June 17, 2024

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Hugs for Tony Bennett: I left my heart in San Francisco: Video

Hugs for Tony Bennett. Earlier this week on March 21, the U.S. Library of Congress announced that his 1962 recording of I Left My Heart in San Francisco would be added to the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically or artistically significant.”

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Written in 1953 by lyricist Douglass Cross and composer George Cory, I Left My Heart in San Francisco was given to Ralph Sharon, Tony’s pianist, several years later. Sharon stuck it in a dresser drawer along with other new songs he received but became too busy to bother giving it a careful look. Sharon pulled it out in 1961 just before he and Tony went off on a cross-country tour that would end at the Venetian Room in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. Sharon figured it might come in handy when they reached the city by the bay. When Tony sang the song at the hotel in December 1961, the crowd went wild.

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So Tony pushed to record it at his next Columbia recording session in January 1962. The label put the unknown song on the B side of Once Upon a Time. But DJs didn’t dig the A side and flipped it over and began playing I Left My Heart in San Francisco instead. Tony’s single climbed to #19 on Billboard’s pop chart and #7 on its Easy Listening chart. San Francisco’s popularity quickly became Tony’s theme and one of the city’s anthems. I had my own encounter with the song at the Venetian Room.

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Today, in tribute to Tony and the song, I found the entire Singer Presents Tony Bennett broadcast of 1966, which included Tony singing I Left My Heart in San Francisco. Amazing that the Singer Company, the maker of sewing machines, was big enough then to sponsor Tony Bennett’s first TV special on ABC on October 26, 1966.

An hour of Tony in his prime with the Ralph Burns Orchestra, Bobby Hackett, Paul Horn, Buddy Rich, Candido, Milt Jackson, Gene Bertoncini and other jazz greats making guest appearances. Sony Legacy really should consider re-issuing this…

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