Sinatra in 1957
|Born||Francis Albert Sinatra
December 12, 1915
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||May 14, 1998
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Resting place||Desert Memorial Park, Cathedral City, California, U.S.|
|Political party||Democratic (1944–1972)
|Spouse(s)||Nancy Barbato (m. 1939–51)
Ava Gardner (m. 1951–57)
Mia Farrow (m. 1966–68)
Barbara Marx (m. 1976–98)
Frank Sinatra, Jr.
|Parent(s)||Anthony Martin Sinatra
|Awards||List of awards and nominations received by Frank Sinatra|
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra (//; December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer, actor, director, and producer. 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". In 1967, he recorded one of his most famous collaborations with Tom Jobim, the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, which was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. It was followed by 1968's collaboration with Duke Ellington. 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 music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide. 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's popularity was later matched only by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson. American music critic Robert Christgau called him "the greatest singer of the 20th century".
- 1 Early life
- 2 Career
- 2.1 1935–40: Start of career, work with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey
- 2.2 1940–50: Sinatramania and early films
- 2.3 1950–60: Rebirth of career, Capitol concept albums
- 2.4 1960–70: Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Reprise records, Basie, Jobim, "My Way"
- 2.5 1970–80: "Retirement" and return
- 2.6 1980–90: Trilogy, She Shot Me Down, L.A. Is My Lady
- 2.7 1990s: Duets, final performances
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Alleged organized-crime links
- 5 Political views
- 6 Death
- 7 Honors and legacy
- 8 Film and television portrayals
- 9 Discography
- 10 Filmography
- 11 Compositions
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only child of Italian immigrants Natalina Garaventa and Antonino Martino Sinatra, and was raised Roman Catholic. 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 from her home that provided services for free. She was arrested several times and convicted twice for this offense. During the Great Depression, Dolly, nevertheless, provided money to her son for outings with friends, and for him to buy expensive clothes.
Sinatra left high school without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. In 1938 Sinatra was arrested for seduction, a criminal offense at the time. For his livelihood, he worked as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper, and later as a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard, but music was Sinatra's main interest, and he listened carefully to big band jazz. 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, although he learned music by ear and never learned how to read music.
1935–40: Start of career, work with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey
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, and they sufficiently impressed Edward Bowes. After appearing on his show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour, 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, for which he was paid $15 a week.
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. In June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one-year contract of $75 a week. It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record "From the Bottom of My Heart" in July 1939 – US Brunswick No. 8443 and UK Columbia #DB2150. 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.
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.
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. 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."
On January 26, 1940, Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Dorsey band at the Coronado Theatre in Rockford, Illinois. 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.
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. 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.
1940–50: Sinatramania and early films
In May 1941, Sinatra was at the top of the male singer polls in Billboard and Down Beat magazines. 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.
On December 30, 1942, Sinatra made a "legendary opening" at the Paramount Theatre 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.
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 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.
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.
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. His exemption status occasionally resurfaced from certain critics, often Democrat pundits who resented his endorsement of Republican candidates when he turned Republican in the early 1970s. Biographers have noted that the singer actively supported the war effort (much as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope did, although both were much older), via USO shows and other actions in support of the military during and after WWII. Briefly, there were rumors reported by columnist Walter Winchell, that Sinatra paid $40,000 to avoid the service – but the FBI found this to be without merit.
In her book "Over Here, Over There" with Bill Gilbert, Maxene Andrews recalled when Sinatra entertained the troops during one of several successful overseas USO tours with comedian Phil Silvers during the war, observing, "Sinatra asked whether they should take their own plane, but Bing [Crosby] said they'd fly the less comfortable military aircraft, and that they should get busy 'singing our hearts out.' So, they did." Sinatra worked frequently with the popular Andrews Sisters, both on radio in the 1940s, appearing as guests on each other's shows, as well as on many USO shows broadcast to troops via the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). He appeared as special guest on a pilot episode of the sisters' ABC Eight-to-the-Bar Ranch series at the end of 1944, and returned for another 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.
