
KING: Do you always have them? By that I mean when you walk out on stage do you own it?
BENNETT: Well, the audience -- I've never had trouble with an audience. It's so funny. Just at the very beginning I did, you know. Joe E. Lewis (ph), I was his opening act at the Copa for many years and I'd say -- he'd say to me "How's the audience?" And I'd say "Well they're a little tough on the left and a little tough" -- and he was so kind and wonderful, as you knew, and he'd say -- he said, "We're going to get out of trouble somehow" and he'd come on the stage. He was always nice to me.
KING: But you now never have that happen, right? There's no...
BENNETT: No. The audience has been beautiful to me.
KING: Do you ever have to yourself a bad night?
BENNETT: Oh, yes, because I'm searching for a certain, you know, you get butterflies every night.
BENNETT: It's not nerves, though. It's a misconception. It's just hoping the lights work, hoping the orchestra and I blend together properly, the timing of things and all that, you know. But once you hit the stage you go, you know. If you don't feel, in fact I feel if I don't feel nervous on a night that it's not going to really work as well. You have to feel, you know, it's almost like someone like a horse at the gate, you know, where you're ready to go, you know.
KING: Do you know you have them?
BENNETT: Oh, yes. Yes.
KING: It's a great feeling isn't it?
BENNETT: Oh, they've been beautiful to me. I mean this has been going on for years now. They've been terrific.
KING: How many years you been on stage?
BENNETT: How many years?
KING: Yes, how many years in the business?
KING: Do you ever think of giving it up?
BENNETT: No, I'd love to sing for another 60 years. I love it. I don't have to work. I mean I've done very well.
KING: Obviously. BENNETT: Right but I really -- as someone like Sting, I heard Sting say you get addicted. The audiences turn you on, you know, and it's true. That's what happens. You just love to entertain people. I try to give back all the love they've given me and it's a good love fest.
KING: How about other countries, Japan? You'll pack a house in Japan. They don't speak English.
BENNETT: They don't speak English and I don't speak Japanese unfortunately.
BENNETT: But it's different but it's very -- they're very respectful. They're very respectful. It's quiet so you feel like you're not going over and at the end of the performance it's the longest applause you could ever imagine, the longest, you know. It goes on and on.
KING: That culture is appreciate at the end, right?
BENNETT: They listen to every single note, every single move. They watch every single thing that's happening and at the end of the performance they give you a long, long performance. It works a little different at the Blue Note which started in Greenwich Village. They have a club there in Japan.
KING: Oh, yes?
BENNETT: And I played that and they did a perfect imitation. You feel like you're in Greenwich Village when you walk in. It's exactly like the Blue Note. And then it's a real hot show.
KING: Tony Bennett is our guest. We'll talk about painting right after this.
KING: We're back with the great Tony Bennett. OK, when did you start to sell? You were much more a singing hit early, right, before you started selling paintings?
BENNETT: Oh, yes. No, I just painted. I went to an art school. It was at Roosevelt and LaGuardia were nice enough to get a lot of people work and so I went to a school called the High School of Industrial Art. This was right on 79th Street near the Metropolitan Museum of Art and it was a wonderful school. I mean imagine it was so overcrowded that they said, if you can stay away from school for four days, and this was a high school, they said but as long as you come back with four days work of what you've done.
Well, I didn't want to leave the school. I loved it so much, you know, and it was a wonderful school because they showed you a technique and every -- stained glass windows or costume designing or cartooning, anything that would get you work. KING: Why do you like painting?
BENNETT: Oh, I love it. Why do I love it? It's...
BENNETT: It's very solitary and it's not painful at all. It's a very relaxing, wonderful thing and it's very difficult but if you have a passion, you go for it and it stays difficult no matter how well you become you're still not finished yet, you know. You know that there's so much more you have to learn.
KING: Why is it difficult? I mean you can never master it.
