A Man And His Music, an hour-long celebration of Frank Sinatra, was originally aired by NBC on Wednesday, 24 November 1965. A full-colour broadcast, it was directed by Dwight Hemion, who excelled at making TV specials featuring well-known singers and musicians.
Hemion’s concept for A Man And His Music was a simple: it would feature just Sinatra – no guests – performing key songs from his career while accompanied by orchestras conducted by two of his finest collaborators, Nelson Riddle and Gordon Jenkins. For his part, Sinatra was apparently suffering from a cold at the time of filming, but you wouldn’t have known it from his impeccable performances.
A significant milestone
Shot on two separate occasions a few days before airing, on a Burbank soundstage in front of an invite-only audience, the TV special began with night-time footage (shot from an overhead helicopter) of a black limousine taking the star to the studio. He gets out, walks to the studio door, and then we see him entering a rehearsal hall, where, after discarding his trademark fedora, he starts singing one of his signature tunes, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’.
Sinatra first recorded this immortal Cole Porter number – which was written in 1936 for the movie Born To Dance – as part of a radio-show medley in 1946, but captured what many believe to be his definitive version ten years later for the Nelson Riddle-arranged Capitol Records album Songs For Swingin’ Lovers!, his first UK chart-topper. (On the A Man And His Music performance, Riddle can be seen behind Sinatra, conducting the orchestra.)
Elsewhere on A Man And His Music, Sinatra offered faithful renditions of several other trademark songs, ranging from swingers such as ‘Come Fly With Me’, ‘The Lady Is A Tramp’ and ‘Witchcraft’ to several ballads, including ‘Angel Eyes’. The show closed with the slow, string-laden ‘Put You Dreams Away (For Another Day)’, which he first recorded in 1944 as a V-Disc (a single specially recorded for, and released via, the US military) before re-recording it for Columbia Records a year later. Sinatra also used the song to close his radio show in the mid-40s and would re-record it for both Capitol and his own label, Reprise.
A peerless entertainer
At the same time as A Man And His Music was aired on NBC in the US, Reprise issued a double-album of the same name: a retrospective that found Sinatra revisiting some of the key songs of his career and providing narration. It later won an Album Of The Year Grammy, which took its place alongside the TV special’s Emmy for Outstanding Directorial Achievement In Variety Or Music.
The success of the first TV show spawned two sequels: A Man And His Music Part II, which aired in December 1966, and A Man And His Music + Ella + Jobim, which was broadcast a year after that (all three specials are available on the DVD A Man And His Music Trilogy, which was issued as part of the 2010 box set The Frank Sinatra Collection, which brought together all of the singer’s Reprise albums).
While the original A Man And His Music marked a significant milestone in Frank Sinatra’s life, it also showed that there was much more to come. An absolute master of his craft, Sinatra was still a peerless entertainer whose voice had grown richer and more nuanced with age and experience.