In the fall of 1953 in a room somewhere in Brooklyn, two songwriters wrote the music and lyrics to a song in which the singer is nostalgic for San Francisco. Nine years later, Tony Bennett released the single for I Left My Heart in San Francisco and forever cemented his place as an icon in the city by the bay. Although Bennett is a New Yorker, his song is our anthem and therefore he is an honorary San Franciscan. Bennett has performed the legendary ditty everywhere from the first time ever at Fairmont Hotel’s Venetian Room in 1961 to the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1987 to just last Friday at the baseball game at AT&T Park. When the San Francisco Giants win a home game, the victory is celebrated with Bennett’s tune blasting from the sound system. Not only has the song changed San Francisco, but it’s also changed Bennett. According to Wikipedia, Bennett has said “that song helped make me a world citizen. It allowed me to live, work and sing in any city on the globe. It changed my whole life.”
To commemorate Bennett’s 90th birthday—which took place on August 3—San Francisco honored the singer by unveiling a statue in his liking in front of the Fairmont Hotel. Sculptor Bruce Wolf created the 8-foot statue out of bronze. Mayor Ed Lee declared August 19th Tony Bennett day. Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, the city’s chief of protocol, spoke at the ceremony thanking Bennett for his never ending support. “When we brought back the cable cars, he was here. When we wanted to tell people that, after the earthquake, we didn’t fall into the ocean, he was here,” Mailliard Shultz said. Other notable figures who showed up to support Bennett included Pam and Larry Baer, Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein, Richard Bloom, and Willie Brown, who called Bennett San Francisco’s “adopted son.”
The festivities continued the following day with a benefit and dinner at the Fairmont’s Venetian Room. Proceeds from the event went to the Tony Bennett Fund for Emergency Pediatric Care at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and the San Francisco Special Events Committee. The highlight of the night was when Bennett took to the stage to perform his signature song. Two women, Polly Taylor and Bambi Bisho, who attended the event also happened to witness Bennett sing the song for the first time 55 years ago on the same stage. Watching Bennett croon was particularly special for them. Guests included Gavin Newsom, Janet Napolitano, Barbara Boxer, and Francis Ford Coppola.