Antonia Bennett, Tony Bennett’s daughter, opens up about her father’s enduring legacy: ‘When you’re an entertainer, you’re working in public service.’

Tony Bennett’s smooth, rich voice remains a beacon of timeless elegance. Following his death in July at age 96, tributes from all over the world poured in to celebrate his life and seven-decade career.

Months after the singer’s death, his daughter Antonia Bennett spoke with Yahoo Entertainment about her relationship with Tony and offered insights about what it was like growing up with an industry titan.

“There was a lot of great music around the house,” she says of her childhood. “When I was really young, [jazz pianist] Bill Evans was at our house a lot because my dad was working on a record with him. They would go out by the pool and work for several hours a day.”

Singers like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Rosemary Clooney and Mel Tormé all lived “within walking distance” from her family home in L.A. It was during this time, she says, she received the best advice about live performance.

“You have to let it rest with the audience,” even if you feel like the performance wasn’t your best, she remembers her dad telling her.

That’s easier said than done. “It’s hard sometimes, but if the audience likes what you did, even if you hate it, you still have to let it rest on the stage,” she says.

Another lesson Antonia learned was something that her father practiced routinely.

“You’re only as good as your next show,” she says. “You have to keep trying to perfect what you do, and keep working at it. Just because you had one good show, that doesn’t mean anything. It’s about consistency and being able to continue to do that over and over again.”

Antonia Bennett

Antonia Bennett performs at Atlanta Symphony Hall in 2018. (Robb Cohen/Invision/AP)

Consistency was key for Tony, who named his 1990 song “Antonia” after his youngest daughter. His other children — Danny, Dae and Joanna — also work in the music industry.

In a 1985 Washington Post interview, Tony spoke of his then-11-year-old Antonia’s singing abilities. “This one here has so much talent,” he said at the time. “She is a wonderful painter, she sings terrific. All my kids are happy and healthy and have talent, but this one here captures everybody.”

Antonia starting singing with her father at age 4, before performing alongside Clooney and Sinatra at various venues as a child singer all while honing her skills. She attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, where she realized the importance of skill and musicianship.

“‘There are two words to the word freeform, and a lot of people forget that one of the words in that word is form,’” she recalls her dad telling her. “Even the greatest painters, like Picasso, would always come back to the classics, to kind of get their bearings and ground before launching off and doing something else.”

She saw that level discipline in action every day while touring with Bennett — in music and in his artwork.

“He would do his scales every day,” she explains. “And he always had a sketchbook. I don’t think I ever had a meal with him, until very later years, where he didn’t pull out a sketchbook and drew somebody — in the restaurant, or wherever we were. He found ways to incorporate things that were important to him into his daily life, whether we were on the road or at home.”

Now mom to 7-year-old daughter Maya, whom she shares with husband Ronen Helmann, Antonia says she’s not quite as disciplined as her dad, though his example remains a guiding principle for her.

“When you’re an entertainer, you’re working in public service,” she says. “You’re helping people to get outside of themselves for 90 minutes, you’re taking them on a journey. The daily stresses of life are one thing, but when you can block out a certain amount of time to do something special, that’s really amazing. And if I can be that reason for somebody, that’s such a gift.”

That doesn’t mean she’s immune to stage fright. “My dad used to say being nervous is actually a good thing,” she says. “If you get butterflies, it means you actually care about what you’re doing. I would say that’s pretty accurate.”

Even now, she can’t help but be impressed by her dad’s positive outlook.

“We worked together for almost 30 years, night after night,” she says of touring with Tony. “He constantly wowed and awed me because he would often sing ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ without the mic, without amplification. He would put the microphone down and sing, and get standing ovations night after night.”

Even in his 80s, “[Tony] had more energy than anybody I’ve ever met. He would do 10 shows back-to-back in a different city each night, which is hard for any singer, but he would do it with ease. Meanwhile, we’re falling, tragically dragging our feet and falling asleep walking behind him, but he was like, ‘Eh, no problem,’” Antonia says.

Antonia is currently pausing her tour schedule to be more present for her daughter, though she’s very much looking forward to hitting the road in the near future and plans to bring her dad’s music along for the ride.

She’s also looking forward to imparting the same wisdom to Maya as her father did for her.

“I really feel that we all come into the world musical and creative,” she says. “It’s when we start comparing ourselves to others that that starts to go, less and less. Obviously, some people might have a gift that leans in one direction more than the other, but I think that a large part of it is exposure. And also practice.”

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