The Library of Congress announced on Tuesday that Tony Bennett will receive the next Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The award, named in honor of George and Ira Gerswhin, celebrates artists for “promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding, entertaining and informing audiences, and inspiring new generations.”
“Tony Bennett is one of the most accomplished and beloved artists of our time,” Librarian of Congress representative Carla Hayden said. “His staying power is a testament to the enduring appeal of the Great American Songbook the Gershwins helped write, and his ability to collaborate with new generations of music icons has been a gift to music lovers of all ages.”
Bennett, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, has released charting albums in seven different decades. He’s also won 19 Grammys, including Album of the Year for 1995’s MTV Unplugged and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. He still records regularly, hitting Number One on the Billboard Albums Chart with Cheek to Cheek, a 2014 duets record with Lady Gaga, and following that with The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern in 2015.
Bennett spoke about his lifelong love for the Gershwins’ songwriting. “When I was still using the stage name ‘Joe Bari’ I made a demo record that was a two-sided 78 disc, and one of the sides I recorded was ‘Fascinating Rhythm,’ which was written by George and Ira Gershwin,” he noted. “I am very proud that one of the earliest records I ever made was a song written by the Gershwins, as their songwriting mastery was so exceptional. To be receiving an award that was named in their honor is one of the greatest thrills of my career.”
Previous recipients of the Gershwin Prize include other musicians who have helped to define the shape of popular music: Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Carole King and Willie Nelson. Bennett will be presented with his latest accolade at a ceremony later this year.