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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
Interview With Tony Bennett
Aired October 10, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: It doesn't get better than this. Tony Bennett, the singer, on stage where he belongs.
Tony, it's been a lifetime ambition of mine to be sitting at a piano and about to serenade the world as you sing to my piano playing. So in the immortal words, I think you're now used to it, take it away, Tony Bennett.
Tony's topping the charts again at the age of 85. Tonight his duets with today's top stars.
TONY BENNETT, SINGER, NEW CD, "TONY BENNETT: DUETS II": I love Lady Gaga. When I first met her on this record date, I was very impressed. All of the singers that I've ever heard, Amy was the best one. As good as Billie Holiday, as good as Ella Fitzgerald even.
MORGAN: His career highs and lows.
BENNETT: I realized that I thought I was doing well with the drugs, and I really wasn't.
MORGAN: Tony Bennett in his own words and music. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
BENNETT: Thank you very much.
MORGAN: How are you?
BENNETT: Just fine, thank you.
MORGAN: Life good?
BENNETT: Couldn't be better.
MORGAN: You could say that again. I mean, what an extraordinary life you've had.
BENNETT: I know.
MORGAN: Do you ever stop to actually look back and think, good god?
BENNETT: Well, at my age, you do that. You go right back to the beginning, early family with a wonderful Italian American family that I grew up with.
MORGAN: What do you think when you think back to those days?
BENNETT: I love what happened because I had -- all my uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews, they were all good people, hard working people. And they were all very human and very helpful to me personally. They gave me a passion for my whole life. They like at a very early age they loved the way that I sang and the way I painted. And that became my extreme passion and it's been that way throughout my whole life.
MORGAN: What values did they instill in you, that community you had, family and friends?
BENNETT: They just like -- well, besides great food. My mom was a great cook.
BENNETT: But she had a tough time because my father died when I was 10. And she had to raise my brother and my sister and myself. It was during the depression. To put food -- we had a very humble start. And she was just beautiful. And all my relatives would come over every Sunday and make a circle around my brother, sister and myself, and we would entertain them.
BENNETT: Yes. And --
MORGAN: And you sing for your supper, would you?
BENNETT: That's what happened, actually. I mean they would say, look at how he makes us laugh and --
MORGAN: Is that when you got that excitement, that you thought this is for me?
BENNETT: I remember very clearly saying, this is who I am. My family is telling me that -- who I love, the family I love, the family, and I said that -- they're telling me that I sing well and I paint well. And that created a very strong passion in my life.
MORGAN: Because I always -- I've got three sons now. And all I say to them is you've got to find a passion, and then chase that passion.
BENNETT: I think that's correct.
MORGAN: Because if you end up doing a job you love, as you know, you are never going to be bored. You'll never going to wake up and think, I've got to go to work today. You wake up and you're Tony Bennett. You know you get to go and sing or paint or whatever it may be, but everything you do, you love doing, don't you? BENNETT: It's never a bother for me. I don't need a vacation. I'm on vacation because I'm doing the two things I love. So you're right.
MORGAN: The new album, they say you could always judge a man by the company of the people that he keeps, Tony. And on this album, "Duets II," I mean it's extraordinary roll call, Lady Gaga, John Mayer, Amy Winehouse, who we'll talk about later, Michael Buble, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, Josh Groban, Natalie Cole and so it goes -- Mariah Carey and so on.
An extraordinary collection of amazing singers. Do any of the ones on this album match up in quality of voice to the greats like Sinatra or it is different these days?
BENNETT: Well, you know, I started with the "Duets I." It was so successful that Sony Columbia said please do another one like that. The new artists that I -- the names that you just mentioned, what I love about it was the first time they all came out of schools and they're all taught, unlike when Rosemary Clooney and I started -- the late Rosemary Clooney -- we were just amateurs hoping for a break.
And she came in for -- she won an amateur contest, like "American Idol," you know. She came in first, I came in second, rightfully so because she was a beautiful singer and a lovely human being. And we were told by the old masters like George Burns and Jack Benny, they said, now, son, you know, lady, you know, you're off to a good start, but it's going to take you seven years before you become a competent performer, performing in front of an audience.
But now with these new schools, they're teaching them what to expect and how to be prepared.
