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Clint is an expert of jazz music, and I met him when I performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival, and the idea came about that he wanted to produce a film about my life. So we worked together with his crew and the film was premiered on American Masters on PBS. He even interviewed me for the documentary, and then when his crew started working on the Mercer film, they asked me to be interviewed for that as well.

Forgive me if you've been asked this a thousand times, but if someone said, back in the day, that the kid from Queens would forever be associated with a song about San Francisco, what would you have told them?

I certainly could not have imagined it myself, and when my musical director, Ralph Sharon, brought the song on the road with us since we were going to play San Francisco, we thought it would just be a local thing for the performance. In fact, when I recorded the song, it was on the B side of the record, as we all thought this beautiful song, "Once Upon a Time," would be the big hit. So that went on the A side. In the end, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" became the hit, and I have been commissioned to perform it around the world, so it has been a great gift.

Fifty-plus years in the biz; 50-plus million units sold; 15 Grammies; the adoration and respect of the world. Does "blessed" even begin to describe your life?

Well, my family name, Benedetto, means, "the blessed one," and I have felt truly blessed to be able to make a living doing the two things I love in life — singing and painting.

How do you like South Florida? You were here on numerous occasions in Miami Beach's heyday, including an appearance in Jackie Gleason's American Scene Magazine in 1962 and a couple of appearances on his show in the late '60s. I imagine you also performed at the Eden Roc and/or the Fontainebleau. Any particularly momentous memories from those days?

I love the Miami area. It's always been full of life, and performing in the '60s was a special time — the audience always dressed up beautifully, and it made every performance special. I was good friends with Bobby Hackett, who performed on Jackie's first album, Music for Lovers Only, and Jackie conducted the orchestra himself... At first, they couldn't get a record label to release it, and finally Capitol Records agreed, and in the end it was hugely successful. Jackie was one-of-a-kind.

Email music@miaminewtimes.com

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