Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra by Gottlieb c1947- 2.jpg
Sinatra at the Liederkranz Hall in New York, 1947
Born Francis Albert Sinatra
(1915-12-12)December 12, 1915
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.[1]
Died May 14, 1998(1998-05-14) (aged 82)
West Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Heart attack
Resting place
Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.
Occupation
  • Singer
  • actor
  • filmmaker
Years active 1935–1995[2]
Political party
Democratic (1944–1970s)
Republican (1970s–1998)
Spouse(s) Nancy Barbato (m. 1939–51)
Ava Gardner (m. 1951–57)
Mia Farrow (m. 1966–68)
Barbara Marx (m. 1976–98)
Children Nancy Sinatra
Frank Sinatra, Jr.
Tina Sinatra
Parents Anthony Martin Sinatra
Natalina Garaventa
Awards List of awards and nominations received by Frank Sinatra
Musical career
Genres
Instruments Vocals
Labels
Associated acts
Website
sinatra.com

Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra (/sɨˈnɑːtrə/; December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998[3]) was an American singer, actor, and filmmaker.

Beginning his musical career in the swing era as a boy singer with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra found success as a solo artist from the early to mid-1940s after being signed by Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the "bobby soxers", he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. His professional career had stalled by the early 1950s, but it was reborn in 1953 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity. He signed with Capitol Records in 1953 and released several critically lauded albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice 'n' Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records in 1961 (finding success with albums such as Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Sinatra at the Sands and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and statesmen, including John F. Kennedy.

Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with "Strangers in the Night" and "My Way". With sales of his music dwindling and after appearing in several poorly received films, Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971. Two years later, however, he came out of retirement and from 1973 recorded several albums, scoring a Top 40 hit with "(Theme From) New York, New York" in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally, until a short time before his death in 1998. Sinatra also forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning Best Supporting Actor in 1953, he also garnered a nomination for Best Actor for The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and critical acclaim for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He also starred in such musicals as On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957).

Sinatra is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.[4] He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. One of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century, Sinatra had a popularity that was later matched only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles,[5] and Michael Jackson.[6]

Early life[edit]

Frank Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only child of Italian immigrants Natalina Garaventa[7]:25 and Antonino Martino Sinatra,[7]:22 and was raised Roman Catholic.[8] In his book Try and Stop Me (p. 218), American publisher and writer Bennett Cerf says that Sinatra's father was a lightweight boxer who fought under the name Marty O'Brien and served with the Hoboken Fire Department as a Captain. His mother, known as Dolly, was influential in the neighborhood and in local Democratic Party circles, but also ran an illegal abortion business that provided services for free, from her home; she was arrested several times and convicted twice for this offense.[7]:16 During the Great Depression, Dolly nevertheless provided money to her son for outings with friends and expensive clothes.[9]

Sinatra left high school without graduating,[7]:38 having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. In 1938, Sinatra was arrested for adultery and seduction, a criminal offense at the time.[10] For his livelihood, he worked as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper,[7]:44 and later as a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard,[7]:47 but music was Sinatra's main interest, and he listened carefully to big band jazz.[11] He began singing for tips at the age of eight, standing on top of the bar at a local nightclub in Hoboken. Sinatra began singing professionally as a teenager in the 1930s,[7]:48 although he learned music by ear and never learned how to read music.[11]

Career[edit]

1935–40: Start of career, work with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey[edit]

Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four,[12] and they sufficiently impressed Edward Bowes. After appearing on his show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour,[13] they attracted 40,000 votes and won first prize – a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.

Sinatra left the Hoboken Four and returned home in late 1935. His mother secured him a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey,[13] for which he was paid $15 a week.[14]

On March 18, 1939, Sinatra made a demo recording of a song called "Our Love", with the Frank Mane band. The record has "Frank Sinatra" signed on the front. The bandleader kept the original record in a safe for nearly 60 years.[7][page needed] In June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one-year contract of $75 a week.[15] It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record "From the Bottom of My Heart" in July 1939[13] – US Brunswick No. 8443 and UK Columbia #DB2150.[16][page needed] In September 1940, Sinatra, after playing with Tommy Dorsey at Old Orchard Beach Pier, surprised nightclubbers in Portland, Maine, by turning up at the Morocco Lounge. "It was way before he became famous." [17]

Fewer than 8,000 copies of "From the Bottom of My Heart" (Brunswick No. 8443) were sold, making the record a very rare find that is sought after by record collectors worldwide. Sinatra released ten commercial tracks with James through 1939, including "All or Nothing At All" which had weak sales on its initial release, but then sold millions of copies when re-released by Columbia at the height of Sinatra's popularity a few years later.[18]

In November 1939, in a meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, Sinatra was asked by bandleader Tommy Dorsey to join his band as a replacement for Jack Leonard (the vocalist, not to be confused with the comedian Jack E. Leonard), who had recently left to launch a solo career. This meeting was a turning point in Sinatra's career. By signing with Dorsey's band, one of the hottest at the time, he greatly increased his visibility with the American public. Though Sinatra was still under contract with James, James recognized the opportunity Dorsey offered and graciously released Sinatra from his contract.[19] Sinatra recognized his debt to James throughout his life and upon hearing of James' death in 1983, stated: "he [James] is the one that made it all possible."[20][page needed]

