Videos Resurface of Tony Bennett’s Appearances on ‘American Idol’

Tony Bennett

Heavy/Getty Tony Bennett appeared multiple times on "American Idol"

Legendary jazz crooner Tony Bennett, who died at the age of 96 on July 21, 2023, once called himself one of the “original American Idols.” Fittingly, the music icon appeared on the long-running series to perform with and mentor contestants. The 19-time Grammy winner also collaborated with several alumni of the show during his storied career.

When Bennett was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005, he told ABC News that he and fellow singer Rosemary Clooney mastered their craft by seeing what their audiences liked or didn’t, much like contestants on “American Idol,” which had launched on FOX just three years before.

“Rosemary Clooney and I had caught the tail end, the very tail end, of vaudeville, where you just go from town to town, and your teachers are really the audiences,” Bennett said at the time. “If you do something good, they’ll be enthusiastic. If it’s not that good, there’d be a lukewarm applause. And that’s how you learned, you know. Rosemary Clooney and I, we were the first American Idols.”

‘American Idol’ Contestants Loved Working With Tony Bennett on the Show

In the wake of Bennett’s death, multiple former contestants shared old videos of their experiences with the legendary singer on the show.

In 2007, Bennett appeared on the sixth season of “American Idol” as a guest mentor to the Top 9 contestants. After hearing about Bennett’s death, that season’s winner, Jordin Sparks, posted a video of her mentorship session with the legendary singer.

“Jordan is terrific,” Bennett told producers in the video, after their session. “She sang very much in tune, which is rare these days. She was very intelligent about the way she improvised. She changed a note here and there, but it wasn’t outlandish. It was right on, it was called for.”

Sparks captioned the throwback video by writing, “Singing @itstonybennett’s song right in front of him was so nerve-wracking! I will never forget how in awe I was and how grateful. And the kind words!! From Tony!? I was elated! What a talented, kind and gracious man. This was also one of my Poppy’s favorite performances of mine on the show. I hope you two find each other up there! 🤍”

Season 6 runner-up Blake Lewis also shared video from his time with Bennett via his Instagram Stories and shared his gratitude for the experience.

“Thank you for your talent, incredible wisdom, & impact you made on me and the world,” Lewis wrote. “I’ll never forget the day we got to spend together. Rest in peace.”

Third place contestant Melinda Doolittle shared an Instagram video of her session with Bennett, too, during which he said, “Melinda has a big chance in the business. You know, she’s a real good singer.”

“I will always be grateful to @americanidol for unimaginable moments like this with legends like @itstonybennett,” Doolittle wrote on her post. “This experience, and Mr. Bennett’s kind words impacted me for life. Thank you for taking the time to pour into artists all over the world, Tony Bennett. Rest well.”

Bennett returned for the season 6 finale to perform “For Once in My Life,” according to the Deseret News, after which host Ryan Seacrest exclaimed, “A true idol, Tony Bennett, ladies and gentlemen!”

Tony Bennett Performed on Season 11 ‘Idol’ Finale, Too

Bennett returned to “American Idol” in 2011 to perform on the season 10 finale with contestant Haley Reinhart, who took third place behind winner Scotty McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina.

On July 21, Reinhart shared several photos and videos from her time with Bennett, including laughing together during a media interview and snippets of them performing “Steppin’ Out With My Baby.”

In the interview she shared after their performance, Bennett said, “Oh, we loved it. So much fun and the audience was great. We had a thrill.”

With a wide grin, Reinhart then added, “Tony makes it so comfortable out there, even since the first time we got together and rehearsed.”

Over the throwback video, Reinhart wrote “I will never forget these precious moments with @itstonybennett.”

She also shared an Instagram Story from her sister Angela Reinhart, who wrote, “It was a pretty cool and proud day to look back on, when my sister got to sing (& dance) with this legend and he got to sing and dance with Her!! One of the coolest moments to watch, and learn about TB’s legacy through her experience. A voice and soul that will be missed, but forever cherished.”

Tony Bennett Had Other Special Moments With ‘American Idol’ Stars

During season 6, Bennett also filmed a funny improv skit in which he pretended to audition for the original “Idol” judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Producers filmed Cowell critiquing Bennett, standing in front of an “Idol” backdrop, with comments like “what the bloody hell was that?” and “one of the worst I’ve ever heard.”

“Can I try another song, maybe change your mind?” the legendary crooner asked, and then belted out one of his classic tunes, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” as the judges continued to add insult to injury.

When an unimpressed Abdul asked how old Bennett was, he quipped, “I’m 39” and then sheepishly said, “I’m 80-ish.”

Bennett collaborated with multiple “American Idol” alumni over the years for special concerts and records. For instance, on his 2011 album “Duets II,” he teamed up with former “Idol” judge Mariah Carey on “When Do the Bells Ring for Me?” and with season 4 winner Carrie Underwood on “It Had To Be You.”

Meanwhile, though season 21 Top 5 “Idol” contestant Wé Ani didn’t get to sing with Bennett, she did get to sing for him at a special event in 2018.

Before her journey on “Idol,” Ani competed and landed in third place on “The Voice” as Wé McDonald. Afterwards, at age 18, she was asked to perform Bennett’s hit song “For Once in My Life” at the Library of Congress as he received the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. She received a standing ovation from the audience and from Bennett himself.