The first single I ever bought
The first one I remember buying was Love Is Strange by Sylvia Robinson, when she was part of a duo called Mickey & Sylvia. It came out in 1956, just after Elvis – that’s when I started buying 45s. But the first record I made was a 45 called It Should’ve Been Me, recorded in 1954. [when he was 11].
The song that is my favorite for my karaoke
Elvis Presley can’t help falling in love. It’s one of the most romantic songs of all time and it has all the elements of its era. It’s a schmaltzy ballad, but with the power of rock music. The song tells a story that everyone can relate to.
The song I inexplicably know all the lyrics to
For me, it would be At Last by Etta James. She was the Whitney Houston of her time: every song she sang was a knockout, and it’s one of the greatest arrangements in R&B history; he set up the story and the lyrics were outstanding. People are always trying to improve on the version she did when she was 18.
The last song I listened to
I’m working on a new album so I listened to a lot of stuff but it was Nat King Cole, Unforgettable. Like Sinatra, he always had the best of everything on his recordings, starting with the best songs. It all starts with the song, then the orchestrations were made by the best of the time. And the best musicians played on it, starting with himself.
The song I want to play at my funeral
Mona Lisa, one of my favorite songs of all time. People in Pittsburgh who know me as Lil’ Georgie Benson will remember me for this song. I used to sing it on street corners when I was seven and play for plays
The song I can’t help but sing
Be My Love, originally by Mario Lanza. It was the first No. 1 hit in American recording history by a classical artist. It was a phenomenal recording – he had a great voice – and then he became a movie star. He set the tone for the great classical singers, ending with Pavarotti. When I went to his hometown, they just called him Luciano, and I didn’t know who they were talking about. And then I realized it was Luciano Pavarotti.
The song I pretend to hate that I secretly love
I don’t even pretend to hate the songs! I like the songs!
The song that is my favorite
Just Friends by Charlie Parker, because I learned a lot from it. My dad told me all about him when I was still Lil’ Georgie Benson. My set was jukebox hits, and my dad was like, “Why the hell are you playing the fuck?” Because that’s what people want to hear! “Play like Charlie Parker.” Charlie who? “Now I know why you can’t play anything.”
George Benson plays across the UK from June 17-29.