Tony Bennett: One of the Greatest Living Americans

Happy 93rd birthday to Mr. Tony Bennett.

You probably have some idea that Mr. Bennett is one of the most successful recording artists of all time.  He has sold over 50 million records, won 19 grammy awards, has been a Kennedy Center Honoree, and most impressively is still recording and touring with as much vigor as ever.

What many don’t know is that Mr. Bennett served in the U.S. army during World War Two in the 63rd infantry division.  It was nicknamed “Fire and Hell” because of all of the intense fighting it was asked to do. Mr. Bennett was on the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge, and fought house to house and street to street in Germany.
He also helped in liberating a concentration camp in Bavaria.

While in Europe, Mr. Bennett rose to the level of Corporal. He ran in to an old friend and invited him to eat dinner with him. The friend was African American. Bennett’s commanding officer told him if he wanted to eat with his friend, he had to do it in the kitchen. Whites and blacks were not allowed to eat together in the main dining area. Bennett refused. The commander ripped Bennett’s corporal stripes off his shoulder, spat on them, and threw them on the floor.  He was then demoted back to private. He was also reassigned to dig up mass graves and prepare the bodies for shipment back home.

bennett
Photo Credit: tonybennett.com

Later in life, Tony Bennett would become a driving force in the civil rights movement.  When Martin Luther King and John Lewis led marchers from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in 1965, Tony Bennett marched along side them.  He used to sneak Duke Ellington into whites only clubs so they could sing together.  He is now enshrined on the “Civil Rights Walk of Fame” in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tony Bennett is rightfully known worldwide for his grace and angelic voice.

He should also be known for his bravery and character.

“To me, life is a gift, and it’s a blessing just to be alive.  And each person should learn what a gift it is to be alive no matter how tough it gets.” -Tony Bennett

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