Some called him “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” Others knew him as “The Chairman of the Board.” Frank Sinatra was alternately known as “The Sultan of Swoon” and “The Voice.” But I believe that one word describes the man and the feelings that millions have for him and his music: Unforgettable.
The story is something out of the very Hollywood movie scripts in which Sinatra acted during his career. Born in the blue collar Hoboken, New Jersey, one hundred years ago on the 12th of this month, the only child of Sicilian immigrants began his career by calling upon his natural talent as a singer. Like me, there are millions worldwide that believe that there can never be another Frank Sinatra.
I am a big fan boy of the man and the legend, but a friend of mine who owns a chain of liquor stores, had to bring the centennial birthday to my attention. He noted that the venerable Jack Daniels had worked together with the Sinatra estate to create a marvelous commemorative package, that includes a specially aged bottle of bourbon, a tie clip that is actually a USB, and that USB contains a never before heard live performance of Sinatra’s. This is truly a limited edition package that I hope Santa delivers to me for my “Nice List” gift. There are lots of other goodies included in the pricey package. Learn more about that at http://broudys.com/jack-daniels-sinatra-century-gift-set.html.
By the time Sinatra became a young teenager, his focus was on the recordings he heard and the movies he saw on the big screen of the local theater’s matinees. When Bing Crosby entered the picture, Sinatra decided that Bing’s job would be his one day. He set about making the right moves to achieve his career goals.
Singing in local clubs and the high school glee club had been fun, but Sinatra yearned for more. The great bandleader Harry James was among the first to discover the talent that would soon overtake America with the power of the later Beatles and the popularity of the Pope. Sinatra loved James, too, and cut his first records with him. “All or Nothing at All” set the ball rolling.
In 1940, Sinatra was invited to join the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra as Dorsey’s lead vocalist. That led to a wildly successful run that lasted two years. Then, just days before Sinatra’s birthday in 1941, America entered the global conflict that was now World War II.
Although his voice was known to most throughout the country, and widely regarded for its warmth and charisma, Frank was a misfit in wartime. He carried with him the burden of being unable to serve with other young men his age because of a ruptured eardrum. While others were treated with a negative stigma for failing to serve, Sinatra spun his fate into a brand.
Frank recalled, “I was the boy in every corner drugstore who’d gone off, drafted to the war.” He was right. He represented the lost loves, the suspended lust, and the movie star romanticism that fighting the Huns and the Japanese falsely engendered. He filled the lonely night with melodies that were simple and lyrics that were meaningful. He was a guiding light of escape against the blackout curtains of war.
Frank Sinatra’s special magnetism won him an Oscar in 1945, for a short film that promoted acceptance of all religions and races, but after the war, Sinatra’s star began to fade. He was old hat; the remnant of a war everyone wanted to forget. The old charm that made the teenage girls swoon was in remission.
Most “stars” of that era would have rolled over and taken their lumps. But Frank Sinatra was not “most stars.”
Playing on his strengths in 1953, Sinatra went after a movie role that he believed would be a lot like playing himself. In the classic, From Here to Eternity, Sinatra played Maggio, an Italian-American soldier. It wasn’t a stretch, and Frank won his second Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor.
Now, with more fame than ever, the folks at Capital Records offered Sinatra another go at his first love; Crooning.
Goodnight Irene, Poinciana, April in Paris, I’ve Got the World On a String and Three Coins in a Fountain, were just a few of Frank’s hits in the early have of the decade. And what a decade!
The crowds grew bigger as tunes like “All the Way,” “The Tender Trap,” “Chicago,” “Witchcraft,” and the holiday favorite, “Mistletoe and Holly,” were all released. And that’s when it began to happen.
The transformation of Francis Albert Sinatra was underway. The blue-eyed teen idol was about to make the jump from juvenile delinquent to “cool.”
In the 1960’s, cool went a long way. With friends like Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr., people noticed when Frank led his pals into a room. The friends came to be known as the Rat Pack, and soon they were appearing in major motion pictures. In 1960, it was Ocean’s Eleven (Yes, there were cool guys before George Clooney), and by ’64, with movies under their belts, casinos and nightclubs begging them to just walk in to add the “cool factor” to their businesses, Frank Sinatra completed the transformation from New Jersey thug with a good voice to the most recognized entertainer in the Free World. If you don’t believe it, go into any men’s room at any Bucca di Beppo restaurant in America to see Frank’s mug shot next to the cool gang walking down the brightly lit streets of Sin City.
The 70s and took Sinatra into a short retirement, but not before his decade-ending 60’s hit, My Way, ran up the charts.
Looking back, the song was his life. He married four times; once in 1939 to daughter Nancy’s mother, Nancy Barbato, the twice to well-known, beautiful actresses Mia Farrow and Ava Gardner, and finally to the widow of one of the Marx Brothers.
Some say Sinatra made it through his association with organized crime. JFK thought so and broke off his friendship with Frank. Undeterred, Sinatra went on to receive a Presidential Achievement Award from Ronald Reagan in the 80s. He made it. Just like in the song, New York, New York.
After a final compilation album was released in 1993, Frank Sinatra bid farewell to performing in one last concert at the Palm Desert Marriott, in 1998.
In 1998, Frank Sinatra joined the Big Band in the Sky. His music will go on forever, and his fans will miss him at the same time that they create new legions of younger fans. His legacy is the timelessness of his voice.
Today, you can hear Frank Sinatra on CDs, his old vinyl, and he even has his own Sirius XM satellite channel. He’d be glad to hear that he is so high tech. If you’re like me, you may even sing his songs in the shower.
I like to think that Frank would be flattered by my attempts to sing his songs, rather than disgusted by voice. He need not worry about me trying to act.
You see, I remember Frank Sinatra fondly, for his pure abilities as a performer. He was many things to many people; Singer, Movie Star, Joe Cool. But to me, there’s only one Frank Sinatra and he will always be Unforgettable.