On January 26, 1940, Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Dorsey band at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, Illinois.[21][page needed] In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra released more than forty songs, with "I'll Never Smile Again" topping the charts for twelve weeks beginning in mid-July.[7]:91

Sinatra's relationship with Tommy Dorsey was troubled, because of their contract, which awarded Dorsey one-third of Sinatra's lifetime earnings in the entertainment industry. In January 1942, Sinatra recorded his first solo sessions without the Dorsey band (but with Dorsey's arranger Axel Stordahl and with Dorsey's approval). These sessions were released commercially on the Bluebird label. On September 3, 1942, Dorsey bid a fond farewell to Sinatra, replacing him with singer Dick Haymes.[19] But an incident started rumors of Sinatra's involvement with the Mafia. A story appeared in the Hearst newspapers that mobster and Sinatra's Godfather Willie Moretti coerced Dorsey to let Sinatra out of his contract for a few thousand dollars, and was fictionalized in the book and movie The Godfather.[11] According to Nancy Sinatra's biography, the Hearst rumors were started because of Frank's Democratic politics. In fact, the contract was bought out by MCA founder Jules C. Stein for $75,000.[20][page needed]

1940–50: Sinatramania and decline of career[edit]

In May 1941, Sinatra was at the top of the male singer polls in Billboard and Down Beat magazines.[7]:94 His appeal to bobby soxers, as teenage girls of that time were called, revealed a whole new audience for popular music, which had been recorded mainly for adults up to that time.[22]

On December 30, 1942, Sinatra made a "legendary opening" at the Paramount Theater in New York. Jack Benny later said, "I thought the goddamned building was going to cave in. I never heard such a commotion ... All this for a fellow I never heard of." When Sinatra returned to the Paramount in October 1944, 35,000 fans caused a near riot outside the venue because they were not allowed in.[11]

During the musicians' strike of 1942–44, Columbia re-released Harry James and Sinatra's version of "All or Nothing at All" (music by Arthur Altman and lyrics by Jack Lawrence), recorded in August 1939 and released before Sinatra had made a name for himself. The original release did not even mention the vocalist's name. When the recording was re–released in 1943 with Sinatra's name prominently displayed, the record was on the best–selling list for 18 weeks and reached number 2 on June 2, 1943.[23]

Sinatra radio interview

Sinatra signed with Columbia on June 1, 1943, as a solo artist, and he initially had great success, particularly during the 1942–44 musicians' strike. Although no new records had been issued during the strike, he had been performing on the radio (on Your Hit Parade), and on stage. Columbia wanted new recordings of their growing star as quickly as possible, so Sinatra convinced them to hire Alec Wilder as arranger and conductor for several sessions with a vocal group called the Bobby Tucker Singers. These first sessions were on June 7, June 22, August 5, and November 10, 1943. Of the nine songs recorded during these sessions, seven charted on the best–selling list.[24]

Sinatra did not serve in the military during World War II. On December 11, 1943, he was classified 4-F ("Registrant not acceptable for military service") for a perforated eardrum by his draft board. Additionally, an FBI report on Sinatra, released in 1998, showed that the doctors had also written that he was a "neurotic" and "not acceptable material from a psychiatric standpoint." This was omitted from his record to avoid "undue unpleasantness for both the selectee and the induction service."[25][26] Active-duty servicemen, like journalist William Manchester, said of Sinatra, "I think Frank Sinatra was the most hated man of World War II, much more than Hitler", because Sinatra was back home making all of that money and being shown in photographs surrounded by beautiful women.[9]:91[27] His exemption would resurface throughout his life and cause him grief when he had to defend himself.[25][28] There were accusations, including some from noted columnist Walter Winchell,[29] that Sinatra paid $40,000 to avoid the service – but the FBI found no evidence of this.[26][30]

In her book "Over Here, Over There" with Bill Gilbert, Maxene Andrews recalled when Sinatra entertained the troops during an overseas USO tour with comedian Phil Silvers during the war, observing, "I guess they just had a wing-ding, whatever it was. Sinatra demanded his own plane. But Bing [Crosby] said, 'Don't demand anything. Just go over there and sing your hearts out.' So, we did."[31] Sinatra worked frequently with the very popular Andrews Sisters, both on radio in the 1940s, appearing as guests on each other's shows, as well as on many shows broadcast to troops via the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). He appeared as special guest on a rare pilot episode of the sisters' ABC Eight-to-the-Bar Ranch series at the end of 1944, and returned for another much funnier guest stint a few months later, while the trio in turn guested on his Songs by Sinatra series on CBS, to the delight of an audience filled with screaming bobby-soxers. Patty, Maxene, and LaVerne also teamed with Frankie when they appeared three times as guests on Sinatra's CBS television show in the early-1950s. Maxene once told Joe Franklin during a 1979 WWOR-AM Radio interview that Sinatra was "a peculiar man," with the ability to act indifferent towards her at times.[32]

