My speech today is on not just a man, but a man who owns tens of millions of recordings, nine Grammys and two Academy Awards, some 60 films, worldwide tours, television specials, and hundreds of millions of dollars raised for charities. In sheer productivity, few popular artists could touch the hem of his tuxedo jacket. In pure, smoldering style, he was unexcelled. His rueful, macho star power ensured that the music and lyrics of the swing era would resonate throughout the later years of the 20th Century – despite a near-endless string of horror stories about his vulgarity, hot temper and alleged ties to organized crime.
Frank Sinatra was alluring and powerful not despite his contradictions, but because of them. He was bigger than life, but human as the next guy, and keenly aware of his public persona’s many sides. And yet he knew, deep down, that the music – The Voice – was clear enough, powerful enough and passionate enough to eclipse the public’s darkest doubts about Sinatra the man. Francis Albert Sinatra was born Dec. 12, 1915, the only child of working-class Italian-American immigrants, in a tenement at 415 Monroe St. in Hoboken, New Jersey.
His father, Anthony, was a boxer-turned-fireman; his mother, Natalie “Dolly” Sinatra, was a former barmaid who often sang at family gatherings. Their home and their neighborhood rang with the sounds of the Italian bel canto style of singing, which Sinatra said inspired him to sing. In high school, he saw his hero, crooner Bing Crosby, perform live, an event that inspired him to become a solo vocalist. Between working various jobs at The Jersey Observer, Sinatra sang with a neighborhood vocal group, the Hoboken Four, and appeared in neighborhood theater amateur shows, where first prize was usually $10 or a set of dishes.
His first professional gig was at the Rustic Cabin roadhouse in Englewood Cliffs (my Grandmother saw him perform there way back when), where Sinatra sang, told jokes and played the role of emcee when he wasn’t waiting tables. He also continued his 4-year love affair with hometown sweetheart Nancy Barbato, who would later become his first wife and the mother of his three children Nancy, Frank Jr. , and Tina. Sinatra later hit it big with the Tommy Dorsey Band, performing with Dorsey until he decided to go solo.
Wooing crowds of “booby-soxers,” Sinatra garnered his nickname, “The Voice. ” In the late 1940s, Sinatra met the sultry Ava Gardner. Their much publisized affair led to Sinatras divorce for his first wife Nancy, and he married Ava in 1951. Within 2 years they were separated, and divorced in 1957. She was the love of his life, and loosing her devastated Sinatra. He never completely recovered. But he had a good time trying! Sinatra has been linked to some of Hollywoods biggest stars, including Zsa Zsa Gabore, Natalie Wood, Marilyn Monroe, and Jackie Onnassis.
He ….. s married four times, the later two to Mia Farrow, and Barbara Marx. Sinatra was married to Marx for nearly 23 years, and died while still married to her. In 1953, came the coveted role of Private Maggio in the film “From Here to Eternity. ” Sinatra’s soulfulness and precision in portraying the skinny, street-wise Italian-American caught critics and audiences by surprise and earned him an Oscar in 1954. His triumph led to a second career as a mature movie star, playing Nathan Detroit opposite Marlon Brando in “Guys and Dolls,” and many, many other very famous roles.
He also became active in politics, supporting Democratic candidates and fighting against racism in pop culture and the rest of American life. By 1961, Sinatra had set up his own label, Reprise, producing such albums as “Moonlight Sinatra,” “Strangers in the Night” and “Sinatra and Strings,” along with two LPs with the legendary Count Basie. Now in his 40s, Sinatra entered a middle-aged crazy phase, cavorting in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Hollywood and stops in between. His entourage, nicknamed the Rat Pack, included Sammy Davis Jr. , Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and Shirley MacLaine, who called Sinatra “Chairman of the Board.
Their escapades were immortalized in movies like “Ocean’s 11” and “Robin and the 7 Hoods. ” Despite his private life, Sinatra did not ignore his artistic ambitions. In 1966 alone, he released four hit tunes (“Strangers in the Night,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Summer Wind” and “That’s Life”). He won five Grammys in 1965 and ’66 and capped the decade with the single that would become his theme song until he died: “My Way. ” IN the 1990s Sinatras image grew again, thanks largely in part to the success of the Duets album, followed by Duets II.
He granted his likeliness to ties, credit cards, Lipton Iced Tea, and spaghetti sauce. His marketing antics caused a rift between his wife, Barbara, and his children over who owned the rights to what Sinatra songs. At this time, as his health was fading, a renewed interest be people (like myself) who werent even born when he “retired” in the 1970s, began to crave Sinatra. A flood of biographies, musical appreciation books and Sinatra-themed films and TV shows flooded popular culture, along with reissued Sinatra discs and vintage films of Sinatra and friends in concert.
Frank Sinatra was the 20th Century,” said Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, and a retro-swinger himself. “He was modern, he was complex, he had swing and attitude. He was the big bang of pop… the man invented pop music. ” “May you live to be a hundred, and the last voice you hear be mine,” was the way Sinatra ended most of his concerts. Frank Sinatra died April 1998, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Even though the master is gone, his spirit will be with us always. Truly, he was a man who did it “his way. “