Iconic crooner Tony Bennett has revealed that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. In a new feature in AARP Magazine, the family of the 94-year-old musician and artist discuss Bennett's last four years living with Alzheimer's in hopes of reducing the stigma around the disease. “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do," says Gayatri Devi, M.D., the neurologist who diagnosed Bennett in 2016. "He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder."
"Life is a gift - even with Alzheimer’s," Tony wrote in a statement accompanying the article. "Thank you to Susan and my family for their support, and AARP The Magazine for telling my story."
The article also talks about the new album of duets with Lady Gaga that Tony has been working on for the last two years, a sequel to 2014's hit Cheek to Cheek that is scheduled to be released this spring. Bennet was showing signs of Alzheimer's dementia during the making, as the article also reveals:
In raw documentary footage of the sessions, he speaks rarely, and when he does his words are halting; at times, he seems lost and bewildered. Gaga, clearly aware of his condition, keeps her utterances short and simple (as is recommended by experts in the disease when talking to Alzheimer's patients). “You sound so good, Tony,” she tells him at one point. “Thanks,” is his one-word response. She says that she thinks “all the time” about their 2015 tour. Tony looks at her wordlessly. “Wasn't that fun every night?” she prompts him. “Yeah,” he says, uncertainly. The pain and sadness in Gaga's face is clear at such moments — but never more so than in an extraordinarily moving sequence in which Tony (a man she calls “an incredible mentor, and friend, and father figure") sings a solo passage of a love song. Gaga looks on, from behind her mic, her smile breaking into a quiver, her eyes brimming, before she puts her hands over her face and sobs.
In addition to the AARP article, Tony's wife Susan Benedetto talked to CBS This Morning's Gayle King today about the importance of music in Tony's treatment and why the decided to share the news now. You can watch that segment below.