BENNETT: It's not -- in other words, everyone has talent, everybody. Everybody has talent but you have to have that one element being passionate about it and you don't give up. You never give up. You go for it. You keep going for it. And you have to do it every day. I mean for me...
KING: You paint every day?
BENNETT: Yes, and I have to sketch you. I have to sketch. Wherever I'm at, I'll sketch the set that you have here, this beautiful set. You just sketch and sketch and sketch and once you learn how to sketch well you can paint properly.
KING: Is there any type you like better than others? Do you like to do people? Do you like to do scenes?
BENNETT: It's all about the study of light, the light on someone, the way a light hits, like this shadow here is fascinating the way the light is hitting this and there's a shadow to this cup, you know. And then you just say, wow, that would be nice to paint that or sketch that, you know. You just do that all the time.
KING: So, it could be a cup or it could be a baseball stadium?
BENNETT: You never know, yes. It could be this microphone.
KING: And then you bring -- so that's what we mean when still life can be brought to life, right?
KING: A bowl of pears.
KING: Can sell for $1 million, right?
BENNETT: Yes, well, Cezanne, right.
KING: Because it's doing -- it's doing what?
BENNETT: It's an interpretation and I like impressionism. I like academia and teachers. I'm blessed with the fact that I got to learn. I had someone that went to school with me that's one of the students Everett Raymond Kensler (ph) who is the greatest painter since -- portraiture since (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and he went to that school.
He's become my master, you see. Then he had me meet Charles Reed (ph) who is a tremendous painter. I love it, you know, and I just -- I just love to paint, just like you just with your great success, you know. I know that you love what you're doing.
KING: Every day.
BENNETT: Well, that's wonderful. I wish more people in America would realize that hey should have that attitude somehow, really do something they like and then make a business out of it.
KING: Boy, it beats work.
BENNETT: It does.
KING: We'll be back with Tony Bennett and we'll talk about some of the incredible moments in his career right after this.
KING: We're back with Tony Bennett. How many CDs, albums have you made?
BENNETT: Oh, I don't know.
KING: You don't know.
BENNETT: I don't know.
KING: You also sing a lot of duets. You sang with Sheryl Crow.
KING: Natalie Cole, Billy Joel, sang on duets with Sinatra.
BENNETT: K.D. Lang.
KING: K.D. Lang that's a great album.
BENNETT: She's terrific.
KING: A wonderful song on that album. It's on a commercial now.
BENNETT: Yes, right.
KING: "What a Wonderful World."
KING: You also say with Ray Charles. I saw the movie "Ray."
KING: What was he like to sing with?
BENNETT: The greatest. He used to call me Uncle Tony. We'd finish a duet and he'd say "Is that all right, Uncle Tony?"
KING: What makes a duet work?
BENNETT: Two different voices. A classical album with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, you know, his wonderful rasp. That's where mine came from being influenced by him. And then there's Ella, you know, singing so sweet and beautiful and that combination of contrasts, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, those are the best duets.
KING: Are you going to record with Whitney Houston?
BENNETT: I'd love to, yes. I heard that she wanted to do it. I was thrilled about it when she mentioned that.
KING: Is it in the works, is somebody...
BENNETT: And I told Clive when he first had it...
KING: Clive Davis?
BENNETT: Yes, Clive Davis and I said, I said, "Clive you finally got a good singer" when I first heard her, you know.
KING: But could that happen, you and Whitney?
BENNETT: I'd love to, yes. I'd love to do it and I'm sure that something will happen with it. It's wonderful that she'd like to do it and I'd love to do it with her.
KING: Well, if you want it and she wants it?
BENNETT: We'll do it. I'd like to.
KING: It's got -- you like young singers today?
BENNETT: Yes, I love Sting. I think he's a hell of a -- I'd love to do a duet with him. There's a different voice than mine and it would be a nice combination.
KING: Yes, you're not kidding. He is -- how did you get "I Left my Heart in San Francisco?"
BENNETT: Ralph Sharon (ph) was my music director at the time.
