Friday, August 04, 2006

More Honors For Tony Bennett

I love Tony Bennett and I'm happy his 80th birthday is sparking so much attention. Mind you, I am NOT looking forward to his all-star duets album (Sinatra's was pretty grotesque; hopefully at least Tony and the acts were actually in the same room recording at the same time). But I have two problems. First, the New York Times went overboard on Bennett's recent resurgence. His tribute albums to Sinatra and Astaire and Billie Holiday and "the ladies" are good to great, but they are NOT the crowning achievement of his career and they are certainly not a match in stature or importance to Ella Fitzgerald's Songbook series. They can't -- anymore than the most impressive bew pop album could have the same cultural impact of "Sgt. Pepper." And now Billboard is giving Bennett its Century Award. Here my complaint is not with Bennett but the award. It was established by Billboard's Timothy White to honor important living artists who haven't quite gotten their proper due from critics. It began with Buddy Guy, which seemed a telling choice. A great and important artist but surely someone who has been overshadowed somewhat by Muddy Waters and BB King and so on. Other recipients include Billy Joel and James Taylor and George Harrison. Okay. I'll even accept Joni Mitchell since maybe people haven't appreciated her entire career, as opposed to just "Court and Spark" and "Blue." (If you don't own them, stop reading and get to a CD store.) But now they've included Carlos Santana -- AFTER his massive commercial and Grammy-winning comeback. Did he really need a spotlight? Did Sting, who has been showered with Grammys and smash hits and great press for 30 years? STEVIE WONDER???!!!??? And now the equally lauded and fully appreciated Tony Bennett. Who's next? Springsteen? Surely Richard Thompson and Todd Rundgren and their ilk are far more in keeping with the spirit of this award.

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