Check out their exclusive interview with Parade, where they talk about their new jazz album, “Cheek To Cheek,” as well as their close friendship.
On Cheek to Cheek, Lady Gaga, you sing a poignant jazz classic, “Lush Life.”
TB: Lady said, “That’s one song I have to do.” She nailed it. You can hear her whole life in it.
LG: When I was 13, I’d sing [that song] with the Regis High School boys’ choir. I didn’t understand what the lyrics were about, but I understood the melody in a very intense way. Now I knoweverythingthat song is about. When I sang it [on this album] for the first time in 15 years, I started crying. I came into the control room, had my whiskey, and Tony held me and I cried in his arms. I kept saying, “Am I a mess, Tony? I don’t want to be a mess. I want to make you proud.” He said, “No, you’re not a mess. You’re a sophisticated lady.”
“Lush Life” is about loss, failure, and heartache. Did the song hit you as hard as it did because you’ve had some problems recently? [Lady Gaga had hip surgery last year and in November parted ways with her manager.]
LG: It’s heartbreaking. Six months ago I didn’t even want to sing anymore.
TB: Do you know what Duke Ellington said? He said, “Number one, don’t quit. Number two, listen to number one.”
LG: Right! The other day, Tony said, “I’ve never once in my career not wanted to do this.” It stung. Six months ago I didn’t feel that way. I tell Tony every day that he saved my life.
You felt like giving up? Why?
LG: I’m not going to say any names, but people get irrational when it comes to money—with how they treat you, with what they expect from you. … But if you help an artist, it doesn’t give you the right, once the artist is big, to take advantage of them. … I was so sad. I couldn’t sleep. I felt dead. And then I spent a lot of time with Tony. He wanted nothing but my friendship and my voice. [She begins to cry.]
TB: [quietly] I understand. [He holds her hand.]
LG: It meant a lot to me, Tony. I don’t have many people I can relate to.
People you can relate to, or people you can trust?
How do famous people know if someone truly loves them and isn’t just using them?
TB: Well, you stay close to your family. Lady does. That’s what I did. [In 1979, Bennett’s career and finances were in turmoil, and his sons helped him turn things around.] I made a very good move when I said, “I’m going to have my son [Danny] manage me.” My other son [Dae] is my engineer on my recordings—he’s fantastic.
LG: What Tony’s trying to say in a nice way is that you can’t trust anybody.
LG: You can trust your family. You know, there were people I was sure were my friends. … I’m still learning. Now I’m a lot more careful.
TB: I have a great friend from when I was a singing waiter in Astoria [in Queens]. He has a little group that plays on Thursdays in a restaurant there. He’s still the same guy; I’m still the same. It has nothing to do with fame or success. He’s just happy to see me. And that’s the real thing.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from each other?
TB: Nobody has communicated with the public more than Lady Gaga. Ever. I trust the audience, and I’m very impressed. As far as they’re concerned, she’s part of their family. The only guy who ever did that was Bing Crosby, years ago.
What have you learned from Tony?
LG: That it’s important to stay true to yourself. When I came into this with Tony, he didn’t say, “You’ve got to take off all the crazy outfits and just sing.” He said, “Be yourself.”… You know, people wrote a lot of things about my last album,Artpop, which was very controversial. If it didn’t grab the whole world the wayThe Fame Monsterdid, that’s okay, because I know it’s good. That’s what Tony has taught me, that my intuition is right. When he talks about the 66 albums he’s put out, the peaks and valleys, and how it’s not about having a hit record—it’s the most inspiring thing.