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).
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 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"  – 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
After two years' absence, Sinatra returned to the concert stage on January 12, 1950, in Hartford, Connecticut. 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.
His last studio recording for Columbia was made in New York in September 1952, "Why Try To Change Me Now", 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.
In 1953, Sinatra starred in the NBC radio program Rocky Fortune. His character, Rocco Fortunato (a.k.a. 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 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.
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, 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.
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 and played as evocative of the mood of an era and still are sung with appreciation even today.
Through the late '50s, Sinatra defended the classy, stylish, lyrical music genre of the '30s and '40s that evoked romance and respect for women, but frequently criticized rock and roll music. Sinatra despised music that he found publicly demeaning of women and tasteless.
1960–70: Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Reprise records, Basie, Jobim, "My Way"
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.
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 rock and roll earlier, saying: "His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people." 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." 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"). 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. Sammy Davis, Jr. was replaced 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 often stepping in to demand apologies for a racist incident and abolishing of Jim Crow policies before he would fulfill his show contract. 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 one of his father's concerts in 1963 as Sinatra sang Ol' Man River, a song from the musical Show Boat that is sung by an African-American stevedore. His well-known support for African-Americans was the subject of a piece in the Chicago Tribune by Laura S. Washington. 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. Sinatra was backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, with Quincy Jones conducting.
In June 1965, Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin played live in St. Louis to benefit Dismas House, a prisoner rehabilitation and training center with nationwide programs that in particular helped serve African Americans. 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 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.
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 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 return
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. 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. Sinatra instead insisted that the journalists apologize for "fifteen years of abuse I have taken from the world press". 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. 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 consecutive 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
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".
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 Botswana, breaking a cultural boycott against apartheid-era South Africa. Botswana's president, Lucas Mangope, awarded Sinatra with Botswana's highest honor, the Order of the Leopard, and made him an honorary tribal chief.
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".
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.)
From the late 1980s, one of Sinatra's favorite haunts in Los Angeles was Nicky Blair's, an Italian restaurant on the Sunset Strip, where Sinatra and the Rat Pack would play poker in the kitchen to escape fans and the press.
1990s: Duets, final performances
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. 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. 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.
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?" 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.
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.
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 admitted 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.
Throughout his life, Sinatra had mood swings and bouts of mild to severe 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." 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." 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."
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.
Though turned off by organized religion at times, however, Sinatra had a deep faith that became public when he turned to the Catholic Church for healing after his mother died in a plane crash late in his career. He died as a practicing Catholic and had a Catholic burial.
Sinatra's alleged personal and professional links with organized-crime figures such as Bugsy Siegel, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano, and Joseph Fischetti garnered considerable attention. 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. 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.
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. Sinatra "was scared, his career had sprung a leak." In a letter dated September 17, 1950, to Clyde Tolson, Deputy FBI Director, in response to government investigations of Mafia intrusions into some parts of the entertainment industry, 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 but mentioned their gratitude for his willingness to assist in cleaning up organized crime in the industry.
Sinatra held differing political views throughout his life.
Sinatra remained a supporter of the Democratic Party until the early 1970s when he switched his allegiance to the Republican Party as the Democratic Party under George McGovern took a sharp turn to the left that was in conflict with his more traditional values.
Political activities 1944–68
In 1944, after sending a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in support of the president's stewardship in wartime, 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.
Of all the U.S. Presidents he associated with during his career, he was closest to John F. Kennedy. In 1960 Sinatra and his friends - Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. - actively campaigned for Kennedy throughout the United States; A specially recorded version of "High Hopes" with lyrics praising Kennedy, frequently was played during the 1960 presidential election.
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. The event, featuring many notable entertainment figures, was an enormous success, raising a large amount of money for the Democratic Party.
Sinatra's move toward the Republican party seems to have begun when he was snubbed by President Kennedy in favor of Bing Crosby, 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. Kennedy stayed at Crosby's house instead. Sinatra had invested a lot of his own money in upgrading the facilities at his home in anticipation of the President's visit. 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. According to his daughter Nancy, Sinatra learned of Kennedy's assassination while filming a scene of Robin and the 7 Hoods in Burbank. Sinatra quickly finished filming the scene, returned to his Palm Springs home, and sobbed in his bedroom for three days.
