TODAY   |  November 19, 2012

Tony Bennett: I wish I could have helped Winehouse

Legendary singer Tony Bennett chats about his new memoir, “Life is a Gift: The Zen of Bennett,” which gives a behind the scenes look at the celebrities he’s worked with and drawn inspiration from, and offers advice to up-and-coming performers.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> one of our favorites, tony bennett . he's won 17 grammy awards during his legendary career and at 86 he's still going strong with his duets album featuring some of today's hottest new stars and has written a new book, "life is a gift, the zen of bennett." tony bennett , welcome back. good to see you.

>> always good to see you. you're my favorite.

>> thanks very much, and you're my favorite, too. you wrote your autobiography back in the 1990s , so what did you want to do in this book that you didn't do in that book?

>> so many young people going into the business, and when rosemary clooney and i started years ago the elder statesman of the entertainment world said it will take you six years before you become a consummate performer, and it was a tough thing to swallow. we had a million selling record, but they were very accurate, so i decided to do a book to the young people that want to get into show business or are in show business , just starting out, and show them that they are supported, and we -- we promote them and hope for the best for them.

>> i like this idea because so many it seems of these young artists have one big hit and they know it all, and what you're trying to tell them is, no, listen to other people who have travel the road and gained that advice because it's invaluable.

>> right. it's about longevity rather than quick fame.

>> some of the people who -- i was looking back at this. in five decades, six decades in the business, you have worked with or known just about every major recording star. you've called most of them friends. you've performed for every president during that time period . is there a moment that still stands out to you, tony, as the pinch me moment.

>> yeah. it was -- you know, being honored for every valentine's day now in san francisco . it's tony bennett day, and they had a big wonderful moment with 200 children at city hall sang the song for me, and it was one of the great moments in my career.

>> the variety of people you've worked with over that time, let's talk about a few of them. first of all, can you not talk about you without talking about frank sinatra .

>> right.

>> you call him one of your greatest mentors, and he changed your life. just explain to people how he changed your life.

>> in "look" magazine years ago, the biggest magazine at the time, along with "life." and he said for his money i was the best singer he ever heard and all that, and all of his fans came to see me, and i have been sold out ever since throughout the world. he was a real great friend of mine.

>> his stamp of approval.

>> it was that strong.

>> set you off flying.

>> right.

>> and then you go from frank sinatra to people like lady gaga .

>> right.

>> and you say wonderful things about her in the book. you write if people allow her to be who she wants to be she could be the next picasso of music.

>> that's true. she's so talented. a lot of people, they don't realize what a great singer she is. she's actually a magnificent popular singer .

>> says wonderful things about you, too. in that area of giving out advice in life's lessons you're also honest in this book and you talked about there's a time in your life where you got involved with drugs.

>> right.

>> known you for a long time, tony, and you don't see the type.

>> right. actually i stopped everything, you know, at a certain moment. i realized i was sinning against my talent and i said that's it. i just decided to become a human being again, and i stopped hiding with drugs and all that. i didn't like it.

>> and you write about people like the late amy winehouse and say you wish you could have had more impact on her.

>> right. i wish i could have really talked her into it, but it was just the few months later that she died.

>> if you read this book, tony, it reads as a who's who in entertainment and politics and every other aspect of our lives, and you've been there every step of the way. it's a real pleasure.

>> that's very nice. great seeing you, always.

>> tony, always good to see you.

>> again, the book is "life is a gift." tony bennett .