On January 26th, 1943, if you were in close proximity to the Paramount Theatre in New York City, you would have felt a slight tremor, 3.6 on the Richter scale. The tremor led to a cataclysmic eruption--a plethora of bobby-soxers were jumping up and down, screaming and hollering in front of the theatre not knowing their shoelaces were coming untied; it was mass pandemonium. One of the girls was pop singer of today, Eydie Gorme.
Eydie had this to say about the crooner, Frank Sinatra. "I was one of the girls who went to the Paramount in New York in bobby-sox. I skipped school to see him and completing freaked out!" She adds, "The Sinatra sound is a miracle some try to emulate him, the man who made breathing an art form." Singer Steve Lawrence adorns Eydie’s comments on the Chairman of The Board, "He took popular songs and made them what they are today." Steve continues with, "Because of his phrasing, he made songs a mini screenplay."
Born Francis Albert Sinatra, on December 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey, Frank Sinatra went on to become the greatest singer of American popular music and one of the most successful entertainers of the 20th century. At the end of his career, Sinatra’s annual income was estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars, with concert dates, record albums, real estate, and interest in several companies, founder-Reprise Records, and Sinatra Enterprises. During his show business career, which spanned more than five decades, he was involved in recordings, film and television, concert halls, amphitheaters, many performances in nightclubs, and the list goes on--let’s not forget the saloon singer. Frank Sinatra stood as being the solo mirror of America.
As a crooner, Frank Sinatra took this style of singing, which was originally popularized by Bing Crosby, and perfected it; in doing so he made it all his own--no singer has ever surpassed him. Our crooner, lead vocalist with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, claimed he developed his style by vocally trying to imitate Dorsey’s trombone. The romantic flavor of Sinatra’s voice may have came form Dorsey’s trombone, but the real test of his flavor comes from a singer like Natalie Cole, who adorns Frank with, "People want to be sung to; they want to be touched, but not roughly, softly. His image is not just a singer, but as a persona. Women still love him today." Frank’s unique capacity for connecting with his audience is due, in part, to his attention to the lyrics; the way he holds, shades, or emphasizes one word he makes you feel like he’s singing to you and only you. As an example we have "Bring in The Clowns." It is here where Sinatra has total emotional command, an astounding exhibition of his inimitable vocal prowess, the most thoughtful and articulate entertainer existent.
One of the most gifted traits of this entrepreneur of song was that before announcing a song, he would almost always give the name of the composer and arranger of the tune. Of the many arrangers who had worked with Frank, these stand out: Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, Don Costa, Neil Hefty, and others of the same quality. Let us not forget the orchestras that would lay down a musical red carpet, which Sinatra would sing on like Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, and other great band leaders.
Sinatra experienced an evolution from the time he was a crooner in the 1940’s to the status of the sophisticated giant of the next two decades, ad infinitum; Frank Sinatra represents the personification of popular music. During the mid-1940’s, Sinatra played a major role with his music and with the wives and girlfriends of our fighting men abroad during WWII. The romantic flavor emanating from his voice was welcomed by so many; it filled a large void for the ladies during that lonely period.
Over the last four decades or so, Sinatra was the only entertainer who used his inherent creativity; and as it grew, he introduced it to "form." Subsequently, he produced an art form unique unto the man himself Frank Sinatra. Here’s what Vic Damone had to say about Frank’s concept about form. "Frank is the most professional performer and singer, and his phrasing is absolutely beautiful; it’s hypnotizing!" From creativity to form, Sinatra’s, larger than life personality created a celebrity that at times over-shadowed his musical accomplishments--he was a supreme craftsman!
Right down to the core of his gifted persona, and with his knowledge of music and those who make it, Sinatra was known as a musician’s musician; in the studio, there was an aura of mutual respect. Frank was quite at home in the recording studio. He would get involved in all phases of the recording process, from sketching out an orchestration and choosing the best musicians to anything that would constitute an overall quality musical product. Dedicated to his craft, Sinatra acquired the respect of many band leaders, arrangers, and composers.
With the skillful scoring pen of Nelson Riddle, Sinatra recorded to new heights; their combined effort created what is commonly referred to as a concept album. During their long corroboration, Sinatra and Riddle redefined the Sinatra style and called this beat, "rhythm of the heartbeat." Sinatra and Riddle produced a series of brilliant conceptual albums that brought forth a musical language that showed adult relationships that millions could identify with.
Sinatra also explored musical rendezvous with big band greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Buddy Rich, and studio bands with the best musicians, the same with composers like Antonio Carlos Jobin, Sammy Conn, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, George and Ira Gershwin, and then some. In or out of the studio, Frank always commanded the best; band leaders, composers, arrangers, and musicians--no gig was too big for Frank to handle!