MORGAN: And in your experience, are they as prepared and ready and able to nurture their talent in the same way that you could after years of treading those boards? Is it as good?
BENNETT: They were all very professional, they were all prepared. They came in -- I love Lady Gaga, when I first met her on this record date. And she was -- she went to the whole staff after it was finished, the recording that we did, thanking them for believing in her.
BENNETT: She was so sweet to everybody, to every stage hand and everybody, thank you for being so nice to me and all that. And I was very impressed with that.
MORGAN: I mean the great thing for you is that you've had this, as I said, extraordinary career where you're absolutely huge through the '50s and '60s, one of the great stars of the world, and then you hit the wall a bit.
BENNETT: What's fascinating about my life, you know, my name -- my family name is Benedetto. That's how I sign my paintings, you know, Benedetto. And translated into the English language Benedetto means "the blessed one." And funny enough it's worked out because from 1950 until this very moment, 99 percent of the time I've been sold out all over the world.
MORGAN: Is that right?
BENNETT: Especially in your great country Britain.
MORGAN: We love you in Britain.
BENNETT: I know. I love it.
MORGAN: So how long would you say the period of -- you know the time in your career when it wasn't firing on all cylinders? How long was that period for you when you were slightly feeling maybe it's over?
BENNETT: I tell you, it was about six months.
BENNETT: And that was in Las Vegas. It was when the underworld who invented Las Vegas gave it over to the big corporations because it made so much money, Las Vegas made so much money they bought Caesar's Palace, they bought the Hilton Hotel, they bought everything. And that's when that change came about. And it wasn't -- it wasn't just my career, but everybody in Vegas had to take a step down before they get reevaluated --
MORGAN: And how did that make you feel? Having had all this success, how did that period make you feel?
BENNETT: I don't feel like ever retiring. I want to keep learning. I'm only as good as my next show. The other one is gone, you see.
MORGAN: In your autobiography published in '98, you shed light on a kind of darker time you had in Hollywood mainly in the '70s. And you said this about drugs. "Cocaine flowed as freely as champagne and soon I began joining the festivities. At first, it seemed like the hip thing to do but as time went on it got harder and harder to refuse it when it was offered. The whole thing started sneaking up on me. I overindulged, I quickly realized I was in trouble."
You were going through what almost every Hollywood star goes through at some stage. When you see the younger stars these days or younger entertainer, they're not called necessarily stars, but when you see how much more available drugs now are even than they were in your day perhaps, does it concern you?
BENNETT: I learned -- Jack Rolands, Woody Allen's manager, he said that he managed Lenny Bruce years ago, who's a brilliant man. And he made one sentence that changed my life. He said, he sinned against his talent. Somehow or other, at any given moment, you can learn, you know? And that sentence did it for me. I realized that I thought I was doing well with the drugs, and I really wasn't. And I realized that I'm sinning against the gift that was given to me by nature and by my influence of my great family. And it really stopped me cold. I did not withdraw. I had no recovery period. The minute I stopped it, I felt relieved, I felt normal, I didn't have to hide to smoke or do other naughty things. I was -- all of a sudden I was just honest.
MORGAN: Do you feel fortunate that you were able to do that?
BENNETT: It was a blessing. Changed my life.
MORGAN: Did you have friends, colleagues and so on who were not so fortunate, who just ended up being ruined by drugs?
BENNETT: Well, that's right. Especially Amy Winehouse. That's the one thing I regretted that when I recorded with her, I knew about her reputation, and so did everybody else, especially in Britain, who -- everybody in Britain loved her work and -- rightfully so. She was a great singer. Better than any of the young people I've ever heard.
And I was never able to stop on the side and tell her, slow down because you're going to destroy yourself if you don't.
MORGAN: Let's have a break and come back and talk more about Amy Winehouse.
MORGAN: Because it was a fascinating relationship, a short-lived one between the two of you but --
MORGAN: I think I'd like to talk to you about that.
BENNETT: Sure. Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMY WINEHOUSE, SINGER: First time I met Ton was -- can I call him Ton? Thanks. First time I met Ton, should you ask him first, really? Before I start. OK. First time I met Ton I would say was I took my dad, my stepmother and my boyfriend to see him. And we went both nights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Amy Winehouse talking about her duet with Tony Bennett. And Tony is here now.
