How Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s loving friendship ‘saved’ the pop superstar

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga sit side by side as they sing into microphones during a concert together

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga turned a musical collaboration that may have seemed unlikely into a treasured and lasting friendship filled with love from the very first song. 

After a career spanning seven decades, Bennett died Friday (21 July) at the age of 96, his publicist announced. The beloved jazz crooner won 19 Grammy awards, including a lifetime achievement award, and sold 10s of millions of records worldwide. 

Bennett first met Gaga in 2011, and the pair quickly formed a close-knit relationship which resulted in two Grammy-winning duet albums: Cheek to Cheek and Love for Sale.

When Cheek to Cheek dropped in 2014, Bennett broke his own world record as the oldest living artist to hit the top of the weekly Billboard 200 album chart. Then, Love for Sale saw him bag the record for oldest artist to release an album of new material.

Though Lady Gaga hasn’t – at the time of writing – publicly released a statement marking Tony Bennett’s passing, the pop star has only spoken highly of the legendary singer and the pair’s heartwarming friendship in the past. 

Lady Gaga ‘didn’t want to sing’ anymore, but Tony Bennett changed her mind

Gaga told People in 2014 that the pair were “fast friends” ever since their first encounter at the Robin Hood Foundation charity gala three years earlier. She recalled how Bennet heard her sing and asked to meet her after the show, prompting her to gush: “Oh my gosh! Tony Bennett’s here!”

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The “Bad Romance” hitmaker said she was “so nervous” to meet the legend.

“I fixed my hair, and my mom was fixing her makeup, and then we went back to meet him,” Gaga said. “He said, ‘Do you want to do a jazz album together?’ And I said, ‘Yes, of course I do!’”

The pair gave a joint interview to Parade in 2014, where the pop icon revealed that her first meeting with Bennett had a profound effect on her.

At the time, Gaga “didn’t even want to sing” anymore, but working with the pop and jazz master changed her outlook. “I tell Tony every day that he saved my life,” she said. 

Lady Gaga explained that some people “take advantage” of artists when they find fame, which resulted in her losing sleep and feeling “dead”. But then, she got to spend time with Bennett who “wanted nothing by [her] friendship and [her] voice”. 

“I understand,” Bennett responded, holding her hand. 

“It meant a lot to me, Tony,” Gaga said. “I don’t have many people I can relate to.”

The A Star is Born lead continued: “I tell Tony every day that he saved my life.”

While many people call the pop icon ‘Gaga’, Bennett affectionately called her ‘Lady’ and spoke proudly of her immense talent. 

Singer Tony Bennett waves to the crowd as he hugs Lady Gaga, who is holding a microphone, during a concert
Tony Bennett described Lady Gaga as a talent as ‘good as Ella Fitzgerald or anybody you want to come up with’. (Getty)

He told Rolling Stone that Gaga is as “good as Ella Fitzgerald or anybody you want to come up with”. Bennett also described her as “very strong”, “very talented” and someone who “could become America’s Picasso if they leave her alone”. 

After Cheek to Cheek, the pair recorded their second album, Love for Sale, released in 2021. But, unbeknownst to anyone in Hollywood, Bennett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. He didn’t reveal his diagnosis until he did a feature in AARP Magazine in 2021.

Bennett’s eldest son, Danny, recalled a conversation with Gaga about revealing his diagnosis properly. Danny told the publication he “wanted to check with her to make sure she was cool” because Gaga “watches his back all the time”. 

“She was like, ‘Absolutely, it’s just another gift that he can give to the world’,” Danny added.

Tony Bennett’s final public performance was in 2021 with Lady Gaga at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, where they performed songs from Love for Sale

Ahead of their album’s release, Gaga shared a photo of the pair on Instagram, along with a heartfelt caption.

“Tony, this is the last album we will have created together, but the celebration of jazz, and us as musical companions, will live on with me forever,” she wrote.

The pair’s friendship prompted Gaga to become an advocate for people living with Alzheimer’s, and she told 60 Minutes it was “hard to watch somebody change”. But Lady Gaga said watching Bennett’s journey came with a silver lining. 

“I think what’s been beautiful about this and what’s been challenging is to see how it affects him in some ways but to see how it doesn’t affect his talent,” she said. 

“I think he really pushed through something to give the world the gift of knowing things can change and you can still be magnificent.”

Singer Tony Bennett smiles as he gets a kiss on the cheek from Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga said Tony Bennett gave the ‘world the gift of knowing things can change and you can still be magnificent’. (Getty)

Gaga revealed that, during the rehearsals leading up to the final shows, Bennett didn’t call her by her name – so she wasn’t “sure he knew” who she was. 

But then, in a heartwarming and emotional moment, Bennett used Gaga’s name for the first time in a long while when the pair took to the Radio City Music Hall stage. 

As the singer appeared on stage, Bennett exclaimed: “Wow, Lady Gaga!”

The “Applause” singer became extremely emotional, and she later recalled how she had to “keep it together” because it was a sold-out show. She felt like her “friend saw” her in that moment, which was “very special”.  

Just last week, Tony Bennett shared a video on Instagram of himself and the “remarkable” Gaga making “musical magic” as they performed “Night and Day”.