Lady Gaga Mourns 'Painful' But 'Beautiful' Loss of Tony Bennett: 'We Had a Very Long and Powerful Goodbye'

The legendary singer died earlier this month at the age of 96 after battling Alzheimer's.

Lady Gaga is mourning the death of Tony Bennett. In a lengthy and deeply heartfelt tribute, Gaga opens up about the "painful" experience of watching the legendary singer battle Alzheimer's disease at the end of his life. 

Bennett died on July 21 in his hometown of New York City, just two weeks shy of his 97th birthday. While no specific cause of death has been announced, Bennett had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, sharing the news with the public in 2021.

"I will miss my friend forever. I will miss singing with him, recording with him, talking with him, being on stage together," Gaga began a caption on Instagram, sharing a photo of the musical partners embraced in a hug. "With Tony, I got to live my life in a time warp. Tony & I had this magical power. We transported ourselves to another era, modernized the music together, & gave it all new life as a singing duo. But it wasn't an act. Our relationship was very real."

Bennett worked with Gaga on his 2011 Duets II album, and later reteamed with her for 2014’s Cheek to Cheek. The pair released their collaborative Love for Sale in 2021, which was Bennett's final album and won him his final GRAMMY Award.

For the 37-year-old "Hold My Hand" singer, she learned about far more than just music from Bennett. 

"Sure he taught me about music, about showbiz life, but he also showed me how to keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight," she shared. "'Straight ahead,' he'd say. He was an optimist, he believed in quality work AND quality life. Plus, there was the gratitude...Tony was always grateful. He served in WWII, marched with Martin Luther King Jr., and sang jazz with the greatest singers and players in the world."

Gaga went on to detail some of her heartbreaking final memories of the legendary star, offering sage advice for younger generations. 

"I've been grieving the loss of Tony for a long time. We had a very long and powerful goodbye," she wrote.

"Though there were 5 decades between us, he was my friend. My real true friend. Our age difference didn’t matter-- in fact, it gave us each something neither of us had with most people. We were from two different stages in life entirely--inspired," she continued. "Losing Tony to Alzheimer’s has been painful but it was also really beautiful. An era of memory loss is such a sacred time in a persons life. There's such a feeling of vulnerability and a desire to preserve dignity. All I wanted was for Tony to remember how much I loved him and how grateful I was to have him in my life. But, as that faded slowly I knew deep down he was sharing with me the most vulnerable moment in his life that he could--being willing to sing with me when his nature was changing so deeply."

"I'll never forget this experience. I'll never forget Tony Bennett," Gaga concluded. "If I could say anything to the world about this I would say don’t discount your elders, don’t leave them behind when things change. Don’t flinch when you feel sad, just keep going straight ahead, sadness is part of it. Take care of your elders and I promise you will learn something special. Maybe even magical. And pay attention to silence -- some of my musical partner and I’s most meaningful exchanges were with no melody at all. I love you Tony. Love, Lady."

In 2021, Gaga joined Bennett onstage for his final performance at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall. 

After Bennett shared his Alzheimer's diagnosis publicly, Gaga took the stage at the 2022 GRAMMYs to perform a tearful celebration to the singer.

Prior to her performance, Bennett appeared in a pre-taped video message, wishing his friend luck as she performed their songs, "Love for Sale" and "Do I Love You." Backstage, Gaga shared with ET what her longtime friendship with Bennett had meant to her. 

"You know, it’s been such an honor to make another record with Tony," she said. "We've been singing together for a decade. This was his last album and I feel very blessed to have sang with a man who always led with his heart. He came from very humble beginnings and he told me so many stories about him and Duke Ellington and marching with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and how when he was a little boy, he won the turkey at the raffle because his family couldn't afford to have holiday dinner. So, he won that turkey and he said,  'I knew that day that I was lucky.'"

That year, Gaga and Bennett were nominated for Record of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo for "I Get a Kick Out of You." They won Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for their album, Love for Sale. In 2015, the duo also won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for their album, Cheek to Cheek.

"I got to let him know we won," she said in her interview with ET. 

Amid a celebrated career, Bennett proved that choosing perfect collaborations was his sweet spot. He worked with k.d. Lang on the GRAMMY-winning album A Wonderful World, followed by The Art of RomanceDuets: An American Classic, which marked his 80th birthday, and Duets II, which featured Amy Winehouse’s final recording prior to her death in 2011. Bennett also released Viva Duets, a Latin-themed project with appearances from Gloria Estefan and Marc Anthony. 

The beloved singer, doting husband and loving father is survived by his wife, Susan Benedetto, his two sons, Danny and Dae Bennett, his daughters, Johanna Bennett and Antonia Bennett, and nine grandchildren.

Susan took to Bennett's verified Instagram account on July 22 and posted a moving message to the fans, friends and colleagues "who celebrated his life and humanity and shared their love of him and his musical legacy."

She added, "And as sad as today has been for all of us we can find joy in Tony's legacy forever."