She called you Ton, apart from (INAUDIBLE).
BENNETT: That's nice. MORGAN: It's a bit cheeky. Yes. I mean she was an extraordinary character, Amy Winehouse. And you know I interviewed her father a few weeks ago. And he was very moving about, and said you know she was a fun loving, very amusing girl, incredibly talented. Came from no real background in this at all.
When you got together with her, you said before the break, you know how gifted she was. Put that in perspective. Because to me she was one of the best singer/songwriters to have emerged in a very, very long time, wasn't she?
BENNETT: Mm-hmm, yes. It was a big major change in my life when it came to the fashions of music. I grew up 10 years older than the great Frank Sinatra. He was my master. I just loved him. And -- but then there was also Nat King Cole and Joe Stafford and Peggy Lee and all these wonderful singers.
And the whole premise in those days was for singers to do such good performances like Judy Garland with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," Sinatra with "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning," to actually own a song by the performance that they gave. That kind of stopped when Elvis Presley became famous.
And then on to the Rolling Stones, and then the Beatles and all this. And they were all very competent singers, as big as they were, they went into stadiums. Before that everybody sang in intimate little cabarets, you know, and that's how they became famous.
MORGAN: Where did Amy rank, do you think from all the people --
BENNETT: Of all of the singers that I ever heard, Amy was the best one.
BENNETT: Really. She was a true great pop jazz singer.
BENNETT: She heard everything. She sang -- she was influenced just by the right music. She had the ears to know just what to leave out and what to put in. And more than anything else, one of the secrets of a good performing singer is this, the heart. And she never sang a line that she didn't mean. Everything she said was as good as Billie Holiday, as good as Ella Fitzgerald even.
BENNETT: She was as good at that level. She was a great singer.
MORGAN: Where were you, Tony, when you heard that she died?
BENNETT: I was at home. It was a month after I recorded with her. And the first thing I got -- I teared up and was so emotional about it because I didn't --
MORGAN: How did you hear about it?
BENNETT: My son called me up and told me she just died. And I couldn't believe it. Because I wanted to really tell her, to invite her to the Palladium when I was going to perform there. And I wanted to talk to her about slowing down because you can get very hurt if you don't. And I wanted to try and stop her like the way someone was nice enough to stop me. And I didn't do it. I felt very regretful that I didn't have the chance to talk to her.
MORGAN: Could you see the way things were going with her? Could you tell?
BENNETT: Yes. Yes.
MORGAN: You feared that she was heading down a road --
BENNETT: Oh, yes. It would have been disastrous.
MORGAN: Very sad, isn't it?
BENNETT: It is very sad.
MORGAN: A really sad loss I think.
BENNETT: But you know, everybody has said about it, except one person that I met, and that's her original mother. I met her in New York. She came and visited me at home, my apartment. And she said something beautiful that I couldn't -- I was very, very impressed with her mom because she said, you know, it's funny. Everybody really feels regretful about my daughter, but I knew what she really wanted to do and what her dream was.
And she actually won. She died making it happen. She said, she did what she wanted to do really happened. And even though she said she had a short life, she really accomplished what her dream was. And I thought it was very touching.
MORGAN: Incredibly touching. And possibly true.
MORGAN: In a strange way.
BENNETT: I can understand that. Really, I understood -- I understood her mother feeling that way. It's different.
MORGAN: It's very different. I mean I get how she feels as well, the mother. I mean she did have a remarkable achievement, Amy, for such a short life.
BENNETT: Right. And it worked.
MORGAN: I mean if she's watching this wherever she is, I think hearing you say that she was one of the greatest singers you ever worked with, that would be an amazing thing for her to say -- to actually hear. BENNETT: I sent her mom a letter explaining that I thought that was a wonderful way of looking at it.
MORGAN: You've been -- as I said before, you've had moments in your life where it's not been happy, it's not been great. There was an anecdote in your book about a time when, you know, you took some kind of overdose. You ended up possibly being in a position where you may even have died.
When you remember how you felt then, how did you come through that kind of thing? I mean, when people are huge entertainers, it brings with it particular pressures, doesn't it?
