Make no mistake, Frank Sinatra was the defining voice of the twentieth century. The man also lived one of the most authentic, exciting, and admired lives in history. His was a life full of courageous decisions: quitting high school to pursue a music career, leaving Tommy Dorsey’s band to go solo, starting his own record label, speaking and fighting against racial intolerance and bigotry…
it goes on and on.
The astonishing thing is that if you got to know or observe him personally, you realized that Frank was an ordinary guy; similar to the rest of us, but blessed with an extraordinary talent.
In the end, after all is written and said, the music is Sinatra’s legacy. Decades after it was first recorded, the body of music that he created remains nonpareil: a monument of artistry in a world of mediocrity.
In the mercurial music business it takes only a millisecond for artists and careers to come and go. Five years is a lifetime; a decade signifies an eternity. How do you classify a musician whose first commercial recording was in 1939 and was still at it in 1993? Frank Sinatra defies classification.
He is one of a kind.
Throughout Frank’s life, no one even resembled him. There are no artists currently on the scene that are capable of duplicating his extraordinary career. Time only increases his importance and stature.
Frank Sinatra’s music is still relevant because in it we discover how our lives evolved, as did his. The songs he sang were always approached on a very strong emotional level; he was more interested in the emotion of the song than its structure.
Frank sang songs written by the greatest writers of his time: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler, Yip Harburg, Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne, Johnny Burke, Jimmy Van Heusen, Oscar Hammerstein, George and Ira Gershwin, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Hoagy Carmichael, Vernon Duke, Cy Coleman, Carolyn Leigh, Duke Ellington, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, among others. He is the most celebrated interpreter of the Great American Songbook.
Hundreds of other singers sang the same songs, but they sounded different in Frank’s care. The bond he created with the public has never been broken. His music belongs to every generation who live and love.
In 1992, Tony Bennett reflected, “There is a warm side to Sinatra that has never been played up properly. Being ‘on the inside of show business,’ I can’t begin to tell you how many human stories I’ve heard about the silent Sinatra. Highly philanthropic, he downplays the thousands of worthwhile benefits he has done over the years. As a private man with a profound sense of loyalty to his friends, he never touts the generosity he has shown to those he loves. That’s the man!”
If you want to know what Frank Sinatra was all about, you need only listen to his music; then and only then can you understand the true essence of the man.
Mark Antony’s line from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar could have been written for Sinatra:
His life was gentle, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world, “This was a man.”
As we celebrate the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth, the world needs the man and his music more than ever.
– Courtesy ‘Sinatra 100’ by Charles Pignone, out now via Thames & Hudson’