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Tony Bennett: The gold standard of pop standards

Singer Tony Bennett is photographed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto, Oct. 17, 2011.

Moe Doiron/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Here's the funny thing about the Grammy for traditional pop singing: The category name changes – it's happened three times since the award's inception in 1992 – but the winner, not so much. Tony Bennett, who left his heart in San Francisco, hoards the statuettes in Los Angeles. Ten years out of the category's 20, he's walked off with the honours – nine times for his baby, presumably, and one more for the road.

"God bless him," Paul Anka told The Globe and Mail recently, about Bennett. "He's been doing the same thing for 50 years – same goddamn songs, same trio. He doesn't have to change a damn thing, because everybody keeps discovering him."

The conventional wisdom is that you can't stop Bennett; you can only hope to contain him. On Sunday, it's his Duets II album that's up for best traditional pop vocal album (formerly best traditional pop vocal performance and, before that, best traditional pop performance).

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When it comes to traditional-song packaging, Bennett is like Forrest Gump's shrimp-obsessed army buddy, who knew every which way to cook those things. Bennett has won for: a salute to Frank Sinatra; a Fred Astaire tribute; an MTV unplugged performance; a Billie Holiday homage; a Duke Ellington disc; a blues-duet collection; a collaboration with k.d. lang; an LP of romantic fare; another duets disc; and one celebration of female singers that beat out, ironically, albums by Rosemary Clooney, Natalie Cole, Liza Minnelli and Bernadette Peters.

Talk about your ladies singing the blues.

This year, some crooners and chanteuses are taking a different strategy: Michael Bublé (a three-time winner) and Natalie Cole (two times a victor) both appear on Bennett's Duets II. If you can't beat him, join him.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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