The iconic Tony Bennett revealed his battle with Alzheimer's disease — after being diagnosed over four years ago in 2016 — in a lengthy profile, featuring interviews with his family, published Monday, February 1.
"Life is a gift – even with Alzheimer’s," the 19-time Grammy Award winner wrote on Twitter alongside the piece with AARP. "Thank you to Susan," he added, referencing his wife, "and my family for their support."
One year before Bennet's 2016 diagnosis, he and Lady Gaga released their chart-topping duets album, Cheek to Cheek.
Bennett, 94, and Gaga, 34, toured together in 2015 and plan to release a follow-up — which was recorded between 2018-20 — in the spring. The article also noted that there is "raw" documentary footage of the duo's recording sessions for the new album.
In the footage with Gaga, Bennett “speaks rarely, and when he does his words are halting; at times, he seems lost and bewildered," AARP reported. "Gaga, clearly aware of his condition, keeps her utterances short and simple (as is recommended by experts in the disease when talking to Alzheimer’s patients). 'You sound so good, Tony,' she tells him at one point. 'Thanks,' is his one-word response."
Alzheimer's is classified as a progressive disease where your memory continues to worsens, which hinders your speech, understanding, treasured memories and recognition of loved ones. Luckily, Bennett hasn't seemed to experience some of the worst of the disease — wandering from your home and episodes of rage, terror or depression.
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Bennett's team of neurologists also shared that his music sessions two times a week are stimulating his brain in positive ways. After his diagnosis, the doctors encouraged Susan and his son, Danny — who has been Bennett's manager for over 40 years — to keep Bennett singing and performing for as long as possible, as long as he's up for it.
"Both Susan and Danny said that backstage, Tony could seem utterly mystified about his whereabouts," the outlet explained. "But the moment he heard the announcer's voice boom 'Ladies and gentlemen — Tony Bennett!' he would transform himself into performance mode, stride out into the spotlight, smiling and acknowledging the audience’s applause."
AARP also painted a picture of what it has been like for Bennett to live with this disease. "His expression had a masklike impassivity that changed only slightly to dim awareness when Susan placed a hand on his shoulder, leaned over and said: 'This is John, Tone. He's come to talk to us about the new album,'" the article noted. "She spoke into his ear, a little loudly perhaps, in a prompting, emphatic register, as if trying to reach her husband through a barrier that had fallen between him and the rest of the world."
On March 11of last year, the "Winter Wonderland" crooner held his last public performance at the Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, N.J.