In 1945, Sinatra co-starred with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. That same year, he was loaned out to RKO to star in a short film titled The House I Live In. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, this film on tolerance and racial equality earned a special Academy Award shared among Sinatra and those who brought the film to the screen, along with a special Golden Globe for "Promoting Good Will". 1946 saw the release of his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, and the debut of his own weekly radio show. By the end of 1948, Sinatra felt that his career was stalling, something that was confirmed when he slipped to No. 4 on Down Beat's annual poll of most popular singers (behind Billy Eckstine, Frankie Laine, and Bing Crosby).[7]:149

The year 1949 saw an upswing, as Frank co-starred with Gene Kelly in Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It was well received critically and became a major commercial success. That same year, Sinatra teamed up with Kelly for a third time in On the Town. Starting in September 1949, the BBD&O advertising agency produced a radio series starring Sinatra for its client Lucky Strike called "Light Up Time" [1] – some 176 15-minute shows which featured Frank and Dorothy Kirsten singing – which lasted through to May 1950.

1950–60: Rebirth of career, Capitol concept albums[edit]

After two years' absence, Sinatra returned to the concert stage on January 12, 1950, in Hartford, Connecticut. His voice suffered and he experienced hemorrhaging of his vocal cords on stage at the Copacabana on April 26, 1950.[9][page needed] Sinatra's career and appeal to new teen audiences declined as he moved into his mid-30s.

In September 1951, Sinatra made his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn, and he became a prominent figure on the Las Vegas scene throughout the 1950s and 1960s. A month later, the second season of The Frank Sinatra Show began on CBS Television. Ultimately, Sinatra did not find the success on television for which he had hoped.

People like fellow crooner Perry Como exuded the kind of cozy congeniality that played well on the small screen.[33]:439 Sinatra on the other hand projected a bristly arrogance not compatible with the type of people that Middle America invited into their homes each week.

His last studio recording for Columbia was made in New York [34] in September 1952, "Why Try To Change Me Now",[13] with orchestra arranged and conducted by Percy Faith. Columbia and MCA dropped him later in 1952.

The rebirth of Sinatra's career began with the eve-of-Pearl Harbor drama From Here to Eternity (1953), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This role and performance marked a turnaround in Sinatra's career: after several years of critical and commercial decline, becoming an Oscar-winning actor helped him regain his position as the top recording artist in the world.[35]

In 1953, Sinatra starred in the NBC radio program Rocky Fortune. His character, Rocco Fortunato (aka Rocky Fortune) was a temp worker for the Gridley Employment Agency who stumbled into crime-solving by way of the odd jobs to which he was dispatched. The series [36] aired on NBC radio Tuesday nights from October 1953 to March 1954, following the network's crime drama hit Dragnet. During the final months of the show, just before the 1954 Oscars, it became a running gag that Sinatra would manage to work the phrase "from here to eternity" into each episode, a reference to his Oscar-nominated performance.[37]

Also in 1953, Sinatra signed with Capitol Records, where he worked with many of the finest musical arrangers of the era, most notably Nelson Riddle,[13] Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May. With a series of albums featuring darker emotional material, Sinatra reinvented himself, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955) – Sinatra's first 12" LP and his second collaboration with Nelson Riddle – Where Are You? (1957) his first album in stereo, with Gordon Jenkins, and Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958). He also incorporated a hipper, "swinging" persona into some of his music, as heard on Swing Easy! (1954), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), and Come Fly With Me (1957).

By the end of the year, Billboard had named "Young at Heart" Song of the Year (the title song of his 1954 movie with Doris Day); Swing Easy!, with Nelson Riddle at the helm (his second album for Capitol), was named Album of the Year; and Sinatra was named "Top Male Vocalist" by Billboard, Down Beat and Metronome.

A third collaboration with Nelson Riddle, released in March 1956, Songs for Swingin' Lovers!, was both a critical and financial success, featuring a recording of "I've Got You Under My Skin".

Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, a stark collection of introspective saloon songs and blues-tinged ballads, was released in September 1958, and proved a huge commercial success, spending 120 weeks on Billboards album chart and peaking at No. 1. Cuts from this LP, such as "Angel Eyes" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", would remain staples of Sinatra's concerts throughout his life.

Sinatra with Grace Kelly in High Society

Through the late fifties, Sinatra frequently criticized rock and roll music, much of it being his reaction to rhythms and attitudes he found alien. In 1958 he lambasted it as "sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons. It manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth."[38]

Sinatra's 1959 hit "High Hopes" lasted on the Hot 100 for 17 weeks, more than any other Sinatra hit did on that chart, and was a recurring favorite for years on Captain Kangaroo.

1960–70: Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Reprise records, Basie, Jobim, "My Way"[edit]

Sinatra started the 1960s as he ended the 1950s. His first album of the decade, Nice 'n' Easy, topped Billboard '​s chart and won critical plaudits. Sinatra grew discontented at Capitol and decided to form his own label, Reprise Records. His first album on the label, Ring-a-Ding-Ding! (1961), was a major success, peaking at No.4 on Billboard and No.8 in the UK.

