One of America’s most iconic singers turns 90 on Wednesday, and NBC will mark the occasion with a holiday special featuring some of music’s biggest stars. The two-hour Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come will air at 9 PM December 20, featuring Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel and others.
They’re among the first list of featured performers, along with Andrea Bocelli, Michael Bublé, Diana Krall, k.d. lang and Rufus Wainwright. Alec Baldwin, Steve Buscemi, Kevin Spacey, John Travolta, Bruce Willis and Homer Simpson also will appear to pay tribute to the 19-time Grammy winner.
“Since we celebrated Tony’s 80th birthday on NBC, it only seemed fitting that we should also stop and pay tribute to his 90th, a true milestone for the greatest living vocalist of popular music,” said Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment. “Happy birthday, Tony. Your achievements are epic and your voice has been the soundtrack of four generations. We and the entire music business are in awe.”
At the suggestion of Bob Hope, twentysomething Queens native Anthony Benedetto changed his stage name from Joe Bari to Tony Bennett. In a career spanning parts of eight decades, the pop-jazz singer has put out 57 studio albums and dozens of live or compilation records. His 1962 staple “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” won the Record of the Year Grammy — eventually making the group’s Hall of Fame — and the LP of the same name spent nearly three years on the album chart. He reached an entire new generation with his Grammy-winning album MTV Unplugged and in 2014 became the oldest artist to top the Billboard 200 with Cheek to Cheek, a duets album with Lady Gaga.
His 2006 NBC special, Tony Bennett: An American Classic, which marked Bennett’s 80th birthday, won seven Emmys, making it the most honored program of that year.
“I turn 90 tomorrow and feel like I’m just getting started and look forward to each day,” Bennett said. “I have loved performing for the public and sharing the music I love with the world. It’s a thrill to have NBC air a special in honor of my birthday and to have so many wonderful artists that I have worked with and admire participate.”
Danny Bennett will serve as executive producer of Tony Bennett Celebrates 90: The Best Is Yet to Come, and TB TV, LLC will produce. Jerry Foley will direct.