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Tony Bennett reveals fight against Alzheimer’s disease

The 94-year-old crooner has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but it hasn’t quieted his legendary voice.

Singer Tony Bennett performs at the Statue of Liberty Museum opening celebration in New York on May 15, 2019.
Evan Agostini/AP

NEW YORK — Tony Bennett has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease but it hasn’t quieted his legendary voice.

The singer’s wife and son reveal in the latest edition of AARP The Magazine that Bennett was first diagnosed with the irreversible neurological disorder in 2016. The magazine says he endures “increasingly rarer moments of clarity and awareness.”

Still, he continues to rehearse and twice a week goes through his 90-minute set with his longtime pianist, Lee Musiker. The magazine says he sings with perfect pitch and apparent ease.

A beloved interpreter of American standards, Bennett boasts a chart-topping career that spans seven decades. “He’s not the old Tony anymore,” his wife, Susan, told the magazine. “But when he sings, he’s the old Tony.”

In the interview with AARP, the singer, 94, said he was first diagnosed in 2016. According to the story, he has not yet experienced common symptoms like disorientation or episodes of terror, rage or depression, “but there was little doubt that the disease had progressed.”

Gayatri Devi, a neurologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, who diagnosed Bennett, said the singer has some “cognitive issues, but multiple other areas of his brain are still resilient and functioning well. ... He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”

Bennett gained his first pop success in the early 1950s and enjoyed a career revival in the 1990s and became popular with younger audiences in part because of an appearance on “MTV Unplugged.” He continued recording and touring constantly, and his 2014 collaboration with Lady Gaga, “Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.

The singer performed in Chicago hundreds of times over his 70-year career. He has performed more than 30 engagements at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, including a two-night, sold-out run with Lady Gaga in 2016. In 2019, Bennett and Gaga returned to the recording studio for a followup to “Cheek to Cheek.”

Contributing: USA Today; Miriam Di Nunzio, Chicago Sun-Times