'He loved San Francisco': Fans honor Tony Bennett after news of legendary entertainer's death

ByAmanda del Castillo and Cornell Barnard KGO logo
Saturday, July 22, 2023
The undeniable link between Tony Bennett and San Francisco
Iconic singer Tony Bennett died at the age of 96, just two weeks shy of his birthday. Here's how San Franciscans are remembering him.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- First, he left his heart in San Francisco. Now, he leaves behind a decades-long legacy of music, artistry, and philanthropy.

On Friday morning, iconic singer Tony Bennett died at the age of 96 - just two weeks shy of his birthday.

San Franciscans were invited to play and sing "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" at Noon on Friday in public or from speakers in their homes to honor Bennett.

Bennett was born a New Yorker, but according to former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, he's a beloved San Franciscan.

VIDEO: San Francisco honors legendary singer Tony Bennett with statue

The crooner who left his heart in San Francisco is leaving his mark atop Nob Hill. The city honored Tony Bennett with a new landmark that's kind of hard to miss.

"We canonized him," Brown told ABC7 News. "We made him a San Franciscan because he said, 'I left my heart,' and he went on from there."

Referring to Bennett's hit song, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco," resident Tom Huntington described, "It means a lot to us locally. But it helped, I think, enrich the visitors experience as well."

"Tony Bennett was a master," Huntington added.

Senator Scott Wiener gave this statement:

"Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco, and so many San Franciscans' hearts broke this morning when we learned of his passing. Bennett created intense beauty, and he captured San Francisco's essence. Rest in peace."

As the morning fog chilled the air, many stopped to see the eight-foot-tall bronze statue of Bennett, outside the Fairmont Hotel. It marks the spot the 20-time Grammy winner first sang that classic hit in 1961.

MORE: Tony Bennett's doctor sheds light on Alzheimer's disease, shares singer's message to SF

In the years since, his performances have captured generations of audiences.

"I remember his energy, it was so electric," resident Nicole Olivier said. "And one thing he said to the audience was that he was so grateful that we offered him the opportunity to do what he did."

"He was unusual, in that Sinatra never made the crossover, Crosby never made the crossover. None of the real singers in the old times are like Tony Bennett," Brown said. "Mel Tormé never made the crossover. Only Tony Bennett crossed from being one of them, to the Taylor Swift movement, to the Beyonce movement... and he did it incredibly well."

Bennett rose to fame in the 1950s and even toured with Lady Gaga in 2014 and 2015.

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a year later.

VIDEO: San Francisco renames street in honor of singer Tony Bennett

San Francisco celebrated singer Tony Bennett Saturday by re-naming part of a street in his honor.

The legendary crooner was revered and remembered for his decorated career which spanned seven decades.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin led the 2017 effort to name a section of Mason Street, Tony Bennett Way.

"He was in it for the art, it was not about himself," Sup. Peskin said. "I mean, when I met him, he was truly a transcendent, genuine person. And he loved San Francisco. He just absolutely adored this town."

As the late Bennett described, "Above the blue and windy sea," the golden sun will shine.

Peskin added, "San Francisco and that song, and that man are just inextricably linked."

Later in life, Bennett was asked in interviews how he wanted to be remembered. He would often say, "As a nice person."

Fans assure he'll be remembered for that and so much more.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed ordered the flags of City Hall to be lowered to half-mast in honor of Bennett and declared 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco' the official song of the city.

She gave this statement:

"Tony Bennett provided us with a song, a spirit, and a magic that is intertwined with the history of San Francisco and who we are. His contributions to this City go far beyond words on a page or melodies in the air. From the first day he sung I left My Heart in San Francisco at the Fairmont Hotel and through all the decades since, Tony Bennett embodied a love for this City shared by all San Franciscans. Today we honor his memory and celebrate his legacy that will stay with us forever."

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