It was a starlit night and all the bright lights illuminated the huge stage from all directions. In the center, the spotlight was highlighting the man everyone came to hear and see, Frank Sinatra! It was the opening of a new amphitheater in the Dominican Republic, the occasion, "Concert for The Americas" with Buddy Rich supporting Sinatra. Such an incredible setting for Frank--he deserved it! Surrounded by about 40,000 people (I counted them!), the Buddy Rich orchestra with a harp for special effects, conductor and pianist, Vincente Val Con Jr.
The next song was Chicago by Sammy Conn and arranged by Nelson Riddle. Frank had just finished the verse to "Chicago,’ the last phrase being, " pleasure and warmth as I throw each one of you a kiss." Then he said, "Did you get that how ‘bout one back!" Watching from a television set, from the applause you could feel the love and warmth as one guy stood up and said, "We love you Frank." Frank answered with, "I love you too pal!" Should you have any questions, please keep them till after the program, I want to hear the rest of Chicago.
Frank Sinatra was the paramount popular singer of our times, ranking higher than others, a sovereign ruler, the master. Being at the top of the popularity spectrum for over five decades, Sinatra has carved his own niche in "the entertainment hall of fame." From the lyrics to "New York New York" Sinatra sings " he’s king of the hill top of the heap." Frank can send you into orbital ecstasy, or take you down the street to a saloon and tell you what time it is. "It’s quar-ter to three__, there’s no one in the place__, except you and me__" From his musical track record, we can say that, he is a reservoir of popular songs. No matter where he goes, whatever he sings, there is a prevailing ambiance that is him Sinatra.
When he portrayed the saloon singer, Sinatra would smoke a cigarette and drink something? With guitarists Tony Matola and Antonio Carlos Jobin, once again he would smoke a cigarette and drink something. About his wardrobe, he would at times show up with his raincoat slung over his shoulder; this carried over to his later years, even showing up with a drink in his hands. What do you suppose he drank when he performed?
Sinatra had graced the silver screen with 58 films. In 1953, he won an Academy Award for best supporting actor; he portrayed the soldier Maggio in "From Here To Eternity." When doing a film, Sinatra could communicate the same complex mixture of emotional honesty, sensitivity and vulnerability as he did when singing. As a singer, he exerted a very strong influence. Like his idol, Bing Crosby, Sinatra changed popular singing into a fusion of lyrics with a personal, intimate point of view which perpetuated a steady and electrifying current of eroticism.
We spoke of Sinatra’s signatures. Well, here they are in music names: Put Your Dreams Away (1945), All The Way (1957), It Was A Very Good Year (1965), Stangers In The Night (1966), My Way (1969), and New York, New York (1980).
During the late 1940’s and early 50’s, Sinatra’s voice went through some changes, sonorities and resonance, precipitating a career decline. However, in 1953, Sinatra made one of the most dynamic comebacks in show business history. He returned with a crude-voice and interpreter of jazz phrases as he applied them to popular standards; this applied a more aggressive personal stamp on the songs he sung! Sinatra’s voice continued soaring to even greater heights throughout the remainder of his career.
Frank Sinatra was instrumental in establishing and making Las Vegas a popular entertainment capital. This all happened due to the alliance between Frank and his skillful arranger, Nelson Riddle. Sinatra defined the idiosyncratics for sound, mode, and above all, the resonance and sonorities of the selections in popular recording during the early 1960’s. In his mature years, Sinatra began to show an aggressive, up-tempo style, giving birth to a genre of punchy and rhythmic belting which was prevalent in his new mode of singing.
For a few decades in his early life, Sinatra was romancing the ladies, he took a shot at thug--city, and it has been said that he had associations with the mafia. All this was food for the gossip columnist. However, his generous spontaneity was at large during that period and on. He has gave help to singers just starting out; supporting friends and associates who had a need. Over the years he gave many millions of dollars to various humanitarian institutions. Frank Sinatra was a generous and compassionate man.
The photo on this page shows Frank and his lovely wife, Barbara, during the Diamond Jubilee Tour. Sinatra was celebrating his 80th birthday with a television special at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, November 19, 1995. All photos courtesy of AP Photos.
Sinatra was a giant in the idiom of popular music. When Frank stepped on stage, the audience beckoned--he gave them what they wanted, excitement, harmony, love, and the effervescence of joy--his statement. He was an institution, one of universality. His stage front was lit by the bright lights of success.
On May 16, 1998, Francis Albert Sinatra did his last earthly gig. However, it is my intuitive guess that, wherever he is, he has the best band, best arranger, and best of composers to carry on with what would be spiritual stage front.
I dedicate this to Francis Albert Sinatra:
"Frank Sinatra provided a cosmic renaissance. His rendezvous with technique, virtuosity, execution, and ultimately, his inimitable prowess leads to a date with nuance. To duplicate Frank Sinatra’s artistry is to duplicate infinity."