With Tony Bennett’s Passing, His San Francisco Statue Becomes a Place to Pay Homage

Crowds gathered outside the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, laying down flowers and playing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” on their phones to remember the now-late singer.

There are few cultural iconoclasts as interconnected with the spirit of San Francisco as tight-knit as Grammy award-winner Tony Bennett. His 1962 song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” is a celebration of San Francisco’s peculiarities, including its climate — “My love waits there in San Francisco / Above the blue and windy sea.”

Bennett sings about SF — “When I come home to you, San Francisco/ Your golden sun will shine for me” — in a way that makes it impossible not to wax with adoration about the seven-by-seven. When the celebrated vocalist, a singer/songwriter/multi-hyphen instrumentalist (that many youngins these days know of his frequent collaborations with Lady Gaga) died on July 21st at 96 years old, locals and tourists of SF mourned in mass.

Many of them turned out at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where a life-size statue of the musician was first unveiled on the Mason Street-facing courtyard in 2016. Some even brought flowers, too.

“I can’t say it was a shock to hear the news, but it still hit me like a ton of bricks,” 71-year-old Beverely Morison tells Underscore, looking down at the flowers she placed outside the statue’s aged fence. The street area outside the statues was sectioned off with red rope barriers; a hotel tenant was positioned to make sure crowds didn’t get too congested, obstructing the views of the statue and clogging sidewalk traffic.

“[Tony] brought so much joy into my life, and he really knew how to cross so many bridges,” Morison says. (She was referring to both his cross-generational appeal and ability to transcend cultural tropes; Bennet was a strong supporter of racial justice and anti-racist progression; he later in life would also earn a GLAAD award in 2003 for his support of queer artists.)

Among the plush teddy bears and fresh flower bouquets was a paper with lyrics from Bennett’s ode to SF written in baby-blue marker. Four hearts embellished the lyrics.

“Teach these angels how to sing, Tony,” the note concluded. And though no one will ever be able to replace, replicate, or reproduce his charm, Bennett’s impact will exist as long as humans occupy this space rock.

May the “blue and windy sea” always greet us when we come “home to you, San Francisco.”

All images, courtesy of author

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