Frank Sinatra at Girl's Town Ball in Florida, March 12, 1960

In 1965, he starred in what was considered one of his most successful films, Von Ryan's Express. His fourth and final Timex TV special was broadcast in March 1960, and earned massive viewing figures. Titled It's Nice to Go Travelling, the show is more commonly known as Welcome Home Elvis. Elvis Presley's appearance after his army discharge was somewhat ironic; Sinatra had been scathing about him in the mid fifties, saying: "His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people."[39] Presley had responded: "... [Sinatra] is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it ... [rock and roll] is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago."[40] Later, in efforts to maintain his commercial viability, Sinatra recorded Presley's hit "Love Me Tender" as well as works by Paul Simon ("Mrs. Robinson"), The Beatles ("Something", "Yesterday"), and Joni Mitchell ("Both Sides, Now").[41] Following on the heels of the film Can Can was Ocean's 11, the movie that became the definitive on-screen outing for "The Rat Pack," a group of entertainers led by Sinatra who worked together on a loose basis in films and casino shows featuring Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. Subsequent pictures together included Sergeants 3 and Robin and the 7 Hoods, although the movies' rosters of actors varied slightly according to whom Sinatra happened to be angry with when casting any given film; he replaced Sammy Davis, Jr. with Steve McQueen in Never So Few and Peter Lawford with Bing Crosby in Robin and the 7 Hoods.

From his youth, Sinatra displayed sympathy for African Americans and worked both publicly and privately all his life to help them win equal rights. He played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and led his fellow Rat Pack members and Reprise label mates in boycotting hotels and casinos that refused entry to black patrons and performers. He often spoke from the stage on desegregation and repeatedly played benefits on behalf of Dr. King and his movement. According to his son, Frank Sinatra, Jr., King sat weeping in the audience at a concert in 1963 as Sinatra sang Ol' Man River, a song from the musical Show Boat that is sung by an African-American stevedore.

On September 11 and 12, 1961, Sinatra recorded his final songs for Capitol.

In 1962, he starred with Janet Leigh and Laurence Harvey in the political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, playing Bennett Marco. That same year, Sinatra and Count Basie collaborated for the album Sinatra-Basie. This popular and successful release prompted them to rejoin two years later for the follow-up It Might as Well Be Swing, which was arranged by Quincy Jones. One of Sinatra's more ambitious albums from the mid-1960s, The Concert Sinatra, with a 73-piece symphony orchestra led by Nelson Riddle, was recorded on a motion picture scoring stage with the use of multiple synchronized recording machines that employed 35 mm magnetic film (multi-track tape mastering machines were then limited to 4 tracks, although 3 tracks was more common; an 8 track machine, "The Octopus", had been made as a "one-off" for Les Paul earlier).

Sinatra's first live album, Sinatra at the Sands, was recorded during January and February 1966 at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Martin with Sinatra

In June 1965, Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin played live in St. Louis to benefit Dismas House. The Rat Pack concert was broadcast live via satellite to numerous movie theaters across America. Released in August 1965 was the Grammy Award–winning album of the year, September of My Years, containing the single "It Was a Very Good Year", which won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1966. A career anthology, A Man and His Music, followed in November, winning Album of the Year at the Grammys in 1966. The TV special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, garnered both an Emmy award and a Peabody Award.

In spring, That's Life appeared, with both the single and album becoming Top Ten hits in the US on Billboard's pop charts. Strangers in the Night went on to top the Billboard[13] and UK pop singles charts, winning the award for Record of the Year at the Grammys. The album of the same name also topped the Billboard chart and reached number 4 in the UK.

Sinatra started 1967 with a series of recording sessions with Antônio Carlos Jobim. Later in the year, a duet with daughter Nancy, "Somethin' Stupid", topped the Billboard pop and UK singles charts. In December, Sinatra collaborated with Duke Ellington on the album Francis A. & Edward K..

During the late 1960s, press agent Lee Solters would invite columnists and their spouses into Sinatra's dressing room just before he was about to go on stage. The New Yorker recounted that "the first columnist they tried this on was Larry Fields of the Philadelphia Daily News, whose wife fainted when Sinatra kissed her cheek. 'Take care of it, Lee,' Sinatra said, and he was off." The professional relationship Sinatra shared with Solters focused on projects on the west coast while those focused on the east coast were handled by Solters' partner, Sheldon Roskin of Solters/Roskin/Friedman, a well-known firm at the time.[42]

Back on the small-screen, Sinatra once again worked with Jobim and Ella Fitzgerald on the TV special, A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim.

With Sinatra in mind, singer-songwriter Paul Anka wrote the song "My Way", inspired by the French "Comme d'habitude" ("As Usual"), composed by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. "My Way" became more closely identified with Sinatra than any other song over his seven decades as a singer, even though he reputedly did not care for it.

