Tony Bennett's on a mission -- and he has a formidable partner alongside him in Lady Gaga.
"I want to teach young people about Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and all the great music they created," says Bennett, 88, a bona fide American icon who's recorded an album of Great American Songbook duets called "Cheek to Cheek" with Gaga. The first single, a rendition of Porter's "Anything Goes," hit No. 1 on Billboard`s Jazz Digital Songs chart, and the full album comes out on Sept. 23 with a PBS "Great Performances" special debuting Oct. 24.
"(Gaga) has that audience in the palm of her hand, and by doing this with her it'll go right to those little kids. They'll grow up listening to this music. It's great music, and it's never going to become dated. It's never going to become old fashioned. It's very intelligent music that everybody, and especially these young people, need to know and appreciate."
This is hardly the first time Bennett has used contemporary artists to accomplish that goal, of course. In 2004 he filmed a surprise hit MTV "Unplugged" episode with guest appearances by Elvis Costello and k.d. lang that won a pair of Grammy Awards, and his three duets albums since 2005 have all debuted in the Top 5 of the Billboard 200 (he and Gaga first teamed on "Duets II" in 2011) and won another pair of Grammys.
Those successes, Bennett maintains, shows there's indeed a market for pop and jazz standards that the music industry ignores.
"The executives of big record companies, they're just looking to immediately sell something, and as long as it has that rock 'n' roll beat they don't care if it's a standard or not," Bennett says. "They just swamp the communication of the young people with that stuff.
"But Lady Gaga knows that music and loves it. She's a sensational jazz singer. We know her fans will come and hear what we're doing and fall in love with it, too."
7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15
Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway at Schoenherr Road, Sterling Heights
Tickets are $45-$125 pavilion, $20 lawn
Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.freedomhill.net
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