Lady Gaga grew visibly emotional as the audience at Radio City Music Hall rose to their feet to help her sing “Happy Birthday” to Tony Bennett at the second of their two sold-out August shows together. The legendary crooner, who turned 95 on August 3, smiled and basked in the appreciation of the crowd.
“Tony’s spirits are always lifted when he’s in front of an audience,” an insider exclusively tells Closer Weekly, on newsstands now. “That’s his natural setting.”
After a career that has spanned seven decades, Tony wants to leave on a high note. “I look for songs that uplift the human experience,” he once said. That’s why, in addition to the pair of New York concerts with Gaga (which were filmed for posterity), Love for Sale, a new collection of their covers of Cole Porter songs, will be out in the fall. “They recorded it before Tony and his family announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease,” explains the insider.
In recent months, Tony’s memory “has taken a turn for the worse,” but “singing makes him feel good. It’s part of his ongoing therapy,” says the insider. And spending time with people like Gaga, whom Tony first met at a benefit concert in 2011, lifts his spirits.
“He lights up whenever he sees her,” says the insider. “She was so honored to walk him off stage for the last time.”
“Tony spends his days mostly relaxing, listening to music, sitting and chatting with Susan, whom he adores,” says the friend. “He’s not the old active and talkative Tony, but he speaks to his children and grandchildren whenever he can. “To me, life is a gift,” Tony has said. “Each person should learn what a gift it is to be alive no matter how tough things get.”
— Reporting by Rick Egusquiza
For more on this story, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.