BENNETT: At any given moment you can learn. It's the greatest line I've ever read or heard anybody ever say. At any given moment you can learn. And that's what happened to me. It was that moment when I just realized if I keep going, this is not going to work.
And I had two strong a passion to actually sing as good as I can and to really respect the audience and never compromise and only sing very well written songs, don't try to just make a cheap hit to make money.
I wasn't interested in that. I didn't want a hit record. I wanted a hit catalog. And it was a difficult thing to do, but it worked.
MORGAN: Do you have any vices these days or are --
MORGAN: Squeaky clean as imagine you must be?
BENNETT: No, I -- actually --
MORGAN: You drink -- do you drink at all?
BENNETT: I have a glass of wine at night.
MORGAN: And you can enjoy it.
BENNETT: Yes, completely.
MORGAN: You don't smoke. Never smoked.
BENNETT: No. No.
MORGAN: Presumably the cocaine days are behind you now, Tony?
BENNETT: I have no -- I have no bad habits now.
MORGAN: Is it important for any singers who are watching this -- because they all get temptation thrown their way. How important is self-discipline for a singer?
BENNETT: It's something you can't teach. You know, Pearl Bailey started me out from this amateur show that I was on. And she put me -- it was the first job I got in Greenwich Village. And she said, son -- she said, you have a good talent, but look out for the helium in the brain. That's what the line was.
And it was very clear even when she said that. But nevertheless, when you're hit with a lot of success at first, you really get confused about -- you feel invincible. You know? And that's not natural.
MORGAN: And it's dangerous, isn't it?
BENNETT: What's happening to me right now is I have a new album, I'm not just plugging this. I'm telling you that my son Danny has been managing me for 45 years. It's a fantastic reaction to an album. In all the years, I've always had every decade, six decades, I've had hit records right along. But not like this.
This album is so big that if it happened to me when I was 25, I would probably end up like what happened to Elvis Presley where toward the end of his life, he became bloated or Marilyn Monroe, she ended with a tragic life.
This is happening just at the right time for me. That's what I meant about being a blessed person because --
MORGAN: How much -- how much of your ability to be successful for so long do you think is down to having strong people like your mother in your early life?
BENNETT: It meant everything. It meant everything. It meant everything. It gave me the proper, natural human love, and it worked.
MORGAN: Let's take another break. I want to come back and talk to you about politics, about when you marched back in the '60s, the Civil Rights marches, Martin Luther King, the Kennedys and indeed President Obama today. Let's hear what your thoughts about it.
MORGAN: Well, that was your theme tune, isn't it, really, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco"?
BENNETT: That's my signature song.
MORGAN: Yes. Do you ever get tired of singing it?
BENNETT: No, not at all. That's a beautiful song and it's a magnificent city in the United States.
MORGAN: If you had five minutes to live, what song would you sing? BENNETT: I'd sing the last line of that song.
MORGAN: Would you?
BENNETT: "Your golden sun will shine for me."
MORGAN: Yes, great line. And that would be --
BENNETT: "When I come home to you, San Francisco, your golden sun will shine for me." Because it's not just about the city. It's about every optimistic person on the planet. We all love to be optimistic. We are instinctively optimistic. And that song says it. Everybody has a dream and a hope that something's going to work for them. And then when it happens, it's a great joy.
MORGAN: In the '60s, you became involved in the American Civil rights movement. You participate in the '68 Selma to Montgomery marches. Did you think then when Martin Luther King was assassinated, did you think in your lifetime, you would see a black president in America?
BENNETT: I think it's the greatest accomplishment that the United States ever came up with. I think it's magnificent. Because he's not only an African-American, but he's -- you know, I've always respected intellectual people. And he's an intellect.
MORGAN: He's intelligent.
BENNETT: He's highly -- he's more than intelligent. He's very bright. Highly bright. And I love the fact that this great country -- it's a great step for humanity, for the world to learn that even though I love this country more than anything that could ever happen, it's kind of ahead of all the other countries, because instead of one philosophy, it has many. It has a great palette to choose from. From every society and every religion. That only happens in the United States.
MORGAN: It was very courageous of you to do what you did personally in the '60s, to go on those marches. It was a contentious thing to do. What was driving you at the time?
