Tony Bennett has been quietly battling Alzheimer’s disease for four years, but he won’t let it stop him from continuing to make music.
The legendary jazz singer’s wife, Susan Crow, revealed during an interview with AARP published on Monday, February 1, that the 94-year-old was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease in 2016.
“I have my moments and it gets very difficult. It’s no fun arguing with someone who doesn’t understand you,” Crow, who married Bennett in June 2007, told the magazine with a laugh. “But I feel badly talking about it because we are so much more fortunate than so many people with this diagnosis. We have such a good team. [His eldest son] Danny handles Tony’s business affairs. We have great doctors, [and a trainer is] helping us with the exercise.”
Crow, 54, said that her husband remains happy and had a calm reaction to his diagnosis, in part because he “already didn’t understand” what was going on at the time.
“He would ask me, ‘What is Alzheimer’s?’ I would explain, but he wouldn’t get it,” she recalled. “He’d tell me, ‘Susan, I feel fine.’ That’s all he could process — that physically he felt great. So, nothing changed in his life. Anything that did change, he wasn’t aware of.”
Throughout his battle with the most common form of age-related dementia, the 18-time Grammy winner has sought comfort in his first love: music. Crow revealed to AARP that Bennett recorded a second album with Lady Gaga between 2018 and early 2020 that is set to be released this spring. It is the follow-up to their 2014 record, Cheek to Cheek.
“[Singing] kept him on his toes and also stimulated his brain in a significant way,” Bennett’s neurologist, Gayatri Devi, said in the profile, noting that her famous patient has some “cognitive issues, but multiple other areas of his brain are still resilient and functioning well.”
Devi added, “He is doing so many things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. He really is the symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”
While the New York native has been able to continue doing what he loves, Crow knows that may not always be the case as the disease progresses.
“I’m hoping and praying that he won’t take a turn for the worse that’s really crazy bad,” she told AARP. “There’s a lot about him that I miss. Because he’s not the old Tony anymore. But when he sings, he’s the old Tony.”
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