Hot Topics: Tony Bennett Tops Billboard Album Chart
Tony Bennett continues to be a late bloomer. The 85-year-old crooner, whose singing career began in the 1950s, has become the oldest living performer to top the Billboard 200 album charts.
The man Frank Sinatra once called "the best singer in the business" debuts at No. 1 with his new album Duets II, in which he blends his vocals with younger stars such as Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, Norah Jones, Sheryl Crow and the late Amy Winehouse. Though Bennett has won 14 Grammy Awards and broke into the Billboard charts back in 1951, this marks the first time he's ever topped the album charts, according to this Billboard article.
Before Bennett, the oldest artist to top the Billboard album chart was Bob Dylan, whose Together Through Life debuted at the top in 2009, when he was 67. As The New York Times' ArtBeat blog proclaims: "Tony Bennett Sells Great for a Man His -- or Any -- Age."
Last week, Bennett achieved yet another milestone, when his song "Body and Soul," which also features Winehouse, debuted at No. 87 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, making him the oldest living artist to score a spot on the chart. Here's a video of him singing in the studio with Winehouse, in what was the drug-addicted singer's final recording session before her death in July at age 27.
In this interview, Bennett also had accolades for another of his duet partners, 69-year-old soul-music superstar Aretha Franklin, whom he described as being in "top shape" after her recent surgery.
Hijacking Pensions? There's a good chance that a new book, Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers, by Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Ellen Schultz, is going to make you plenty mad. Not at Schultz, but at corporate managers who've shifted from providing traditional pensions to defined-contribution programs such as 401(k)s, supposedly because pensions, or defined-benefits programs, have become too expensive for companies to afford. In this NPR interview, Schultz contends that companies actually had "more than enough" funds in their plans to cope with aging workers and the rising number of retirees. Instead, however, she contends that they stopped paying into pension plans and killed them off so they could divert the assets to pay for other things, as part of a clandestine -- albeit legal -- bait-and-switch.
A Lack of Class: Last year's Affordable Care Act created Class, the nation's first voluntary government-run insurance program for long-term care. But as the New York Times' Paula Span reports, private insurers and Congressional Republicans -- and a few Democrats, as well -- have been gunning for it ever since. Span says the Obama administration, which didn't seek funding for the program in 2012, may not be committed to preserving it. Class was the brainchild of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA.
Pedaling to Work: TakePart, a website for those interested in environmentalism, volunteering and social entrepreneurship, offers this list of the 10 best cities for commuting to work on a bicycle. If you're eager to get involved in the pedal-to-work movement, your best bet is to live in Oregon, Washington state, California or Colorado. Only one locale east of the Mississippi -- the college town of Gainesville, Fla. -- made the list.
Facebook and Privacy: Mashable blogger Ben Parr warns that the most popular social networking site is "just a few updates away from euthanizing the concept of privacy." He's alarmed by new features such as Facebook's new Timeline and Open Graph, which he says may automatically reveal far more personal information than you really care to spread, without the old "Would you like to post this to Facebook?" prompt. Of course, if you're that concerned about keeping a low profile, you might not want to be on FB in the first place.
Mysterious Medicare: In a recent study (pdf) conducted by the National Council on Aging and UnitedHealthCare, more than half of the boomers and seniors surveyed confess they don't really understand how Medicare works. Forty-six percent said they grasp the health insurance program's workings, but 35 percent said they found the system confusing, and 16 percent said they didn't really understand any of it. Those numbers may be on the optimistic side; when pollsters drilled deeper and asked questions about specific parts of the program, only 33 percent correctly identified Medicare Part A as the coverage for hospital visits, and just 23 percent knew that Part B covers visits to doctors' offices. An alarming 68 percent had no idea what Part C is. (The latter, also called Medicare Advantage Plans, consist of additional coverage, such as vision, hearing, dental, and/or health and wellness programs offered by private companies approved by Medicare.) If you're one of those who needs to get up to speed, here's the government's basic primer on Medicare benefits. Also check out SecondAct's "Medicare: The Basics."
Better Late Than Never: Hot Topics previously told you about Allyson Reneau, 50, who dropped out of college several decades ago to raise her 11 children, and her determination to go back and finish her education. This story from NBC's Today program reports that Reneau, who not only earned a degree from the University of Oklahoma but scored a perfect 4.0 grade average, is now beginning work on a masters degree in international relations at Harvard though the university's extension program. With the help of funding from a private benefactor, she'll fly 2,000 miles to Massachusetts each week for a Monday class and return the next day.
A Little Too Realistic? In a recent blog post, I praised folk-rock icon Bob Dylan's new exhibition of paintings inspired by his 2011 Asia tour, in part because their of their vividly detailed rendering of street scenes in Dylan's various tour stops, which struck me as showing influences of everything from Manet to 1930s Social Realism. Since then, as New York Times culture blogger Dave Itzkoff details in this post, some Dylanologists have pointed out remarkable resemblances between some of the paintings and classic fine-art photographs that Dylan did not take. His painting depicting two Chinese men, for example, is a near note-for-note cover of a famous 1948 image shot by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Arts blogger Amy Crehore juxtaposes another painting, titled "Opium," with a lesser-known photo by early 1990s photographer Leon Busy. In fairness to Dylan, borrowing from existing images is an old painters' trick; bits and pieces of Rembrandt's 1643 masterpiece "Self Portrait at the Age of 34," for example, bear obvious similarities to earlier paintings by Albrecht Durer and Titian. And in January, painter-poster maker Shepard Fairey settled litigation with the Associated Press over an AP photograph Fairey had used as the basis for his iconic image of Barack Obama.
Emptying the Nest -- Again: AARP offers this list of six ways that boomer parents can help their adult children find a job after college and live independently, instead of moving back into their old bedrooms.
Last Word: "She was a little apprehensive about how to go about [the song], and I said to her, 'I may be wrong, but it sounds like you're influenced by Dinah Washington.' And that just blew her mind. She just said, 'Oh my God, you mean you can actually hear that?' And that relaxed her." -- Tony Bennett, explaining in a Billboard interview how he managed to hit it off with the late Amy Winehouse after the notoriously unstable singer came into the studio a bit ill at ease.
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