Tony Bennett’s family has announced the “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” singer has Alzheimer’s Disease. He was diagnosed four years ago, but has stayed private about the matter until now.
Despite his diagnosis, Bennett is said to be doing well. Bennett’s doctor, Gayatri Devi, who diagnosed him in 2016, shared that the 94-year-old has “cognitive issues, but multiple other areas of his brain are still resilient and functioning well.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that slowly strips away brain functions from the sufferer. It’s incurable and fatal.
The family made the announcement in AARP Magazine on Monday. They reiterated that the singer is not in any pain and feels physically fine. Though, he has suffered some cognitive declines.
“He would ask me, ‘What is Alzheimer’s?’ I would explain, but he wouldn’t get it,” his wife Susan told the magazine. “He’d tell me, ‘Susan, I feel fine.’ That’s all he could process — that physically he felt great. So, nothing changed in his life. Anything that did change, he wasn’t aware of.”
She told Gayle King on CBS This Morning that he first noticed something was wrong as he began to forget names.
“We came one night after a show. And he said to me, ‘Susan, you know, I can’t remember the musicians’ names,” she told King. “And I just chalked it up to him being, you know, at the time, you know, late 80s. We forget things. And he said, “No, no.” He said, “This isn’t right.'”
Though Susan said the 18-time Grammy winner can still perform an hour-long show without cue cards. He’s able to remember the music clearly. And he’s physically strong. He works out five days a week, his wife said.
Lady Gaga Knew of Tony Bennett’s Diagnosis Years Ago
“I wanted to check with her to make sure she was cool,” Bennett’s son, Danny, said. “Because she watches his back all the time. She was like, ‘Absolutely, it’s just another gift that he can give to the world.’”
Gaga and Bennett have an album set to come out soon. It’s their second album together. The AARP reporter sat in on one of their recording sessions. Bennett sometimes seems confused and lost and keeps his answers to a single world most of the time. Gaga, who calls Bennett a mentor and father figure in the piece, has to prompt him and help him answer some of the questions. But while he may struggle there, his voice remains.
The reporter catches a heartbreaking moment in the recording as Bennett belts out, his voice untouched by his disease.
“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.”