Sports & Recreation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
BIG on samples and happy hour buffets, periodically declares he's giving up on cheese (might as well call him "anti-American" i know), LOVES his wife (remember, "wife" spelled backwards is "efiw"), is certain his son is destined to be known as "Enzo the Great," appreciates his "parents" more each day (in-laws included), still dislikes cats, greatest fear is mediocrity, has resigned himself to blatant self-promotion (hey! i amuse me), defies popularity by defining himself, and wants (would like) you to pay him lots (market-value) of money for his work.
....more on "Papa" Lorenzo
The Essential Guide to American Adult Pop-Culture
of the Age of Innocence, 1946-64
It’s Frank’s World and we only live in it.
~ bumper sticker at Milano’s Bar in New York City
“It is as certain a truth that Frank Sinatra
is the greatest ballad singer of his generation
as that Charlie Parker was a musical genius,
Frank Lloyd Wright an architectural poet
and Joe DiMaggio, hitting a ball, a thing of classic beauty.”
~ Ralph I. Gleason, editor, Jazz magazine, 1959
Francis Albert Sinatra, otherwise known as “The Chairman of the Board,” “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” or just plain old “Frank,” was born in 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey, across the water from his adopted hometown, New York City. He began recording in the summer of 1939 and passed through four labels before ending his illustrious career.
Like the lyric of one of his trademark songs, “That’s Life,” which goes “Up in May and down in June,” Frank Sinatra’s roller coaster career began on an ascent skyward in 1937 after his first recording with the Tommy Dorsey Band, which took him through a decade of hits at Columbia Records, where he was one of the first “pop” singers to record Broadway hits of the likes of Rodgers & Hart and Hammerstein, making them popular amongst other vocalists and in turn adding them to the repertoire of standards of Tin Pan Alley. Yet, his reputation as “The Voice” plummeted after his it cracked in the late 1940s.
“The guy had that finger-snappin’ feeling from the very first day I met him.”
~ Columbia Records arranger, George Siravo, on Sinatra
Frank’s career ascended once again in 1953 and has basically stayed at the top ever since. His plateau as “King of the Hill” is fortified by the fact that Sinatra was voted Best Male Vocalist by the Down Beat Polls an unprecedented 16 times, beginning with five years in 1941-43 and 1946-47, and making a comeback in 1954 to win every year until 1962, with another two years in 1965 and 1966. In every other category, only Ella Fitzgerald beat him with an amazing 20 years as Best Female Vocalist.
As history goes, in March 1953 Capitol signed “washed up” Sinatra. Frank first recorded a few songs A La May style and then with the help of a young and little known arranger and band leader, Nelson Riddle, he recorded several songs, over ninety in all, which rose to the top of the pop charts. Nelson’s magic formula included a faster tempo and more brass than usual, empowering the music and reflecting the energy of the 1950s. Sinatra and Riddle worked virtually exclusively until March 1957, producing some of the most memorable of Frank’s hits ever. One of the most lauded of their collaborations was Sinatra’s second album at Capitol, In the Wee Small Hours (It is Tony Bennet’s and Nancy Sinatra’s favorite Frank album). Released in 1955, it not only marked their continued success as a team, the album also resulted in a pioneering change for the label, for the album was a collection of ballads and therefore based on a single theme. In turn the “concept” album was born and many other record companies followed suit.
Moreover, Sinatra evolved into an almost completely different person from the young rail-thin crooner of the 1940s into the quintessential “swinging bachelor” of the 1950s. In addition to lowering his voice, losing the sweet voice of his youth, Sinatra lost his trademark bowtie and donned a hip necktie and “the hat.” Frank was now older, more experienced, and wiser - overall, much more sophisticated. His original audience had grown up and so like them he shed the traits of adolescence and gained those of adulthood, including a healthy drinking and smoking habit, which he prominently displayed on stage and on screen. Even the title of his albums reflected this new attitude. Punctuated by exclamation marks it began in 1953 with Swing Easy!, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! (1956), and A Swingin’ Affair! (1957) at Capitol Records and apexed with Ring-a-Ding-Ding in 1960?, his first album at his new record label, Reprise Records. The second album in particular, broke ground for a new riveting sound, known as Nelson’s “heartbeat” meter, which had every male singer and orchestra imitating ‘the sound” soon thereafter.