BENNETT: It's a dream of mine that someday the world will pick themselves up by their boot straps and better themselves, walk toward humanity, realize what a gift it is to be alive and to be on this planet. What a gift it is that we're alive.
MORGAN: How important for you in forming your character was fighting in the war? Because you saw some pretty heavy action. I mean, you were involved in the famous Battle of the Bulge, across France to Germany and the U.S. army from November 1944.
You know, when I talk to people from that era, they always say that when you go to war, the stuff you experience, it shapes your character forever. And it gives you a sense of perspective on life that nothing else can. Was that -- was that how you felt?
BENNETT: Well, yes. It taught me -- personally, it taught me that fighting, killing someone is the lowest form of human behavior.
MORGAN: But do you feel that war is ever justified?
BENNETT: Well --
MORGAN: I mean, when the allies took on the Nazis, when Adolf Hitler was trying to take over the world, and was clearly an evil man, is it not an imperative to then defend yourselves against someone like him? With all the collateral damage that comes?
BENNETT: It's a very difficult question, because I think we should have a society of highly educated, intelligent people that will think realistically about how to do things.
When I said to you earlier that the lowest form of nature is to kill someone --it's the lowest form of humanity. It's the bottom of the line. So we're actually intellectual cavemen at this point. No matter how much technical things we work out, we're still fighting.
And it's my dream that someday we'll find out or everybody will learn that -- what a gift it is to be alive and how we should cherish one another and appreciate one another.
MORGAN: You ran into trouble with Howard Stern. And you're not the first to do that, by the way. So --
T. BENNETT: On a daily basis.
MORGAN: You ran into trouble. You made comments that, on the face of it, seemed quite inflammatory about 9/11 and so on. Was that really the point you were making?
T. BENNETT: Yes.
MORGAN: Is it really -- if -- you have to value life higher than everyone in the modern world appears to be valuing it. All governments appear to be involved in some kind of conflict, war, whatever.
T. BENNETT: Oh, gosh. Understand that we're all on this planet and we only have one quick life. It's only a hundred years. If we're lucky, we live a hundred years. We should realize what a gift that is to be alive.
MORGAN: What does it mean to you to be an American?
T. BENNETT: Well, America -- to be an American is you're ahead of everybody on the planet. It's the first country where it's not one philosophy but many, many philosophies. And it's one of the things that we should celebrate, the fact that all different religions, every different nationality. And we should cherish the best of every religion and every nationality. We should -- we should cherish it. And it's much more creative to live that way than to have one philosophy, and this is how we do it. With all the other countries, that's the way it is.
MORGAN: It's strange to think there are lots of people out there that would actually directly oppose that kind of ambition. And they do. And it's a sad reflection of --
T. BENNETT: It's a matter of education.
MORGAN: Yes, I think you're right. I think you're right. I think if the money that was put into warfare was put into education --
T. BENNETT: Oh, boy.
MORGAN: -- around the world, it would a very different world, right?
T. BENNETT: Absolutely.
MORGAN: Let's take another break. I want to bring in somebody very important in your life, someone who for 45 years has been your manager, but more than that, he's your son, Danny.
DANNY BENNETT, PRODUCER: Hi.
MORGAN: Great to see you. We'll get you a chair. No, you're staying, Tony. You're not going anywhere.
MORGAN: That was Tony Bennett on "MTV Unplugged" in 1994, a pivotal moment of your late career success.
And, Danny, welcome. I mean, you are credited, I think, in making the old man cool yet.
D. BENNETT: Well, he's always been cool.
MORGAN: He's always been cool, but hip, I guess, for the time.
What was the game -- was there a game plan? How did you go about this?
D. BENNETT: You know, I started working with Tony -- my dad --
MORGAN: You got to call him Dad. You can't call him Tony. You're not his manager now. You're his son.
D. BENNETT: Well, it's tough to negotiate when you're saying, "Dad wants" -- OK? Since 1979 -- and, you know, growing up in the business and going around such great artists was phenomenal education. And Tony's performance and his art transcend. And I just said, you know, it's a matter of putting this in front of the people.
And Tony's faith in his audience is something that I always believed in. And it was just a matter of --
MORGAN: But you were quite smart, because, you know, you started pairing Tony -- Dad -- up with K.D. Lang, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you know, very --
MORGAN: Was that part of your thinking?
