Wednesday, April 11, 2012

50 years ago: Tony Bennett charted with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

Tony Bennett

Writer(s): George Cory (m)/Douglass Cross (l) (see lyrics here)

Released: February 2, 1962

First Charted: April 14, 1962

Peak: 19 US, 7 AC, 25 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 15.0 worldwide (includes 1 million in sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 8.06 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Tony Bennett has reigned (albeit with utter modesty) as one of the definitive interpreters of American popular song for more than sixty years.” SS Frank Sinatra “considered him without equal,” SS calling him “the best singer in the business” in a 1965 Life magazine interview. SF In regards to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” Bennett’s “trademark song,” SS author Thomas Ryan said, “Imagine, for a moment, anyone else singing this song. It is beyond the reach of most artists, and the very few who could pull it off wouldn’t dare because it would inevitably invoke comparison.” RY

The then-unknown team of composer George Cory and lyricist Douglass Cross composed the song in 1954. They gave it to Ralph Sharon, who became Bennett’s pianist and musical director in 1957. Sharon put it and some other songs in a drawer and forgot about them. When he re-discovered them in mid-1961, he played “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for Bennett after a show in Arkansas. Bennett loved it. SS

They introduced the song at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Remarkably, Bennett had never performed in the city before. SS When label representatives from Columbia heard the song during a rehearsal, they were sure it could be the comeback hit Bennett needed. SS While it barely scratched the top 20, it went on to sell more than 14 million copies over the years, plus another million in sheet music sales. SF

The song won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance. When it was honored with the Towering Song Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, chairman Hal David said, “Tony Bennettt is a songwriter’s singer, who has recorded outstanding and unforgettable interpretations of many pop songs which have become standards. He is one of the best examples of the true marriage of song and singer.” SF


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Tony Bennett
  • RY Thomas Ryan (1996). American Hit Radio: A History of Popular Singles From 1955 to the Present. Prima Publishing: Rocklin, CA. Pages 89-90.
  • SF Songfacts
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 311-2.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 4/11/2020; last updated 7/17/2022.

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