Watertown (1970) was one of Sinatra's most acclaimed concept albums[43] with music by Bob Gaudio (of the Four Seasons) and lyrics by Jake Holmes, but it was all but ignored by the public. Selling a mere 30,000 copies in 1970 and reaching a peak chart position of 101, its failure put an end to plans for a television special based on the album. Watertown was one of the only recording sessions having Sinatra sing against pre-recorded tracks instead of a live orchestra.

1970–80: Retirement and comeback[edit]

Empress Farah Diba of Persia (Iran) and Frank Sinatra, Tehran, 1975
Frank Sinatra, with Giulio Andreotti (left), President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon at the White House, 1973

On November 2, 1970, Sinatra recorded the last songs for Reprise Records before his self-imposed retirement. The final song recorded at the session was written by John Denver and titled "The Game is Over". However, this song was not released officially until The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings suitcase box-set, which went on sale in 1995 to commemorate his 80th birthday.

On June 13, 1971, at a concert in Hollywood to raise money for the Motion Picture and TV Relief Fund, at the age of 55, Sinatra announced that he was retiring, presumably bringing to an end his 36-year career in show business.

While he was in retirement, President Richard Nixon asked him to perform at a Young Voters Rally in anticipation of the upcoming campaign. Sinatra obliged and chose to sing "My Kind of Town" for the rally held in Chicago on October 20, 1972. It is the only known public performance he gave during his "retirement" period.

In 1973, Sinatra came out of his short-lived retirement with a television special and album, both entitled Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. The album, arranged by Gordon Jenkins and Don Costa, was a great success, reaching number 13 on Billboard and number 12 in the UK. The TV special was highlighted by a dramatic reading of "Send in the Clowns" and a song-and-dance sequence with former co-star Gene Kelly.

In January 1974, Sinatra returned to Las Vegas, performing at Caesars Palace despite vowing in 1970 never to play there again after the manager of the resort, Sanford Waterman, pulled a gun on him during a heated argument.[9]:436 In Australia, he caused an uproar by describing journalists there – who were aggressively pursuing his every move and pushing for a press conference – as "fags", "pimps", and "whores". Australian unions representing transport workers, waiters, and journalists went on strike, demanding that Sinatra apologize for his remarks.[9]:464 Sinatra instead insisted that the journalists apologize for "fifteen years of abuse I have taken from the world press".[9]:464 The future Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, then the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) leader, also insisted that Sinatra apologize, and a settlement was eventually reached to the apparent satisfaction of both parties.[9]:464 Sinatra's final show of his Australian tour was televised.

In October 1974, Sinatra appeared at New York City's Madison Square Garden in a televised concert that was later released as an album under the title The Main Event – Live. Backing him was bandleader Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd, who accompanied Sinatra on a European tour later that month. The TV special garnered mostly positive reviews while the album – actually culled from various shows during his comeback tour – was only a moderate success, peaking at No.37 on Billboard and No.30 in the UK.

In August 1975, Sinatra held several back-to-back concerts together with the newly-risen singer John Denver. Soon they became friends. John Denver later appeared as a guest in the Sinatra and Friends TV Special, singing "September Song" together with Sinatra. Sinatra covered the John Denver hits "My Sweet Lady" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane". And, according to Denver, his song "A Baby Just Like You" was written at Sinatra's request.

During Labor Day weekend 1976 Sinatra was responsible for reuniting old friends and comedy partners Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for the first time in nearly twenty years. Sinatra performed for the "Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon" that afternoon and before he performed he brought Martin out on stage.

In 1979, in front of the Egyptian pyramids, Sinatra performed for Anwar Sadat. Back in Las Vegas, while celebrating 40 years in show business and his 64th birthday, he was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award during a party at Caesars Palace.

1980–90: Trilogy, She Shot Me Down, L.A. Is My Lady[edit]

Sinatra sings with then First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House.

In 1980, Sinatra's first album in six years was released, Trilogy: Past Present Future, a highly ambitious triple album that found Sinatra recording songs from the past (pre-rock era) and present (rock era and contemporary) that he had overlooked during his career, while 'The Future' was a free-form suite of new songs linked à la musical theater by a theme, in this case, Sinatra pondering over the future. The album garnered six Grammy nominations – winning for best liner notes – and peaked at number 17 on Billboard's album chart, while spawning yet another song that would become a signature tune, "Theme from New York, New York", as well as Sinatra's much lauded (second) recording of George Harrison's "Something" (the first was not officially released on an album until 1972's Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2).