BENNETT: And really not just -- he was wonderful to me. You know through the years he really taught me so much because they had me singing just ballads at the beginning and he said "Tony" he said "Sing some jazz." He said, "You have a jazz quality." He said, "Because if you just do ballads" he said "You're going to get shot down. You'll be predictable." He said, "Sing some jazz" and we came up with a drum album with all the great drummers in the world.
KING: I remember you sang with Candito (ph).
BENNETT: Candito, my favorite.
KING: What an album that was.
BENNETT: My favorite guy. He just did a documentary on his life and I saw it at the (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They presented it and it's so magnificent. And you know what I love about him? Now, he worked with everybody, you know, from Duke Ellington to Dizzy Gillespie found him. They invented Cuban jazz with Candito and that was Dizzy doing that but then all these great -- Stan Getz and he's just played with Charlie Parker, with everybody.
And, at the end of the documentary, he said, he looked right at the camera at the young people in the audience that might be in the audience and he said, "I've never taken a cigarette or a drink." He says, "I've always been straight." He says, "And I got all this done." And when you hear that, you know, his conga drum it's so -- it's so musical.
KING: How did you get "San Francisco?"
BENNETT: Ralph Sharon found it and...
KING: Just laying around?
BENNETT: It was laying in his shirt drawer when we were going on the road and he said, "I just think this" -- we were going up to San Francisco and we were in Little Rock, Arkansas where President Clinton used to sneak in when he was in college and look in the window at the club that I was in.
And the bartender, we were rehearsing it because he said "I think it's going to be big in San Francisco. You're going up there for the first time" and so the bartender said, "I don't want to interrupt your rehearsal" he said, "But if you record that song I'm going to be the first customer" and that was kind of a hint but we didn't think. Then we went to San Francisco at rehearsal. Everybody said get in the record studio and record this song.
KING: I remember the first time I heard it, "the loveliness of Paris was somehow sadly gay. The glory that was Rome was of another day." Did you know it would work?
BENNETT: No. I had the other side. Every record in those days there were two sides to a record and the other side was "Once Upon a Time" from a Ray Bolger show.
KING: It's a wonderful song. BENNETT: All American. I loved it. I said, yes, I loved it. I said that's -- and boy they came back at me six months later. They said, "Stop singing that. Just turn it over and do the San Francisco. We're selling 10,000 records a day."
KING: And San Francisco broke a Beatle run or some big rock and roll run that was running and running and running and you became number one that broke that whole image of what people were buying, right?
BENNETT: Well, it sustained through the years, you know. It's made me. When you say, someone might say "Don't you get tired of singing that song?" I sing it different every night because I'm surrounded by a magnificent quartet, just the greatest musicians and nice people and they -- I sing it different every night and then it's just, you know, the United Nations actually honored me and made me a world citizen because I've been commissioned and singing all over the world to Asia, Europe, everywhere.
KING: As the late Henny Youngman once said, "I checked into a hotel in San Francisco, opened up the dresser drawer and found Tony Bennett's heart." We'll be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.
KING: In our remaining moments, there were bounce back moments in your life, right?
KING: The IRS was after you.
BENNETT: Not really, no.
KING: What happened? What was that story?
BENNETT: That was incorrect. It never happened to me.
KING: You never lost your house or anything?
BENNETT: No, no.
KING: Why did it get in print?
BENNETT: That's, you know, if you read those things it happens and that never happened to me. I kind of went down a bit because I got, you know, I got a little too high for a while and it was incorrect and in fact the master Sinatra said "Cool it" and that meant a lot to me and it changed my life actually.
KING: How did you get the help?
BENNETT: I just stopped. I just realized that it wasn't going anywhere. It wasn't nice. It wasn't nice for me. It wasn't nice for the public. I stepped away from where I was at but I didn't have to withdraw. I didn't have to do anything terrible. I just stopped. And the minute I stopped, the whole world changed.
My son had a lot to do with it. He came in on me and he's brilliant as a businessman and he said to me, "I have to start handling what you're doing." I said, "You got it." And he changed everything. My whole life changed.
