Tony Bennett doesn't think Amy Winehouse's life was tragic. He believes the singer who died at age 27 lived a complete life because she was able to achieve her goal: becoming a respected musician.
"Her dream was to become famous and a beautiful singer and she accomplished that," he said Thursday night at the first annual Amy Winehouse Foundation Inspiration Awards and Gala, where he received the lifetime achievement award.
"Even though she had a short life, she had a great life because she ended up praying for the success that she wanted and it happened. This is what this night's about."
Bennett, 86, was honored at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where attendees included Winehouse's father, mother and brother, her ex-boyfriend Reg Traviss, Harry Belafonte, Jennifer Hudson, Sean Lennon and producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, who was also honored.
Winehouse died in 2011 from accidental alcohol poisoning. Though troubled, she was a critical darling and earned five Grammy Awards for her sophomore album, "Back to Black." The foundation established in her name assists disadvantaged youth. It was launched in Europe in 2011, and last year in the United States.
Winehouse and Bennett won a Grammy Award last year for the duet "Body & Soul." Belafonte presented the award to Bennett, and even said Bennett introduced him to Winehouse's music. He brought on the laughs before he invited Bennett to the stage. Seconds after a loud thump was heard — Belafonte's cane fell to the floor — the 86-year-old said: "Excuse me, I just dropped my teeth."
Jennifer Hudson performed three songs at the event, earning a standing ovation from the crowd of a few hundred. Bennett and Belafonte — who sat together — even curled up with their wives as the Oscar and Grammy winner belted songs like "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
Hudson called the event "beautiful" and said Winehouse was "such a talent, such a gift."
"Call me anytime for positivity," she said.
But she wasn't the only one who set the crowd on fire: Bennett also wowed with memorable performances of "Maybe This Time" and "Watch What Happens."
Rapper Nas, who was nominated for a Grammy with Winehouse this year for the jam "Cherry Wine," also earned an award, accepting in a video.