The following year, Sinatra built on the success of Trilogy with She Shot Me Down, an album that revisited the dark tone of his Capitol years, and was praised by critics as a vintage late-period Sinatra. Sinatra would comment that it was "A complete saloon album ... tear-jerkers and cry-in-your-beer kind of things".[44]

Also in 1981, Sinatra was embroiled in controversy when he worked a ten-day engagement for $2 million in Sun City, in the internationally unrecognized "independent" bantustan Bophuthatswana, breaking a cultural boycott against apartheid-era South Africa. (See Artists United Against Apartheid) Bophuthatswana's president, Lucas Mangope, awarded Sinatra with Bophuthatswana's highest honor, the Order of the Leopard, and made him an honorary tribal chief.[45]

He was selected as one of the five recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors, alongside Katherine Dunham, James Stewart, Elia Kazan, and Virgil Thomson. Quoting Henry James, President Reagan said in honoring his old friend that "art was the shadow of humanity" and that Sinatra had "spent his life casting a magnificent and powerful shadow".[9]:544

In 1984, Sinatra worked with Quincy Jones for the first time in nearly two decades on the album, L.A. Is My Lady, which was well received critically. The album was a substitute for another Jones project, an album of duets with Lena Horne, which had to be abandoned. (Horne developed vocal problems and Sinatra, committed to other engagements, could not wait to record.)

1990s: Duets, final performances[edit]

In 1990 Sinatra was awarded the second "Ella Award" by the Los Angeles based Society of Singers, and performed for a final time with Ella Fitzgerald at the award ceremony.[46][page needed] Sinatra maintained an active touring schedule in the early 1990s, performing 65 concerts in 1990, 73 in 1991 and 84 in 1992 in seventeen different countries.[47] In 1993, Sinatra returned to Capitol Records and the recording studio for Duets. The album and its sequel, Duets II, would see Sinatra remake his classic recordings with popular contemporary performers, who added their vocals to a pre-recorded tape.[47]

Still touring despite various health problems, Sinatra remained a top concert attraction on a global scale during the first half of the 1990s. At times during concerts his memory failed him and a fall onstage in Richmond, Virginia, in March 1994, signaled further problems. Sinatra's final public concerts were held in Japan's Fukuoka Dome in December 1994. The following year, on February 25, 1995, at a private party for 1200 select guests on the closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, Sinatra sang before a live audience for the very last time. Esquire reported of the show that Sinatra was "clear, tough, on the money" and "in absolute control". His closing song was "The Best is Yet to Come".

Sinatra was awarded the Legend Award at the 1994 Grammy Awards, where he was introduced by Bono, who said of him, "Frank's the chairman of the bad attitude ... Rock 'n roll plays at being tough, but this guy is the boss – the chairman of boss ... I'm not going to mess with him, are you?"[48] Sinatra called it "the best welcome ... I ever had", but his acceptance speech ran too long and was abruptly cut off, leaving him looking confused and talking into a dead microphone.[49][50]

In 1995, to mark Sinatra's 80th birthday, the Empire State Building glowed blue. A star-studded birthday tribute, Sinatra: 80 Years My Way, was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. At the end of the program Sinatra graced the stage for the last time to sing the final notes of "New York, New York" with an ensemble. It was Sinatra's last televised appearance.

In recognition of his many years of association with Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.[51]

Personal life[edit]

Sinatra had three children, Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina, all with his first wife, Nancy Sinatra (née Barbato) (m. 1939–1951). He was married three more times, to actresses Ava Gardner (m. 1951–1957), Mia Farrow (m. 1966–1968), and finally to Barbara Marx (m. 1976–1998; his death). In a 2013 Vanity Fair article, Mia Farrow claimed that Sinatra may be the father of her son, Ronan Farrow; but she did not produce, and has not since produced, any DNA or other evidence to support that possibility.[52]

Throughout his life, Sinatra had mood swings and bouts of depression. Avoiding solitude and unglamorous surroundings at all cost, he struggled with the conflicting need "to get away from it all, but not too far away."[33]:485 He acknowledged this, telling an interviewer in the 1950s: "Being an 18-karat manic depressive, and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation."[7]:218 In her memoirs My Father's Daughter, his daughter Tina wrote about the "eighteen-karat" remark: "As flippant as Dad could be about his mental state, I believe that a Zoloft a day might have kept his demons away. But that kind of medicine was decades off."[53]

In a 1963 interview with Playboy magazine, Sinatra described his religious views, stating

I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I'm like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life – in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don't believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice.[54]

Sinatra turned to the Catholic Church for healing after his mother died in a plane crash. He died as a practicing Catholic and had a Catholic burial.[55]

Although beloved as a hero by his hometown of Hoboken, Frank Sinatra rarely visited it. According to one account, Sinatra returned once in 1948 to celebrate the election of Hoboken's first Italian mayor and was not well received by the crowd. He stated he would never come back, and did not return until 1984, to appear with Ronald Reagan.[56]

Alleged organized-crime links[edit]

Sinatra's alleged personal and professional links with organized-crime[57] figures such as Carlo Gambino,[58] Sam Giancana,[58] Lucky Luciano,[58] and Joseph Fischetti garnered considerable attention.[58] The Federal Bureau of Investigation kept records amounting to 2,403 pages on Sinatra. With his alleged Mafia ties, his ardent New Deal politics and his friendship with John F. Kennedy, he was a natural target for J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.[59] The FBI kept Sinatra under surveillance for almost five decades beginning in the 1940s. The documents include accounts of Sinatra as the target of death threats and extortion schemes.[60]

For a year Hoover investigated Sinatra's alleged Communist affiliations, but found no evidence. The files include his rendezvous with prostitutes, and his extramarital affair with Ava Gardner, which preceded their marriage. Celebrities mentioned in the files are Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, and Giancana's girlfriend, singer Phyllis McGuire.

