EMBRACING MY INNER TONY BENNETT
He was singing just to me.
“The way you hold your knife…”
The great Tony Bennett, on his third encore on a sultry summer night in Boston, had brought 5,000 adoring fans to our feet countless times. He was now allowing us to catch our collective breath as he hand-delivered a gift of moonlight and Gershwin to a rapt audience.
“The way we danced ’til three…”
I was sitting fifth row center. Those in the crowd with babysitters waiting at home had long since departed, leaving my husband and me sitting alone amid a stretch of empty seats.
“The way you changed my life…”
Then, as if to punctuate a perfect evening, Tony Bennett fixed his gaze upon me – me- and sang.
“Oh no, they can’t take that away from me…”
Perhaps it was my imagination. Perhaps it was all those empty seats around me. Or perhaps every woman in the audience that evening came away feeling the same thing – that Tony Bennett had been singing just to her. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what I learned that night watching a legend in action.
For from the moment he strode on stage, it was clear that Tony Bennett was having the time of his life. Every note, every gesture, every bit of audience banter, betrayed his sheer delight at being on that stage, on that night, beneath that full moon. After more than a half-century in show business, he might have been expected to display a certain jadedness. We’d have forgiven him that.
But there was no need. There was no fatigue, only unadulterated joy; no apathy, only genuine appreciation for the ovations that followed each number. And I couldn’t help but contrast the experience with the last concert I had attended just weeks earlier.
The headliner was one of country music’s reigning stars. And when he sauntered to the mike, the crowd roared, hootin’ and hollerin’ as he played one top-10 hit after another.
But our love was unrequited. For unlike Tony Bennett, this country superstar with perhaps 15 years of celebrity under his belt was unimpressed by the applause. We gave him our adoration and he took it. But there was no affection, no joy in his eyes – just a workmanlike desire to finish the set and get back on the bus.
Since that night, I’ve resolved to embrace my inner Tony Bennett. I’ve concluded that perhaps my life isn’t really as difficult or depressing as I’d like to believe. Perhaps I’ve just become too much like that country singer – too willing to accept the blessings in my life as my due instead of relishing them as precious and unexpected gifts.
Instead of obsessing over mundane mishaps and insignificant setbacks, I’m going to seek out the everyday joys that heretofore have escaped my attention. And should I be tempted to backslide into bitterness or self-pity, I’ll remember that one summer night, Tony Bennett sang just to me.
“No, they can’t take that away from me….”