D. BENNETT: And at a time when rock 'n' roll people stopped taking chances, Tony never stopped.
MORGAN: Tony, what is it like having your son running your business? I would imagine that having somebody that close to you, that you can completely trust, must be something you can't really buy.
T. BENNETT: Right from the very early age, I knew that he was something special, that he's highly intelligent, highly creative, has a humanistic attitude about things and is brilliant about how he goes about his work.
MORGAN: And very protective, I would imagine.
I mean, do you feel very protective towards your father?
D. BENNETT: Well, yes, but I don't have to be. Tony, you know, his art speaks for itself. Tony told the story about the time that kind of rock 'n' roll came into the '60s. And there was a lot of changes. And Duke Ellington was recording on Columbia Records. And he went into the -- at one point, went into the president of the company.
President of the company told him and said, you know, I have bad news for you. It seems we're going to have to drop you from the label -- Duke Ellington. And Duke looked at him and said, what's the problem? And he said, oh, I'm sorry, Duke, you're not -- you know, you're not selling enough records.
And Duke said, Oh, I thought I had it -- I guess I was mistaken. I thought I was supposed to make them and you were supposed to sell them.
MORGAN: When you've got Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett together, it's such a compelling mixture of talent bringing these generations together. And it just works, doesn't it?
I mean, Tony, for you, it's -- it must be, I guess, constantly reinvigorating.
T. BENNETT: It is.
MORGAN: To play with the great performers of the day.
T. BENNETT: It is.
D. BENNETT: But there's no condensation -- condensation. There's -- he does not look down on the artist. So when it's Lady Gaga or it's Norah Jones or it's John Mayer, they're on equal -- they're on an equal level. So he's not condescending on that.
So I think the artist comes in very kind of nervous and has a lot of trepidation. In two minutes, he's making them relax, because they feel equal. And he treats the artist -- he has such respect for the artistry. So --
MORGAN: The one thing that always strikes me about you, Tony, is you have -- you have effortless style, and you're very chivalrous and polite, courteous, all those kind of old-fashioned values. Do you think they've slightly -- they've gone out of fashion? Do you look at young people today and say, I wish you were just more respectful and polite?
T. BENNETT: Well, yes, but I'm socked about what you're saying because it's humorous for me. At the Empire Room on the top of Rockefeller Center -- years ago, the Empire Room was glorious when it first opened.
And it was so civilized that Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele, opened the Empire Room. And in those days -- and this was before my time -- you could not get in that room from Monday to Sunday without a tuxedo.
T. BENNETT: You could not get in the room. And now to see these great halls, people singing symphonies and operas and they have, you know, sneakers and blue jeans and all that with, you know, their knees are -- it's cut open --
MORGAN: A shame, really.
T. BENNETT: So you just wonder, where are we going?
MORGAN: Yes, I think it's a shame. I'd like it to go back to those days. I was -- my mother always said, "Dress as if you might meet the Queen at all times."
T. BENNETT: That's wonderful. See, that's great.
MORGAN: And why not? Because you never know when you might. Let's have another break. Let's come back and talk about painting, because that's the other great passion and love of your life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys have an amazing chemistry.
BENNETT: Wow, this is like the mutual admiration society. Loved Aquaman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BENNETT: I haven't got a chance to see the sequel yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, don't worry. I'm not in it. Jake Gyllenhaal is.
BENNETT: Oh, I guess you had your reasons. Anyway, it was a pleasure meeting you. Thank you very much. And sweetheart, I'll see you in a bit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Isn't he awesome?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was a great scene. I love "Entourage". Did you enjoy that?
T. BENNETT: Oh, yes.
MORGAN: If I was to pin you down and say, right, what has been the greatest moment of your life, what would you say it's been?
T. BENNETT: When it comes to entertainment or just --
MORGAN: Could be anything. Could be anything. It can't be the birth of your children.
D. BENNETT: -- say that --
MORGAN: In the unlikely event you were going to say that, it can't be that. T. BENNETT: I -- well, as an entertainer, it happened to me two or three nights ago, at the Metropolitan Opera. I took a big chance. I said, I'd like to sing in the Metropolitan Opera. I was very apprehensive about what was going to happen, because, you know, it's the real thing. Opera is the real art.
