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Prolific crooner Tony Bennett will swing into B.C. this week.Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

He survived childhood poverty, the front lines of the Second World War, the game-changing onslaught of rock 'n' roll and an addiction to drugs – and at 86, Tony Bennett stands as one of music's best and most enduring crooners.

More than seven decades into his career – he began at 13 as a singing waiter at Italian restaurants in Queens, N.Y. – Mr. Bennett has sold more than 50 million albums and keeps a touring schedule that would tire musicians half his age.

He also continues to record and release albums, including an upcoming jazz collaboration with Lady Gaga, and a duet with Amy Winehouse that made him the oldest living artist to appear on the Billboard charts.

Sony just released Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck: The White House Sessions, a long-lost recording made at the White House in 1962, shortly after Mr. Bennett released his signature song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

With 54 studio albums and 17 Grammys, Mr. Bennett could justifiably hang up his microphone – but he swears retirement is not in the cards. In fact, he says right now is the best time in his life, and he feels like he is just getting started.

"My father died when I was 10, and my mother was left a widow with three children. Every Sunday, the family would come to our house, and my brother and sister and I would entertain them. Their encouragement was so powerful, and it was then that I knew that this is who I am, that I wanted to be a performer," says the singer, philanthropist and artist, who also paints every day and recently took up sculpting. "And I still feel that way today."

Tony Bennett is at the Red Robinson Show Theatre on Friday (

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