3 January 2021

Sinatra

Frank Sinatra (1915-1998)

Frank Sinatra was a man of many parts. Like The Laughing Horse Blogger of the Year 2020, Sinatra lived a full life. He drank the wine and he heard the music.

I was lying in bed the other morning when the radio DJ played Sinatra's "It Was a Very Good Year (When I Was Seventeen)". A difficult song, rendered so effortlessly. He delivered it with nostalgic echoes from his own life woven into the lyrics.

I might have posted that song with this blogpost but instead I have chosen "Ol' Man River". It is said that when Martin Luther King Jr heard Sinatra singing this song live in concert, he wept.

Though Frank Sinatra was a drinker, a womanizer, a gambler, a film star, a man who hob-nobbed with presidents and underworld criminals, he was also fiercely anti-racist. Undoubtedly, his early life in a poor Italian immigrant community in New Jersey, made him understand what it is like to be excluded - on the outside. He didn't just think in an anti-racist manner, he got involved, did things. For example he was key to the desegregation of hotels in Nevada in the late fifties and early sixties.

Sinatramania was before my time. By the time The Beatles and Bob Dylan came along, he seemed to represent an earlier era and I admit that I did not deliberately listen to him though I was aware of the reverence in which he was held by many.

When he was born he weighed over thirteen pounds. He had to be yanked forcibly from his mother's womb with steel forceps. They left a deep scar on his left cheek which you may see if you look hard enough at the video. You may also notice the tears forming in his eyes as the song finishes. In his mind he had just performed a protest song, a hymn of unity that he had sung for years as the river kept rolling along:-

34 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. It made me cry too. He was such a talented man.

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    1. Like all great singers he brought his experience of life to many of his songs. It's there woven into the lyrics like golden filigree.

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  2. He did it "his" way.

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  3. I don't know, Mr. P. There's something about a very white man singing a song written by another white man in the supposed patois of a Black man that is somewhat disturbing. Sinatra was a man of vast talent and charisma for sure and a complex man, too. This song though- well. It makes me uncomfortable. And before you jump on the fact that the Rolling Stones (and many white bands) made tons of money playing the music of Black American artists, let me say that yes, and they admit their debt to the heroes who inspired them and did more than anyone to bring the names and the faces and the music of those heroes to the public eye where they finally got some of the acknowledgement and recognition they deserved. Have you ever seen the video here? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbao_laqF8E
    It's one of my absolute favorites. And now I've watched all 10:50 of it again and I'm smiling and feel as if I've been to church on a gray, chilly Sunday morning in Lloyd.

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    1. Thanks for your interesting reflections Ms Moon. I will check out that link later.

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  4. I have albums/cd's of almost all his work (yes, I'm old :). Introduced my kids to his music early on and they all still like listening to him. His phrasing and breath control was amazing.

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    1. He could really sustain a note couldn't he?

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  5. He would have been better if he'd been able to sing.

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    1. Shame he's not still with us. He'd have sent The Mafia round to see you!

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  6. Years ago, I read Sammy Davis Jr.'s (auto?)biography. He mentions is close friendship with Sinatra and how the colour of his skin never made a difference to either of them. They loved each other like only true friends do.

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  7. Sinatra was never jealous of other singers, praising Billie Holiday, Paul Robeson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis, Dinah Shore, Tony Bennett, Matt Monro and Robert Goulet - listen to Goulet singing *If I Loved You* on YouTube from Carousel.
    He was thankful for songwriters such as Irving Berlin, Jerry Kern, Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Jules Stein, Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini, Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen, Johnny Burke, Carlos Jobim, Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb, Lennon and McCartney, Billy Joel.
    And he admired writers such as James Jones, Pete Hamill and Gay Talese, and spoke at a testimonial for Irwin Shaw in New York.
    In the 1960s Benny Green organised a dinner for Sinatra at a trattoria in London, and then had to leave early because his wife was unwell.
    A year later Green was at a Sinatra recording in Los Angeles
    Sinatra walked down a line of friends and celebrities, spotted Green whom he had only met once, and asked, *How is your wife?*

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    1. That last's tale says a lot about the kind of man he was John. I don't think the American establishment liked him very much.

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    2. Jack Kennedy changed his plans and stayed at Bing Crosby's home in California, instead of Sinatra's, even though Crosby was Republican.
      JFK was worried about Sinatra's Mob associations.
      Yet Frank sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic at Bobby Kennedy's funeral.
      He campaigned to get Nat King Cole his own television show.
      Order a paperback by poet David Lehman, *Sinatra's Century*.

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    3. I am not sure how much truth there was in Sinatra's mob associations. I think that given their past history as friends, JFK treated him shabbily though I guess that presidents normally want to stay squeaky clean. (This rule does not apply to the current incumbent!)

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    4. Nancy Sinatra said every artist worked for the Mob because they owned the clubs. Jazz writer Gene Lees said that a black musician in a Chicago club might want to work in New York. He had to ask the Mob representative (*the man*) if they would release him: chances were he would be turned down.
      Sinatra sent it up in Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls.

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  8. Well, I learned several things here about Frank Sinatra that I never knew. I'd never heard the forceps story, for example! I've always liked "It Was a Very Good Year." The album that it came from, "September of My Years," is excellent. (And he was 50 when he released it. Which I guess puts me in the September of MY years!)

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    1. Sorry Steve - I think you are in the November.

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  9. You know the songs that make me teary? 'Try to Remember' and 'Moon River'.

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    1. I am also a sucker for "Try to Remember". Gets me every time.

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  10. A very poignant song by a superb singer. Thank you YP., it's a long time since I've heard anything by Sinatra.

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    1. You are welcome CG. I hope that it didn't make you go weak at the knees.

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  11. While I recognise his talent as a singer, I didn't like him much. This post of mine raised a variety of opinion. https://highriser.blogspot.com/2020/08/ol-blue-eyes-in-melbourne.html

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    1. A fascinating counterpoint Andrew. I would not even begin to defend him except to say that he was surely much more than just a "reasonable singer". He was wonderful!

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    2. Talking about wonderful, listen to ...
      *They Say It's Wonderful* by a very young Sinatra.
      *So Many Stars* by Frank Sinatra Junior.

      Both YouTube.

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  12. Like you Sinatra was a little before my time however I recognize the great talent he had. I did not know his standing on racial bias.

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  13. My husband played saxophone, and revered Sinatra, whose career was winding down then. There was a lot of Sinatra in the house, and so many other musicians, I can barely remember them now.

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    1. Much better than silence and "sax" sounds like "sex"!

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  14. My Mum and Dad saw his concert in Liverpool many years ago, they were passing the theatre just before the performance was due to start and decided to buy tickets, I still have the programme somewhere :)

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    1. Some of the best moments in our lives are not pre-planned Jane. Thanks for calling by.

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  15. I was born in the Sinatra era but never really became that aware of all that he did so your post is a timely reminder and drawing together of bits and pieces in what passes for my mind. To me the song Ol' Man River 'belongs' to Paul Robeson who also did an amazing amount of campaigning for racial equality.

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    1. In reflecting upon Sinatra I realise that he had an amazing, smooth singing voice to which he brought authentic emotion.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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