The FBI's secret dossier on Sinatra was released in 1998 in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The released FBI files reveal some tantalizing insights into Sinatra's lifetime consistency in pursuing and embracing seemingly conflicting affiliations. But Sinatra's alliances had a practical aspect. They were adaptive mechanisms for behavior motivated by self-interest and inner anxieties. In September 1950 Sinatra felt particularly vulnerable. He was in a panic over his moribund career and haunted by the continual speculations and innuendos in circulation regarding his draft status in World War II. Sinatra "was scared, his career had sprung a leak." In a letter dated September 17, 1950, to Clyde Tolson, Deputy FBI Director, Sinatra offered to be of service to the FBI as an informer. An excerpted passage from a memo in FBI files states that Sinatra "feels he can be of help as a result of going anywhere the Bureau desires and contacting any people from whom he might be able to obtain information. Sinatra feels as a result of his publicity he can operate without suspicion ... he is willing to go the whole way." The FBI declined his assistance.[33]:446–47

Political views[edit]

Sinatra held differing political views throughout his life.

Eleanor Roosevelt and Sinatra in 1947; Sinatra named his son after her husband.

Sinatra's parents had immigrated to the United States in 1895 and 1897 respectively. His mother, Dolly Sinatra (1896–1977), was a Democratic Party ward leader.[61]

Sinatra remained a supporter of the Democratic Party until the early 1970s when he switched his allegiance to the Republican Party.

Political activities 1944–68[edit]

Sinatra, pictured here with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1960, was an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party until 1964.

In 1944, after sending a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sinatra was invited to meet Roosevelt at the White House, where he agreed to become part of the Democratic party's voter registration drives, and heavily campaigned for the Democrats in the 1944 presidential election.[62]:40[62]:40

After World War II, Sinatra's politics grew steadily more left wing,[62]:41 and he became more publicly associated with the Popular Front. He started reading progressive literature and supported many organizations that were later identified as front organizations of the Communist Party by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, though Sinatra was never brought before the committee. Sinatra spoke at a number of New Jersey high schools in 1945, where students had gone on strike in opposition to racial integration. Later that year Sinatra would appear in The House I Live In, a short film that stood against racism.

In 1948, Sinatra actively campaigned for President Harry S. Truman.[63] In 1952 and 1956, he also campaigned for Adlai Stevenson.[63]

Of all the U.S. Presidents he associated with during his career, he was closest to John F. Kennedy.[63] In 1960, Sinatra and his friends Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. actively campaigned for Kennedy throughout the United States;[63] A specially recorded version of "High Hopes" with lyrics praising Kennedy, was frequently played during the 1960 presidential election.[63]

In January 1961, Sinatra and Peter Lawford organized the Inaugural Gala in Washington, DC, held on the evening before President Kennedy was sworn into office.[63] The event, featuring many notable entertainment figures, was an enormous success, raising a large amount of money for the Democratic Party.[9][page needed]

Sinatra's move toward the Republicans seems to have begun when he was snubbed by President Kennedy in favor of Bing Crosby,[64] a fellow singer and a Republican, for Kennedy's visit to Palm Springs, in 1962. Kennedy had planned to stay at Sinatra's home over the Easter holiday weekend, but decided against doing so because of Sinatra's alleged connections to organized crime.[64] Kennedy stayed at Crosby's house instead.[64] Sinatra had invested a lot of his own money in upgrading the facilities at his home in anticipation of the President's visit.[65] At the time, President Kennedy's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was intensifying his own investigations into organized crime figures such as Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, who had earlier stayed at Sinatra's home. Despite his break with Kennedy, however, he still mourned when Kennedy was assassinated.[63] According to his daughter Nancy, Sinatra learned of Kennedy's assassination while filming a scene of Robin and the 7 Hoods in Burbank.[63] Sinatra quickly finished filming the scene, returned to his Palm Springs home, and sobbed in his bedroom for three days.[63]

Political activities 1970–94[edit]

In 1970, the first sign of Sinatra's break from the Democratic Party came when he endorsed Ronald Reagan for a second term as Governor of California;[46][63] Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat and encouraged Reagan to become more moderate.[63] In July 1972, after a lifetime of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, Sinatra announced he would support Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon for re-election in the 1972 presidential election. His switch to the Republican Party was now official;[63] he even told his daughter Tina, who had actively campaigned for Nixon's Democratic opponent George McGovern,[63] "the older you get, the more conservative you get."[63] Sinatra said he agreed with the Republican Party on most positions, except that of abortion.[62]

Sinatra is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

During Nixon's Presidency, Sinatra visited the White House on several occasions.[63] Sinatra also became a good friend of Vice President Spiro Agnew. In 1973, Agnew was charged with corruption and resigned as Vice President; Sinatra helped Agnew pay some of his legal bills.[9]:458

