Merced County Times Newspaper
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Local resident remembering Tony Bennett

By Steve Newvine

Special to the Times

When I learned Tony Bennett passed away on July 21 at the age of 96, two thoughts crossed my mind.

One was about the song he wrote and debuted right here in the Valley. The other was how I power walked up Nob Hill in San Francisco just to see his statue a few years ago.

The singer could interpret the lyrics from the Great American Songbook like no other. But all the songs were written by others with just one exception.

The song All For You appears on a 2004 album The Art of Romance. Tony put lyrics to an instrumental jazz tune. It is merely an asterisk in his catalog of music. He shares a writing credit with Ageron Marcel Eugene and Reinhardt Jean.

The song has the distinction of debuting on stage at the Sayoran Theatre in Fresno. I know that because I was in the audience that night.

My wife and I recall Tony telling the audience he was doing something new by attempting to write lyrics. The audience loved it. In his second autobiography Life is a Gift, he wrote of singing the song on stage that night in Fresno. “I was bowled over by their (the audience) reaction” he wrote. “They went crazy for it.”

Now to my power walk up Nob Hill in San Francisco. For Tony’s 90th birthday, the City commissioned a bronze statue that stands in front of the Fairmont Hotel. The Hotel is where he introduced I Left My Heart in San Francisco back in 1962.

Shortly after the statue was unveiled, I was in San Francisco for a work meeting. On my monthly visits to the Bay Area, all I could see was the BART terminal at the Embarcadero and the short walk to company headquarters at 245 Market Street.

So about a month after the statue went up, I decided to get into the city early in order to make the trip up Nob Hill. Checking my watch, I had a little over one hour to get there and back. I decided to head up, and turn around at the half-hour point and head back to the office.

I power-walked up the incline, checking my watch frequently. Twenty five minutes later, I was at the statue. A stranger took a photo. I gave myself a moment of silence, and then started down Nob Hill.

Downhill was faster, so I made it to my meeting with enough time to pick up a cup of Peet’s coffee.

So I have Tony to thank for that impromptu endurance walk up Nob Hill. We all have Tony to thank for eight decades of the best in American popular music.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.

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