In his new book, Just Getting Started, Tony Bennett writes that one of the best recordings of his career was a duet with Amy Winehouse. And one of his worst regrets is that he didn’t talk to her before she died tragically of alcohol poisoning.
“Should I have told her that I’d contended a little bit with [drugs and alcohol] myself and knew how you can fall into a bad cycle, but I also knew that you could bring yourself back?” the Grammy-winning vocalist writes in his book, which was released on Tuesday. “Would it have made a difference if someone she considered an idol had said to her something like, ‘You’re my idol. You are a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Please don’t take that from the world.'”
Or, he wonders, maybe he should have said: “Walk away from it all, if you like. Just live. Please.”
But Bennett said nothing — a decision that weighs on him heavily. He reflects on this decision and the day he spent recording with Winehouse in a chapter he dedicated to her.
It was 2011, and Winehouse and Bennett were in the Abbey Road Studios to record Johnny Green’s song, “Body and Soul” — a rendition that would win them a Grammy and the sales of which continue to go to the Amy Winehouse Foundation. (The foundation assists young people who struggle with drug and alcohol addictions.)
“Amy was engaging, funny, charming, and utterly professional but a little bit shy,” he writes. “She said she was nervous because she had never recorded a song with someone she considered to be one of her idols.”
“Body and Soul” is one of Bennett’s favorite songs in his long career — partly because of the magic Winehouse brings to the recording. He writes that she included “just the right touch of longing, the feeling of being both captivated and a little trapped by love and desire, into each phrase.”
Sadly, Winehouse died before the chart-topping single was released. Bennett describes hearing the news of her death and weeping. Not only did he mourn the great loss to the music industry and Winehouse’s family, his head was full “of questions and regrets.”
“Sometimes — sometimes — someone will say something that strikes home on just the right day,” he writes. “I said nothing on the day that I might have had a chance.”
Despite his regrets, Bennett ends the chapter by reflecting on Winehouse’s tremendous talent as an artist: “She took the spirit of jazz and made it shine in new ways, for a new generation.”
He poignantly adds, “She had the voice of an angel: a being that works on a plane higher than the one most of us inhabit down here.”