In the 1980 presidential election, Sinatra supported Ronald Reagan, and donated $4 million to Reagan's campaign. Sinatra said he supported Reagan as he was "the proper man to be the President of the United States ... it's so screwed up now, we need someone to straighten it out."[46]:395 Reagan's victory gave Sinatra his closest relationship with the White House since the early 1960s.[63] Sinatra arranged Reagan's Presidential gala, as he had done for Kennedy 20 years previously.[9]:503 In 1984, Sinatra returned to his birthplace in Hoboken, bringing with him President Reagan, who was in the midst of campaigning for the 1984 presidential election. Reagan had made Sinatra a fund-raising ambassador as part of the Republican National Committee's "Victory '84 Get-Out-The-Vote" (GOTV) drive.[9]:560[66]

Death[edit]

Sinatra's gravestone at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.

Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, aged 82, after suffering a fatal heart attack. Sinatra had suffered from ill health for the last few years of his life, and had been frequently hospitalized for heart and breathing problems, high blood pressure, pneumonia and bladder cancer, as well as suffering from dementia.[67] He had made no public appearances following a heart attack in February 1997.[68] Sinatra died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with his wife, Barbara, by his side.[68] She had encouraged him to "fight" while attempts were made to stabilize him, and his final words were, "I'm losing."[69] Sinatra's daughter, Tina, later wrote that she and her sister, Nancy, had not been notified of their father's final hospitalization, and it was her belief that "the omission was deliberate. Barbara would be the grieving widow alone at her husband's side."[70] The night after Sinatra's death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue.[71]

Sinatra's funeral was held at the Roman Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, California, on May 20, 1998, with 400 mourners in attendance and thousands of fans outside.[72] Gregory Peck, Tony Bennett, and Sinatra's son, Frank, Jr. addressed the mourners, who included many notable people from film and entertainment.[69][72] Sinatra was buried with mementos from family members including cherry-flavored Life Savers, Tootsie Rolls, a bottle of Jack Daniel's, a pack of Camel cigarettes and a Zippo lighter, stuffed toys, and a dog biscuit,[70] next to his parents in section B-8 of Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.[3][69][73] His close friends, Jilly Rizzo and Jimmy Van Heusen, are buried nearby. The words "The Best Is Yet to Come" are imprinted on Sinatra's grave marker.[74]

Honors and legacy[edit]

Frank Sinatra's television star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located on 1637 Vine Street

The United States Postal Service issued a 42-cent postage stamp in honor of Sinatra in May 2008.[75][76] The United States Congress passed a resolution introduced by Representative Mary Bono Mack on May 20, 2008, designating May 13 as Frank Sinatra Day to honor his contributions to American culture.[77]

In Sinatra's native New Jersey, Hoboken's Frank Sinatra Park, the Hoboken Post Office,[76] and a residence hall at Montclair State University were named in his honor.[78] Other buildings named for Sinatra include the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, the Frank Sinatra International Student Center at Israel's Hebrew University in Jerusalem dedicated in 1978,[79] and the Frank Sinatra Hall at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, California, dedicated in 2002.[80] Wynn Resorts' Encore Las Vegas resort features a restaurant dedicated to Sinatra which opened in 2008.[81] Items of memorabilia from Sinatra's life and career are displayed at USC's Frank Sinatra Hall and Wynn Resort's Sinatra restaurant.[80][81] Near the Las Vegas Strip is a road named Frank Sinatra Drive in his honor.

Sinatra has three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for his work in film and music on the east and west sides of the 1600 block of Vine Street respectively, and his work in television on the south side of the 6500 block of Hollywood Boulevard.[82]

Film and television portrayals[edit]

Sinatra has been portrayed on numerous occasions in film and on television. A television miniseries based on Sinatra's life, titled Sinatra, was aired by CBS in 1992. Sinatra was directed by James Steven Sadwith, who won an Emmy award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing for a Miniseries or a Special, and starred Philip Casnoff as Sinatra. Sinatra was written by Abby Mann and Philip Mastrosimone, and produced by Sinatra's daughter, Tina.[83]

Sinatra has subsequently been portrayed on screen by Ray Liotta (The Rat Pack, 1998), James Russo (Stealing Sinatra, 2003), Dennis Hopper (The Night We Called It a Day, 2003), Chris Diamantopoulos (The Kennedys, 2011), and Robert Knepper (My Way, 2012), and spoofed by Joe Piscopo and Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live. A biographical film directed by Martin Scorsese has long been in production.[84] A 1998 episode of the British documentary series Arena, The Voice of the Century, focused on Sinatra.[85]

Parallels have been drawn between Sinatra's life and the portrayal of the turbulent career of fictional singer Johnny Fontane, in the novel The Godfather, and subsequent film.[86] Sinatra himself later had an altercation with the author of The Godfather, Mario Puzo, over the content of the book.[87]

Discography[edit]

Filmography[edit]

Compositions[edit]

Frank Sinatra co-wrote the following songs:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]