Political activities 1970–94
The first sign of Sinatra's break from the Democratic Party came in 1970 when he endorsed Ronald Reagan for a second term as Governor of California; Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat and encouraged Reagan to become more moderate. In July 1972, after a lifetime of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, Sinatra announced he could not support the left-ward turn of the party and its candidate, George McGovern, and would therefore support Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon for re-election in the 1972 presidential election. His switch to the Republican Party was now official; he even told his daughter, Tina, who had actively campaigned for Nixon's Democratic opponent George McGovern, "the older you get, the more conservative you get." Sinatra said he agreed with the Republican Party on most positions.
During Nixon's Presidency, Sinatra visited the White House on several occasions.
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." Reagan's victory gave Sinatra his closest relationship with the White House since the early 1960s. Sinatra arranged Reagan's Presidential gala, as he had done for Kennedy 20 years previously. 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.
Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, aged 82, after suffering a severe 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. He had made no public appearances following a heart attack in February 1997. Sinatra died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with his wife, Barbara, by his side. She had encouraged him to "fight" while attempts were made to stabilize him, and his final words were, "I'm losing." 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." The night after Sinatra's death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue. Also right after Sinatra's death, the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor.
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. Gregory Peck, Tony Bennett, and Sinatra's son, Frank, Jr. addressed the mourners, who included many notable people from film and entertainment. 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, next to his parents in section B-8 of Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California. His close friends, Jilly Rizzo and Jimmy Van Heusen, are buried nearby. The words "The Best Is Yet to Come", plus "Beloved Husband & Father" are imprinted on Sinatra's grave marker.
Honors and legacy
The United States Postal Service issued a 42-cent postage stamp in honor of Sinatra in May 2008, commemorating the tenth anniversary of his death. 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.
In Sinatra's native New Jersey, Hoboken's Frank Sinatra Park, the Hoboken Post Office, and a residence hall at Montclair State University were named in his honor. 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, and the Frank Sinatra Hall at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, California, dedicated in 2002. Wynn Resorts' Encore Las Vegas resort features a restaurant dedicated to Sinatra which opened in 2008. Items of memorabilia from Sinatra's life and career are displayed at USC's Frank Sinatra Hall and Wynn Resort's Sinatra restaurant. 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.
Sinatra received three honorary degrees during his lifetime. In May 1976, Frank Sinatra was invited to speak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) graduation commencement held at Sam Boyd Stadium. It was at this commencement that he was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate litterarum humanarum by the university. During his speech, Sinatra noted that his education had come from "the school of hard knocks" and was suitably touched by the award. He went on to describe that "this is the first educational degree I have ever held in my hand. I will never forget what you have done for me today". A few years later in 1984 and 1985, Sinatra also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology.
Film and television portrayals
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.
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. A 1998 episode of the British documentary series Arena, The Voice of the Century, focused on Sinatra.
Frank Sinatra co-wrote the following songs:
- "This Love of Mine", released as an RCA Victor 78 B side single in 1941 with Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra.
- "Peachtree Street", released as an A side Columbia single in 1950 as a duet with Rosemary Clooney.
- "Take My Love", released as a Columbia A side single in 1951.
- "I'm a Fool to Want You", released as a Columbia B side single in 1952.
- "Sheila", released as a Columbia A side single in 1953.
- "Mistletoe and Holly", released as a Capitol 45 single in 1957.
- "Mr. Success", released as a Capitol A side single in 1958.
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Frank Sinatra, one of the most iconic entertainers of the 20th century, will be commemorated on a postage stamp next spring, Postmaster General John Potter announced today.
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- Official website
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- Frank Sinatra at the Internet Movie Database
- Frank Sinatra at Find a Grave
- The Sinatra Report, a special section of Billboard's November 20, 1965, issue -- beginning immediately after page 34