Tony Bennett will receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today. The Prize honors a living musician’s “lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.”
The ceremony will be held in Washington, D.C., in November. Previous recipients include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, Carole King, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, and Smokey Robinson.
Said Hayden in announcing the honor: “Tony Bennett is not just an artist for the ages, but an artist for all ages.”
Bennett commented that the Gershwins held special significance in his career: “When I was still using the stage name ‘Joe Bari’ I made a demo record that was a two-sided 78 disc, and one of the sides I recorded was ‘Fascinating Rhythm,’ which was written by George and Ira Gershwin. I am very proud that one of the earliest records I ever made was a song written by the Gershwins, as their songwriting mastery was so exceptional. To be receiving an award that was named in their honor is one of the greatest thrills of my career, and I am deeply appreciative to the Library of Congress to be named this year’s recipient.”
Bennett has won 19 Grammy Awards, including a 2001 Lifetime Achievement Award, and was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2005. The Queens native’s star began to rise in the early 1950s via a string of hit singles on Columbia Records, among them: “Because of You,” “Rags to Riches,” and a remake of Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart.” He remains signed to the Sony Music label.
As recently as 2014, Bennett, then 88, marked yet another milestone when his duets album with Lady Gaga, “Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek,” entered the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 1.