KING: Did it cause you to lose your humbleness at the time? Did Tony change?
BENNETT: No, it wasn't that. It was just you think you're doing great and you're not, you know.
KING: You see that in the Ray Charles movie, by the way, very explicit in there.
BENNETT: Yes. I hear it's a great movie.
KING: It's a great movie, the Ray Charles movie. So, you keep on keeping on. All big things are happening to you. You're always working.
BENNETT: I know. It's unbelievable now.
KING: How many nights a year do you...
BENNETT: No, I don't work that much. It's more selective. I mean now it's a lot more human, you know. I'm not doing six shows a day at the Paramount Theater. I do one show a night in beautiful concert halls all over the world, very selective.
KING: Work with big orchestras and small?
BENNETT: Just, I use -- yes.
KING: So, you use a small group and you work with symphonies?
BENNETT: Yes. Yes, we might do a big benefit performance for the symphonic season, that kind of thing.
KING: I know you do a lot of charity work. You did it for the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.
BENNETT: Oh, thank you. That was a great night. I thank you.
KING: That was a great night. Now, the last number you did that night, you put the mike down.
KING: And you sang.
BENNETT: Right, "Fly me to the Moon."
KING: "Fly me to the Moon."
BENNETT: Yes. KING: Acapella.
KING: What a way to close.
BENNETT: Thank you.
KING: How did you come up with that?
BENNETT: Well, it used to be, you know, the taxi drivers in New York years ago, a lot different than today, they were philosophers. They got to be like part of the family, your own family, and they'd say "You bums." This one guy told me, a taxicab driver, he said "You bums." He said, "You can't -- you're not singers. You're crooners, you know. You're not singers." He said, "Not like Jolson or Ethel Merman that would hit the back of the house with their voice." And I always kept that in mind. Gee, that's wild. So, I tried it and it worked. I did one number.
BENNETT: Yes. You have to be in a acoustical hall and all that, you know, and then just by doing one number like that the audience loves it.
KING: How much of you is jazz?
BENNETT: All of it.
KING: So, all of it?
BENNETT: Actually, the greatest music that's ever been invented, it's elongated improvisation. It's always been around. The masters had it years ago. When some composer writes it at the beginning it's all jazz when they're creating but it was before microphones and radio and television and movies.
And now, it is the most honest. You have to sing different every night. You have to get musicians, they'll play a lick that you like and you imitate that lick or I'll sing a lick they like and they play the lick and every night it's a different show. It's never predictable.
KING: Duke Ellington told me once, God I'm getting old, I've interviewed all these people.
BENNETT: That's all right.
KING: Duke Ellington told me once that Bach they regard as the founder of jazz.
KING: Bach was a jazz composer.
BENNETT: You can hear it. You can hear it.
KING: He broke rules, right?
BENNETT: He broke the rules and he was phenomenal.
KING: Gershwin had a lot of it in his...
BENNETT: Oh, Harold Arlen (ph) too. Harold Arlen worked the Cotton Club up in Harlem with Duke Ellington's band, wrote all those great songs, "Stormy Weather."
KING: Tell me about some of the numbers in "The Art of Romance."
BENNETT: They're wonderful songs. It's a premise. It's almost a concept album in the sense that it's the ups and downs of love. It's all the different aspects of it.
KING: There are sad songs and happy songs?
BENNETT: Yes, and comedy songs.
KING: Get together songs and break up songs?
KING: We've known a few of those, haven't we, Tony?
BENNETT: Yes, yes. Thank you very much Larry.
KING: You're my man.
BENNETT: Thank you.
KING: Tony Bennett. You don't have to say anymore.
BENNETT: Larry King.
KING: "The Art of Romance" is in stores and he received 12 Grammys and a lifetime achievement award. There ain't been anybody like him.
BENNETT: Thank you.
KING: I'll be back in a couple of minutes. Don't go away.
KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
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