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Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett on Alzheimer’s and “Very Special” Final Performance

The two stars spoke about their new collaboration and friendship with 60 Minutes

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Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga (CBS)

    Nothing cements a friendship quite like making your final project together. Such is the case for Tony Bennett, whose new collaborative album with Lady Gaga, Love for Sale, not only marks his 61st album, but it’ll probably also be his last — and there was no better way to go out with a bang than a pair of shows at Radio City Music Hall. To coincide with the release of Love for Sale, Bennett and Gaga recently went on 60 Minutes to discuss the landmark event, and how Bennett’s recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis made the occasion that much more emotional.

    Gaga and Bennett recorded Love for Sale in 2018, as the latter’s Alzheimer’s began to affect his work: “For the first couple of weeks that I saw Tony since COVID, he called me, ‘Sweetheart,'” Gaga told Anderson Cooper in the interview. “I wasn’t sure he knew who I was.”

    Back in August, just after the Radio City residency and Bennett’s 95th birthday, the jazz icon canceled his remaining 2021 concerts and announced he’d be retiring from touring altogether. Fans didn’t know what to expect of Bennett’s final shows, but with the help of his accompanist and Lady Gaga, the legendary crooner was able to perform at a high level. “I had to keep it together, because we had a sold out show, and I have a job to do,” Gaga continued.

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    Heartbreakingly, the interview indicated that Bennett has no recollection of performing his final show. But Gaga insists that “it’s not a sad story”: “It’s hard to watch somebody change,” she said. “I think what’s been beautiful about this, and what’s been challenging, is to see how it affects him in some ways, but to see how it doesn’t affect his talent. I think he really pushed through something to give the world the gift of knowing that things can change and you can still be magnificent.”

    Astonishingly, the singer used no notes or cue cards to remember his classics, performing an hour-long set from memory. “When I start playing, Tony is completely engaged, and this is a whole new performance and new phrases, new nuance,” his accompanist Lee Musiker told Cooper. “Nothing short of a miracle.” Gaga added: “When that music comes on…something happens to him. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And what’s important for me, actually, just to make sure that I don’t get in the way of that.”

    Despite any doubts Gaga had about Bennett remembering her name, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recognized his old pal the second she emerged on stage at Radio City: “Woah, Lady Gaga!…I like that!” he exclaimed, marking the first time he’d said her name in all the weeks leading up to the performance.

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    “I’ll tell you,” Gaga said, “When I walked out on that stage, and he said, ‘It’s Lady Gaga,’ my friend saw me. And it was very special.”

    Gaga, whose first collaborative album with Bennett, Cheek to Cheek, arrived in 2014, also had the honor of walking him off the stage at his last-ever show: “The last thing that I said to Tony on stage was, ‘Mr. Bennett, it would be my honor if I could escort you off the stage,'” she pop star said. “And he said, ‘OK.’ And I did. And, just simply being the woman that got to walk him off stage, that’s enough for me.” Watch the poignant interview in full on 60 Minutes below.

    Back in August, Lady Gaga shared Dawn of Chromatica: The Remix Album.

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