Tony Bennett's Biggest Hits

Jazz vocalist Tony Bennett started singing at a young age. He was born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in New York in 1926 and grew up during the Great Depression. At the age of 10, his father died and by the time he was in high school, he had to drop out and find work to help support his family. It was then that he got a job as a singing waiter. Bennett enlisted in the Army during World War II and still continued singing even during his service by performing with military bands. With the G.I. Bill, he studied voice at the American Theatre Wing and was able to hone his singing skills (via Tony Bennett).

In 1949, Bennett performed using the name Joe Bari. Comedian Bob Hope saw him sing and was impressed. "Bob Hope came down to check out my act. He liked my singing so much that after the show he came back to see me in my dressing room and said, 'Come on kid, you're going to come to the Paramount and sing with me.' But first he told me he didn't care for my stage name," Bennett recalled. It was Hope who gave him the stage name Tony Bennett, and that was the start of his successful singing career. Here are some of the crooner's biggest hits throughout the years.

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

"I Left My Heart in San Francisco" is Tony Bennett's signature song. It was written by George Cory and Douglass Cross in the early 1950s and it tells the story of how they missed San Francisco after moving to New York. Interestingly, the song wasn't written with Bennett in mind. According to Medium, the songwriters composed it for opera singer Claramae Turner, who sang it during her live performances. However, she never did a recording of the song.

Ralph Sharon, a friend of the composers, was the one who suggested that Bennett do a recording of the song. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" was released as a B-Side song on Bennett's 1962 single "Once Upon a Time." The song was a hit and peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard charts and stayed on the charts for 19 weeks. It was a successful hit for Bennett, who won two Grammy Awards in 1963 for Best Male Solo Vocal Performance and Record of the Year. To this day, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" remains the song most associated with Bennett.

For Once in My Life

Most know "For Once in My Life" as a Stevie Wonder song, but Tony Bennett also has his own version of the hit song. It was written by Ron Miller and Orlando Murden for Motown Records and was originally recorded by jazz singer Jean DuShon. Other artists, such as Barbara McNair, Jack Soo, and other Motown artists had their own renditions of the song as well (via Song Facts).

In 1967, Bennett released "For Once in My Life" as part of his album of the same name. It was on Billboard's charts for 19 weeks and peaked at the No. 8 position. It was in 1968 when Stevie Wonder released the upbeat version of the song, which is perhaps the most recognizable rendition. Bennett again recorded another version of "For Once in My Life" in 2006 as part of his album "Duets: An American Classic," and the new recording featured Stevie Wonder. The two singers were won a Grammy for Best Collaboration with Vocals in 2007.

I Wanna Be Around

Although the song "I Wanna Be Around" was recorded by a few singers, it was Tony Bennett's 1963 version that catapulted it to the charts. It stayed on the Billboard charts for 16 weeks and peaked at No. 5. The song has an interesting backstory as well. In 1957, a woman from Ohio named Sadie Vimmerstedt came up with the words, "I wanna be around, to pick up the pieces, when somebody breaks your heart." She was a big fan of lyricist Johnny Mercer and decided to send it to him with the hope that he can make it into a song. In 1962, Mercer finished the composition and even credited Vimmerstedt as a co-writer and giving her 50% of the profits (via Blogging Tony Bennett).

Mercer knew the song was perfect for Bennett's singing style. It was first released as a single in 1962 and was also the title song for the album "I Wanna Be Around," which was released the following year. Many artists have covered the song, including Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bublé.

A Time for Love

"A Time for Love" was written by Paul Francis Webster and composed by Johnny Mandel for the 1966 movie titled "An American Dream" starring Janet Leigh and Stuart Whitman. It was one of the nominees for Best Song at the 1967 Academy Awards. Despite not winning at the Oscars, the song was recognized and won the Golden Laurel award at the 1967 Laurel Awards (via Jazz Standards).

Per Billboard, Bennett's recording spent 15 weeks on the chart and peaked at the No. 3 position. The song was included in Bennett's 1966 album titled "A Time for Love," which included unreleased songs that he recorded between 1960 and 1966 and included such titles as "The Very Thought of You," "I Only Miss Her When I Think of Her," and "My Funny Valentine." Other artists who recorded the song include The Ray Charles Singers, Matt Monro, and Diane Schuur.

The Shadow of Your Smile

"The Shadow of Your Smile" is another song composed by Johnny Mandel and written by Paul Francis Webster. It was featured in the 1965 movie "The Sandpiper" — starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor — and is also known as the "Love Theme from The Sandpiper." This is one of the songs in Bennett's repertoire that he often sings during his live performances. It was featured in his compilation album titled "The Movie Song Album," which was released in 1966.

In 1965, "The Shadow of Your Smile" won the Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards (via Grammy). The song also took the award for Best Original Song at the 1966 Academy Awards. It spent 13 weeks on the Billboard music chart and peaked at the No. 8 position. "The Shadow of Your Smile" has been covered by many different artists, including Astrud Gilberto, Barbra Streisand, and Engelbert Humperdinck among others, and it was one of the most recorded film songs of the decade, according to Jazz Standards.