PASADENA, Calif. -- At 85, Tony Bennett doesn't exactly keep up with musical trends. And when it came time to record his chart-topping "Duets II," which features numbers with the likes of Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse, he had no idea who these artists were.
But they soon won him over.
In fact, singing with them made him a little anxious -- but not for the reasons you might think.
"Everybody thinks that if a performer is nervous, that it’s a negative thing," Bennett said after singing for TV critics Thursday night here. "That’s not true. It’s just that they have the butterflies going, hoping that the lights work and hoping that the sound works and hoping that the audience is going to enjoy it."
Bennett will singing selections from "Duets II" for a "Great Performances" episode airing later this month.
"Before the show, they were just saying, 'Wow, I hope it all works.' Then after the show they know it’s that it’s that adrenaline that makes a thing happen," he explains about working with new artists.
"I mean, if you don’t care about whether the audience is going to like it, why should the audience like you? So if you show energy, you know, and care about what you’re going to do, the audience is going to respond that quick right back at you. And the ones that fail are the ones that don’t care whether you like it or not."
The gamble paid off. "Duets II" sat at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's Top 200 albums chart, setting a record for Bennett as the oldest artist ever to reach the top.
The crooner has never been one to chase the trends, though. He's stayed with the jazzy ballads for his entire career and never flinched, even when the record labels were telling him to try something new. He refused because he knew what he was doing was what he was born to do as an artist.
Music requires no ego, just a knowledge of knowing what works for the performer.
"I dislike any performer that looks down at the audience like they’re idiots and they think they’re superior to the audience. I think they’re failures," he said. "Any performer, I don’t care how much applause they get or how much money they’re making, if they look down at an audience, they’re fools because the audience en masse, I always feel I’m singing as to an audience, and I consider them as a whole result."
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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