...50 years ago Mr. Sinatra was the first white American pop singer to inject quirky personal feelings and a sense of erotic intimacy into a polished but bland pop crooning tradition. In the mid-1950’s, a more mature Mr. Sinatra re-invented himself and in the process defined the image of the grown-up pop singer as a hip urban sophisticate with a streak romanticism under a swinger’s facade.
In October 1957 Sinatra recorded with Billy May for the first time, challenging the accomplished singer like never before, with arrangements which simultaneously featured the instrumentals and the vocals. Traditionally, the singer and the band traded places, serving as either the background or the star of the show, but May produced music which placed them both on an equal plane. The new arrangements resulted in Frank’s first number one Chart Album, Come Fly With Me.
The following year, May and Sinatra teamed up again to produce the follow-up to their initial successful collaboration, Come Dance With Me. Equally successful commercially as its older kin, the album earned Sinatra a Grammy for best solo vocal and best album of the year in 1959. This album proved to be the ultimate May sound album, with an unusual arrangement of eight trumpets, four French horns, a tuba, six trombones, two bass trombones, rhythm, percussion, and a harp, creating a team of instruments which seemed to call back and forth during the songs.
The third of the famed trio of conductor/arrangers which Frank worked with was Gordon Jenkins, who worked with him in 1957 and 1959 to produce two coveted “Saloon Song” albums, featuring Gordon’s use of a large string section to create a “classical style” and Frank’s unusually “dramatic” interpretations of the lyrics which together produced a grandiose, made-for-epic movies sound.
As his daughter, Nancy, points out, Frank Sinatra’s new success was further bolstered by the introduction of the Long-Playing (LP) record or album. Frank’s use of this new medium was so formidable that as Stan Cornyn relates, Frank “...was building up, album by album, a body of poetic interpretations, preserved on records, such as no artist before him had done.”
Mr. Sinatra was at the “top of the heap, the cream of the crop” in 1955, when just after winning the Academy Award for Best supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity in 1953, he was placed on the cover of Time Magazine with the feature article noting “last week, still four months shy of forty, he was well away on a second career that promises to be if anything, more brilliant than the first...In the movies, Frank Sinatra is currently more in demand than any other performer...On the nightclub and variety circuit, Frank has a rating that stands second to none in pull or payoff...” And of course, this was not to mention the slew of television appearances and the slate of successful singles and albums.
Many of the songs he sang for the movies and television shows became instant hits, including songs for the musicals The Tender Trap (1955) with Debbie Reynolds, High Society (1956) co-staring Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby, Pal Joey (1957) with Kim Novak and featuring a Rodgers & Hart score, and Three Coins In the Fountain. One in particular, Love and Marriage, not only enjoyed success in 1955 as the theme for Our Town on CBS and the first Emmy award winner for a made-for-TV song, but also became a popular tune for many of today’s generation as the theme song to Married with Children.
During this fruitful period, Sinatra also performed in other noted films such as Young at Heart (1954) with Doris Day, and Guys and Dolls (1955) with Marlon Brando, The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), A Hole in the Head (1959) with Edward G. Robinson, and The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
A noted disappointment for Frank fans was Sinatra’s lack of duet recordings while at Capitol during the 1950s or really anytime there after, until recently. With the likes of Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Harry James, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and George Shearing all at the label at the same time, it can be quite disheartening just thinking about the missed opportunities. However, Frank sang several duets on television and radio with several celebrities throughout his early career, many of which have been released recently on smaller labels.
He is a man with a public image built partly on fact and largely on myth. He is a man who embraces consistency, yet embodies contradiction. A man who treats the room to caviar and champagne and himself to a sandwich and Coca-Cola. A man who is strong in a crisis, but dissolves behind closed doors when it ends. Who likes to be alone- as long as he knows someone is near.
~ Nancy Sinatra