Stars Align For Bennett Birthday Album

By 11 a.m. the morning after the Grammy Awards, while other winners were undoubtedly still sleeping off the night before, Tony Bennett was doing what he does best: singing.

By 11 a.m. the morning after the Grammy Awards, while other winners were undoubtedly still sleeping off the night before, Tony Bennett was doing what he does best: singing.

Bennett, who won for best traditional pop vocal album at the Feb. 8 event, was tucked inside Capitol's legendary Studio A, running through the standard "Rags to Riches" with duet partner Elton John. By 11:30 a.m. they were done, having cut the track live (accompanied by a quartet) four times from start to finish before producer Phil Ramone called it a wrap.

The song will appear on a duets album coming out Sept. 26 on RPM/Columbia to herald Bennett's 80th birthday Among the other acts on the set, all of whom recorded face to face with Bennett in the studio, are the Dixie Chicks, Bono, Billy Joel, Sting, James Taylor, John Legend, Elvis Costello, Juanes, k.d. lang, Tim McGraw and Barbra Streisand. John took the opportunity to suggest one of his faves, Mary J. Blige. "She's the greatest female singer out there," he told Bennett.

Bennett credits his son/manager Danny with the duets idea. "I'm just so thrilled that all these contemporary artists want to sing with me," he tells Billboard. "They're all making me feel so good."

John says he cannot believe he and Bennett have not paired up before. "I've done a duet with so many people, the world and its mother," he notes. "I've done a duet with RuPaul. But everything comes when it's meant to be."

Out of respect for Bennett and the fabled studio, John was dressed in a beautiful suit despite the early hour. "I knew it was going to be a live session. You want to look smart, you want to feel good, because that makes me sing better," he says. "You don't come here in a track suit or looking scruffy. I could never forgive myself for that."

Starbucks has signed on as a partner in Bennett's birthday celebration. In addition to carrying the duets title, Starbucks will exclusively release "Through the Years." The set, available April 4, features classic Bennett hits and his handpicked favorites. Details about a Target retail tie-in are also being finalized.