MORGAN: The ultimate test.
T. BENNETT: Very, very high level. And here I am singing jazz songs and doing a little comedy here and there. And it was so well received that it just -- to me, it was just an accomplishment that I'll never forget. It was so well received and got beautiful reviews in the public, more than anyone else, just loved it and wanted me to go on for another hour and a half.
D. BENNETT: He put the mike down and sang a cappella.
D. BENNETT: Yes, "Fly Me to the Moon."
MORGAN: Let's talk about art for a moment, because the art is almost as great a passion as singing for you, isn't it? I mean, if I said you could only paint or sing for the rest of your life, which option would you take? Couldn't do both.
T. BENNETT: I would have to do both, because they're both very passionate for me. But if my voice, because of my age, let's say, starts wavering, I don't want anybody to hear that. So then I would just retire to painting for the rest of my life.
MORGAN: Can you imagine not singing again? Could you imagine the day coming where you --
T. BENNETT: No.
MORGAN: -- you retire?
T. BENNETT: No. You don't think you'll ever give really?
T. BENNETT: Oh, no. Have to keep learning.
MORGAN: Danny, what do you think's been the secret of your father's success, if you were to try and crystallize it, what would you say?
D. BENNETT: I mean, I think, you know, again, it's -- I'm doing a documentary called "The Zen of Tony Bennett," and it is that focus. And he's tremendously focused and calm. There's no entourage around him. He stays fit, stays healthy. He plays tennis, works out every day.
MORGAN: You work out every day?
T. BENNETT: Yes.
MORGAN: Do you really.
T. BENNETT: Yes.
D. BENNETT: Yes.
D. BENNETT: He -- we'll go to the airports, we travel, he will not take elevators or escalators. He walks those stairs. We have to grab his bags out of his hands. It's amazing.
And he's 85.
MORGAN: And is that half the battle? Is it -- is it just because you do something you love, just working as hard as you can to keep the passion burning?
T. BENNETT: I believe that's absolutely correct, the way -- what you described is the way I feel.
MORGAN: There's almost a torch, and you've got to keep it -- keep it alight.
T. BENNETT: Yes, that's right.
MORGAN: And you --
T. BENNETT: And you never stop learning.
MORGAN: I love that line you said about, you know, about sinning against your talent. I guess when you realize that's what you're doing, then actually you go the other way. You nurture that talent --
T. BENNETT: That's right.
MORGAN: -- as best you can. You do everything you can to allow yourself to perform to the best ability.
T. BENNETT: You see, one time I was so upset, the company said you're not doing enough commercial records and this and that. And when he came in, this -- he said something to me 45 years ago. He said, "Dad," he said, "I know the business men. They're -- that's what I do."
He said, "Now what you should do is just paint whatever you want and sing whatever you want, and I'll take care of the rest. And maybe during the holidays you say hello and thank everybody."
He said, "But just stay away from all that." And you know what? It was a freedom, a reward that I received, to be able to have the freedom to just honestly express myself without somebody saying, we don't want that and all that.
T. BENNETT: It was gone. I mean that was --
(CROSSTALK) MORGAN: I think that comes from having the foresight to choose your son as your business manager, where they put you first --
T. BENNETT: Yes.
MORGAN: -- rather than the business side.
It's been a real pleasure.
T. BENNETT: Thank you.
MORGAN: Both of you, thank you.
T. BENNETT: Well, thank you very much.
MORGAN: But I really want to end this with this -- I've got the opportunity to take you to a darkened room, and have Tony Bennett sing exclusively for me and my viewers "The Way You Look Tonight". I think we should go and do it.
T. BENNETT: Great. I would love to.
MORGAN: Let's do it.
T. BENNETT: OK.
MORGAN: After you, Tony.
T. BENNETT: OK, thanks. Thank you very much.
MORGAN: That was a real pleasure.
T. BENNETT: Thank you.
MORGAN: Let's go hear you sing.
MORGAN: We're here at one of Tony Bennett's favorite venues in New York City, Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, the Frederick P. Rose Hall, which is the home of Jazz at the Lincoln Center.
And now, performing his legendary song "The Way You Look Tonight," from the album "Duets Two," the great Tony Bennett. Take it away, Tony.