“I will miss my friend forever. I will miss singing with him, recording with him, talking with him, being on stage together,” Gaga wrote in a message posted to Instagram on Monday, July 31st. “With Tony, I got to live my life in a time warp. Tony & I had this magical power. We transported ourselves to another era, modernized the music together, & gave it all new life as a singing duo. But it wasnt an act. Our relationship was very real. Sure he taught me about music, about showbiz life, but he also showed me how to keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight. ‘Straight ahead,’ he’d say. He was an optimist, he believed in quality work AND quality life. Plus, there was the gratitude…Tony was always grateful. He served in WWII, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and sang jazz with the greatest singers and players in the world.”
“I’ve been grieving the loss of Tony for a long time. We had a very long and powerful goodbye. Though there were 5 decades between us, he was my friend. My real true friend. Our age difference didn’t matter– in fact, it gave us each something neither of us had with most people. We were from two different stages in life entirely–inspired. Losing Tony to Alzheimer’s has been painful but it was also really beautiful. An era of memory loss is such a sacred time in a persons life. There’s such a feeling of vulnerability and a desire to preserve dignity. All I wanted was for Tony to remember how much I loved him and how grateful I was to have him in my life. But, as that faded slowly I knew deep down he was sharing with me the most vulnerable moment in his life that he could–being willing to sing with me when his nature was changing so deeply. I’ll never forget this experience. I’ll never forget Tony Bennett. If I could say anything to the world about this I would say don’t discount your elders, don’t leave them behind when things change. Don’t flinch when you feel sad, just keep going straight ahead, sadness is part of it. Take care of your elders and I promise you will learn something special. Maybe even magical. And pay attention to silence—some of my musical partner and I’s most meaningful exchanges were with no melody at all.”
Gaga and Bennett first collaborated in 2011 for Bennett’s Duets II album, teaming up for a version of “The Lady is a Tramp.” After that, the two became close friends, and Bennett helped Gaga during a time when she was feeling disillusioned with the music industry. In 2014, she told Parade Magazine that he was one of the only people she could relate to, and his friendship saved her life.
“The other day, Tony said, ‘I’ve never once in my career not wanted to do this,’” Gaga said in 2014. “It stung. Six months ago I didn’t feel that way. I tell Tony every day that he saved my life… I was so sad. I couldn’t sleep. I felt dead. And then I spent a lot of time with Tony. He wanted nothing but my friendship and my voice… It meant a lot to me. I don’t have many people I can relate to.”
The two’s friendship, of course, blossomed into full-fledged collaborative albums. In 2014, they released Cheek to Cheek, which not only brought an awareness of Bennett to a whole new generation of fans, but actually allowed him to break his own world record for being the oldest artist ever to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200. He first won the record with the release of Duets II in 2011.
Then, the duo followed up with 2021’s Love for Sale, which featured arrangements of Cole Porter songs. The album was well-received, winning three Grammy Awards and even earning Bennett yet another world record, this time for being the oldest artist to release an album of newly-recorded material (he was 95 at the time). It was, ultimately, the final album of his career.
In 2021, shortly before Love for Sale premiered, Bennett performed his final concerts, two sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Speaking to USA Today about duetting with him on those nights, Gaga said: “It’s a gift that I will hold in my heart till my last breath. My time with Tony has changed me forever. Frank Sinatra said he was the best singer in the world, and I don’t think Frank lied.” Watch the duo duet “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” from their 2021 MTV Unplugged performance below.