Ah, yes, Frank Sinatra - my very favorite singer of all time. I wrote this piece for this month's issue of our community magazine, but seeing as how most of you don't live here, I wanted to get it into my blog.
Does the address 415 Monroe Street, Hoboken, NJ, seem familiar? Hoboken? Right across the East River from New York, New York? At that address, on December 12th, one hundred years ago this month, Hoboken’s most famous son, one Francis Albert Sinatra, was born.
Is there anyone reading this article who doesn’t recognize the name or face of Frank Sinatra? His music spans generations, from those who were the “Bobbysoxers”, on through to the “Gen-Xers” and today’s “Millennials”. His vintage vinyl recordings are collectors’ items, and there is a brisk business today in Sinatra CDs and downloaded music.
There are many biographies, memoirs, and critical books about Frank Sinatra. Even without reading any of them, people know the outline of his life: his birth to Italian immigrant parents, his luck in landing a job with Harry James and the great bands thereafter, his early mid-life crisis around 1950, when his marriage and his life seemed to fall apart, and his redemption and Academy Award for his role as Angelo Maggio in From here to Eternity. His career was reborn, and in later years he went on to outstanding success in several fields, not the least of which were his savvy business investments.
Sinatra was the singer’s singer. His timing, phrasing, and enunciation were what sold a song. You understood every word. He had a great instinct for choosing the right song, the right arrangement, and the right band or orchestra to back him. Luciano Pavarotti might be the only serious contender who comes to mind as having Sinatra’s equivalent cultural impact, and the two, admirers of each other, got along well. Both were “larger than life”, flamboyant entertainers who knew how to engage and enthrall an audience.
Except for little bits and pieces like the fact that is favorite color was orange, there’s probably nothing new any article on him could tell us. But it’s good to be celebrating his centennial, just as it’s always good to hear a Sinatra song by chance. We stop, listen, smile, and the day just got better. He sang the best of songwriters from Irving Berlin to Jimmy Webb. The titles sing in our minds just reading the names of some of his hits: Angel Eyes, Strangers in the Night, That’s Life, Gone With the Wind, Witchcraft, All or Nothing at All, Blues in the Night, You Go to My Head, Time After Time, Fly Me to the Moon, I’ll ever Smile Again, The World We Knew, Ebb Tide. Most appreciated by those of us from the “Silent Generation” and the “Baby Boomers”: It Was a Very Good Year.
“Old Blue Eyes” began life in a cold water flat on the east coast, known only to his family. He died 82 years later in Los Angeles, known to the world.
SINATRA BY THE NUMBERS
1 – First of Billboard Magazine’s Number-one Singles: I’ll Never Smile Again, 1940
2 – Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor in From Here to Eternity in 1953, and the
Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 1970
3 - His children: Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina
4 - His wives: Nancy Barbato, Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow, and Barbara Marx
5 - Members of the Rat Pack: Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr.,
and Joey Bishop
11 - Grammy Awards
42 - The denomination of the “Sinatra” U.S. Postage Stamp issued in 1980
57 - Movies he was in from 1944 to 1988
61 - Record albums – not including countless single titles that number around 1,000.
100+ Nominations and awards, documentaries, cameos, radio and television shows and concerts, all too numerous to mention