“No, they weren’t like that,” he said. “They were all they learned from their teachers and good schools what to expect, and they were all very professional.”
But when it comes to performing, he added, “I’m nervous too.”
Which, he said, is important. “You have to have butterflies. Everybody thinks that if a performer is nervous, that it’s a negative thing. That’s not true. It’s just that they have the butterflies going, hoping that the lights work and hoping that the sound works and hoping that the audience is going to enjoy it.
“I’ve just seen it with the greatest masters, like Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra and Lena Horne. Before the show, they were just saying, ‘Wow, I hope it all works.’ Then after the show they know it’s that it’s that adrenaline that makes a thing happen. I mean, if you don’t care about whether the audience is going to like it, why should the audience like you? So if you show energy, you know, and care about what you’re going to do, the audience is going to respond that quick right back at you. And the ones that fail are the ones that don’t care whether you like it or not.”
In the expansive session, he also spoke about how important schooling in music and art was important from the very youngest ages.
“I want every public school in the United States to have art programs,” he declared. “Whenever there’s a war, they say, ‘We have to cut the arts.’ And, you know, Winston Churchill, when they told him, ‘We have to cut the arts’ in the Second World War, he said, ‘What else are we fighting for?’
“This country is so beautiful that we should actually have we should teach the world about truth and beauty, which is what the arts are all about. That’s what it’s about. It teaches us to become civilized.
“And the more we could do that, that’s what we should do because we’re every nationality and every religion. And it’s the only country in the world that has that. And we should never forget that. We should really help the rest of the world show us the way and remind everybody in the world that we’re all here on this little planet in the universe, and everybody’s here, and everybody’s important, and they shouldn’t be treated like someone’s better than someone else. That’s nothing but pure greed and ignorance. Everybody on the planet is here, and we should all we should just try and educate as many people as possible.”
And what people would learn would be those great American standards, which contrast so much with what he calls “the day and age of obsolescence that we live in today.”
Part of the secret of his own longevity, he said, is simply “I don’t sing a bad song.” Also, he never was reduced to trends. (“I wasn’t doing disco or whatever”).
“I don’t have the gift of writing songs like Cole Porter, who wrote better than anybody, or, musically, Jerome Kern, who was the top of the Christmas tree when it comes to music. So I just go for top quality,” Bennett said. So younger people should learn about such songs.
“There was a renaissance period in a very young country called the United States in the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s that they call it the Great American songbook,” Bennett said. “I call it the Fred Astaire Songbook because George Gershwin and Irving Berlin and Cole Porter would never have a song introduced unless Fred Astaire introduced it.
“And those songs are never going to die. Frank Sinatra is never going to die. Nat King Cole is never going to die. Ella Fitzgerald is never going to die. They’re not old. They’re forever.”
Suffice to say, Tony Bennett is forever as well.