Tony Bennett is one of my favorite male performers. His successful career has spanned several decades, because his music appeals to people of all ages. I enjoy his insightful interpretation of the lyrics in his ballads. He articulates each word clearly and the listener hears Bennett expressing the meaning of each line. This requires artistic talent that can be heard in ten of my favorite songs.
Tony Bennett’s rendition of, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, is my top choice. In the early 1970s, I was in the U. S. Army in Heidelberg, Germany and Armed Forces Radio played this song occasionally. Bennett’s musical expression of the lyrical description of “my city by the bay” created a vivid image of my home town. It reminded me that “when I come home to you, San Francisco” life would return to the peace interrupted by the Viet Nam.
Second on my list of favorites is, Tender is the Night. This is a musical interpretation of a theme of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. It captures the heartbreak of the novel by describing the gradual loss of love in a marriage over the years due to the woman’s decent into mental illness. Bennett sings, “though the morning finds us disenchanted”, the memories of the tender night will always be “our very own.”
My third choice is, I Wanna Be Around. The upbeat tempo of the song shows the resilience of the man who was betrayed by his lover. Bennett sings about looking forward to watching the pain the woman will experience “when somebody breaks your heart.” There is still the feeling of loss in the song, but the man will “discover that revenge is sweet.” There is an attitude of forgiveness, though, because the he will be there to “pick up the pieces” when she is hurt by a new lover.
A song called, Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me), is fourth on my list of favorites. This is a slow tempo tune that has lyrics that are open for the listener’s interpretation. They could apply to someone about to lose a lover who is caught up in his own fate and “must go where destiny leads me.” The lyrics also could be interpreted as a declaration of the strength of the lovers’ continuing relationship. In either case, what a blow it would be “if you turned away.”
Smile, is a ballad that is part of the song list of many artists. Tony Bennett gives the lyrics his own interpretation of the bitter sweet theme. I am affected by the song in a way that is a little more bitter than sweet because of Bennett’s style. Things will be bearable, not necessarily better, “if you just smile.”
My sixth choice is, Stranger in Paradise, a tune Bennett recorded early in his career. I associate it with a television show popular in the 1960s called, Adventures in Paradise. This dramatic series was inspired by the work of James A. Michener. When I hear Bennett sing, “Take my hand, I’m a stranger in paradise” I imagine the opening scene of each episode showing an aerial view of a sail boat on a wide, blue sea.
My seventh choice is, For Once In My Life. The lyrics tell the familiar story of the lonely lover who finally finds he has “someone who needs me.” The story has been told many times, but Bennett’s lyrical style gives the song a freshness that suggests the theme applies to everyone, not just the self-proclaimed losers in life.
Just In Time, is my eighth favorite song by Tony Bennett. This is an upbeat tune that suggests we have only a limited time to find love before it’s too late. I interpret the line, “Before you came my time was running low,” as a description of a critical period for relationships. There may be plenty of life left, but there is little direction without love.
Ninth on my list is, The Shadow Of Your Smile. The theme is the importance of memories and images we retain of people we love. Bennett sings these will “color all my dreams and light the dawn.” As with, Who Can I Turn To, the lyrics are somewhat ambiguous in that the relationship is possibly over or continuing. Either way, the shadow of your smile is a lasting and comforting image.
My final pick is, The Good Life. The good life “seems to be the ideal.” The fun loving carefree, and independent life “lets you hide all the sadness you feel”, because you have to face your problems alone. You “can’t take the chance” on love because then you must give up some independence. Romantic relationships in this so-called “good life” are “fake.” But Bennett reminds her he is waiting and still loves her and will take her back when she has the courage to “kiss the good life goodbye.”
These are my ten favorite songs by Tony Bennett all organized around a central theme of the importance of love.