NEW YORK -- Tony Bennett doesn't speak Spanish, and he was not familiar with most of the Latino artists with whom he recorded his new album, Viva Duets. But to his delight, the great American crooner discovered common ground while recording: "They sing with the heart."
The 12-track album includes collaborations with superstars like Christina Aguilera, Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony, as well as Chayanne, Juan Luis Guerra, Thalia and Ricardo Arjona. Songs include Steppin' Out With My Baby, Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me), For Once in My Life, The Best Is Yet To Come, and Return to Me (Regresa a Mí), an English/Spanish duet with Mexican great Vicente Fernandez.
Bennett greeted The Associated Press for a recent interview while surrounded by hispaintings in his Manhattan studio.
He's as proud of his artwork as of his singing career, professing his love for both art expressions and showing proudly how he's just taking on sculpting with a bust of his friend Harry Belafonte. "It's a lifetime study I enjoy very much," he said.
1You recently turned 86 and you keep recording, traveling, painting. ...What is the secret of your longevity?
Many people say, 'How come you're not retiring?' I love life, so much. There are two things that I love very much: I sing and I paint ... It's really a lifetime study, so you keep learning from it. My ambition, if I get lucky enough, is to actually attempt to learn more and more and get better as I get older.
2Your voice still sounds impeccable. How do you keep it in shape?
Well, I had very good training. I was in the Second World War ... and when I got back under the G.I. Bill of Rights the United States gave us schooling ... to make up for [the education] we would have had when we were in the Army. I made a very good move by joining the American Theater Wing. They gave us the best teachers. I had a real great education on how to preserve my voice and how to think about it and I had great teachers who taught me how to perform. It's helped me right through the years; I still remember everything they taught me.
3A new duets album is coming out, Viva Duets, this time with all Latin stars .
I loved it. I had no idea what to expect and what I found [is] it's kind of what they taught me in school -- never to compromise and just do quality. And that's completely different than the outside world. The record companies want the latest fashion -- rap or disco or whatever is coming out next. And I never did that. I went along with my teachers: Never do anything unless it has quality.
4You recorded the songs in person. You even traveled to Vicente Fernandez's ranch in Mexico.
It was fantastic! He's the favorite. They treat him like Frank Sinatra in the Latin countries ... He had a beautiful recording studio right on the grounds and we recorded right there.
5Juanes once said he warms up his voice with a tape you shared. It's obvious that younger singers may have a lot to learn from you. Have you found yourself leaning from them?
Yeah, a lot of them, every one of them. See, the one thing about the Latin singers, the majority of music that Latinos love, that the public loves of the Latinos, is they sing from the heart. And that doesn't go away. That makes the record never sound old-fashioned. There's some gimmick that's popular for 10 weeks and then forgotten. ... [But here] there was so much feeling in their performances that it will always sound good.
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