It’s Got That Swing
By Andy Argyrakis
He’s been putting a masterful spin on the Great American Songbook since the 1950s, earning the unparalleled distinction of landing albums on the Billboard charts in every decade from then through the present, selling over 50 million titles, and scooping up 18 Grammy Awards, a pair of Emmy Awards, plus a plethora of other esteemed distinctions too numerous to mention.
She’s been one of the most provocative and creative presences in pop music since exploding onto the scene in 2008, selling an astounding 28 million albums and 140 million singles, taking home a half dozen Grammys and 13 MTV Video Music Awards, and being crowned by Rolling Stone as the “Queen of Pop.”
At fast glance, the 88-year-old Tony Bennett and 29-year-old Lady Gaga might not share much in common other than superstardom, but despite their age gap and divergent core musical disciplines, the relatively recent tag team in the studio and onstage (who appear in sold-out concerts at Ravinia on June 26 and 27) might not be as unlikely a pair as initially assumed. For starters, Astoria, Queens, native Bennett has always been one to study the greats who helped forge his musical foundation, from Bing Crosby to Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong and, of course, Frank Sinatra, “The Chairman of the Board,” who personally endorsed the budding performer (and will coincidetally be honored September 4 at Ravinia via the Sinatra Centennial multimedia celebration starring Frank Sinatra Jr. and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra). As for the Lady (and fellow New Yorker), she gleaned her surname from Queen’s famed single “Radio Ga Ga” and has clearly studied David Bowie’s theatricality and Madonna’s ability to consistently reinvent herself, even going so far as to commission her own production team, Haus of Gaga (think Andy Warhol’s Factory), for costumes, stage sets and a slew of other inventive endeavors.
And while neither is shy about wearing such influences on their sleeves, both Bennett and Gaga are true innovators and mavericks in their respective fields, remaining fiercely independent amidst changing cultural trends and, by doing so, becoming the very barometers by which they’ re measured. But perhaps most important in the case of their current tour together, the pair didn’t just become fast friends following a fateful meeting at a New York benefit for the Robin Hood Foundation in 2011; they also learned they share a voracious affinity for so many unforgettable standards that transcend genre and generation.(This is an excerpt from Ravinia Magazine. For the complete article, click here.)