“I will miss my friend forever. I will miss singing with him, recording with him, talking with him, being on stage together. With Tony, I got to live my life in a time warp. Tony & I had this magical power. We transported ourselves to another era, modernized the music together, & gave it all new life as a singing duo. But it wasnt an act. Our relationship was very real,” she captioned an Instagram tribute on Monday, July 31, sharing a photo of her and Bennett hugging.
Gaga said Bennett taught her lessons “about music, about showbiz life, but he also showed me how to keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight.” She described the legendary musician as “an optimist” who was “always grateful.”
“I’ve been grieving the loss of Tony for a long time. We had a very long and powerful goodbye,” she wrote. “Though there were 5 decades between us, he was my friend. My real true friend. Our age difference didn’t matter– in fact, it gave us each something neither of us had with most people. We were from two different stages in life entirely–inspired.”
She reflected on the prolonged grief of losing a close friend who suffered from Alzheimer’s. “An era of memory loss is such a sacred time in a persons life,” she continued. “There’s such a feeling of vulnerability and a desire to preserve dignity. All I wanted was for Tony to remember how much I loved him and how grateful I was to have him in my life. But, as that faded slowly I knew deep down he was sharing with me the most vulnerable moment in his life that he could–being willing to sing with me when his nature was changing so deeply. I’ll never forget this experience. I’ll never forget Tony Bennett.”
As she concluded her lengthy tribute, Gaga encouraged her fans to “take care of your elders” and embrace each moment with them. “I promise you will learn something special. Maybe even magical,” she wrote. “And pay attention to silence—some of my musical partner and I’s most meaningful exchanges were with no melody at all.”
Gaga and Bennett’s unexpected friendship began when they met at a benefit concert in 2011.
“It was the first time I heard Lady perform, and I could not believe the audience’s reaction. I went backstage, and she was there with her parents,” he recalled to Parade in 2014. “The first thing I said was, ‘Let’s do an album together.’ And she said, ‘OK.’ That quick. I just love what she did on this album. She’s up there with Ella Fitzgerald, who was the greatest singer in the world.”
She subsequently sang “The Lady Is a Tramp” with him on his Duets II album.
“I walked offstage sweating [at the aforementioned benefit concert], and they said, ‘Mr. Tony Bennett wants to meet you.’ My father got all choked up, and my mother said, ‘Oh, I need to fix my hair!’ We all had champagne. I was so happy to meet him,” Gaga told the outlet. “Working with Tony has reaffirmed everything I knew but that you start to forget when your life changes and it gets really noisy. For Tony, it’s all about great music.”
The musicians released their first joint album, Cheek to Cheek, in 2014. As they toured the record, Gaga told Parade that working with Bennett “saved” her life.
“I’m not going to say any names, but people get irrational when it comes to money — with how they treat you, with what they expect from you. … But if you help an artist, it doesn’t give you the right, once the artist is big, to take advantage of them. … I was so sad. I couldn’t sleep. I felt dead. And then I spent a lot of time with Tony. He wanted nothing but my friendship and my voice,” she said through tears. “It meant a lot to me, Tony. I don’t have many people I can relate to.”
Gaga and Bennett dropped their second album, Love for Sale, in 2021 when he was 95 years old. That same year, news broke that Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.
He performed his final concert with Gaga by his side at Radio City Music Hall in August 2021. CBS aired the show as a special titled One Last Time: An Evening With Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga.
“He’s my friend. He’s my musical companion. And he’s the greatest singer in the whole world,” she said on stage. “And I’m counting on you, New York, to make him smile. So you better cheer. You better yell. You better laugh. You better cry. You better give your soul.”