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Getting Up Close and Personal with Tony Bennett and His Song Mates

We've heard the Grammy-nominated album.  Now PBS' " Great Performances" is treating viewers to a look at the making of our own Tony Bennett's "Duets II" Friday night (1/27).  It's the Great American Crooner with partners including Michael Buble, Josh Groban, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin and Faith Hill.  Watching these artists smiling at each other and grooving on one another's vocalizations is fun - as is finding out which performers mix with Tony best.  Notice how he lights up with Lady Gaga, buddies up with John Mayer, and warms up to Amy Winehouse.

It's poignant to see the late, drug-bedeviled singer chatting away about "Tone," as she called the man who was clearly becoming a mentor figure in her life.  And, of course, Tony extols Winehouse as the real deal.  Talking about her again earlier this month, he revealed that her mother took him aside and told him she felt that even though her daughter "had a very short life, she had a very successful life because what she really wanted, what she dreamt about her whole life happened.  That was so different from anything I ever heard a mother say."  His "Body and Soul" duet with Winehouse is also a Grammy nominee.

Tony, 85, says he'll never retire. "If my voice goes, I'm still going to paint," he lets us know.  He'll also continue to be a man of sartorial distinction.  He's decked out in classy suits and ties for every "Duets II" recording session, which makes it all that much easier to imagine having a front row table at an elegant club while being entertained by him and his song mates.  "I like being dressed up," he explains.  "It's about being civilized."  I'm thinking it would make a nice date night to watch Tony.  Maybe we'll even dress up.

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