Singer Tony Bennett, who died Friday at age 96, leaves behind a mountain of musical achievements over a career that spanned eight decades. Once called “the best singer in the business” by another legendary crooner, Frank Sinatra, Bennett and his legacy extend well beyond his signature tune, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

“Tony Bennett had an immense impact on the music industry and the broader society throughout his career. His longevity and appeal across multiple generations are a testament to his unique sound and storytelling abilities,” said singer and Virginia Tech voice expert Ariana Wyatt, expounding on Bennett’s many contributions to music and society.  

“His interpretations and joyful performances have left an indelible mark on the music world, and his commitment to the arts and social causes has solidified his status as not just a talented singer but also a compassionate and inspiring individual,” Wyatt said. “His advocacy for social justice and education added depth to his character. His support for the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts in Queens and his involvement in civil rights marches in the 1960s showed his commitment to making a positive impact on society beyond his music.

“Tony Bennett's collaborations with other singers and writers further solidified his influence on the music world. Working with artists like Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Elvis Costello, and Aretha Franklin, he bridged the gap between different genres and created memorable musical moments.” Wyatt said. “One of his notable contributions was the unlikely union between mainstream popular music and country-western through his recording and performances of Hank Williams’ ‘Cold, Cold Heart,’ which helped give country-western music a broader audience.

“Throughout his life, Bennett's dedication to singing the American Songbook, a collection of classic American popular songs, was central to his career. By performing these timeless songs, he introduced new generations to the beauty and depth of American music,” Wyatt said.

About Ariana Wyatt
Wyatt, associate dean for outreach and engagement at Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture, Arts, and Design, is a graduate of Juilliard Opera Center who has performed in operas and concert halls throughout the country. She teaches voice for the college’s School of Performing Arts. Read more about her here.

Schedule an interview    
To schedule an interview, contact Mike Allen in the media relations office at or 540-400-1700.

Share this story