The following series, "The Frank Sinatra Centenary: Celebrating an American Icon" appeared as an exclusive Notablog feature that ran from November 24, 2015 to December 12, 2015. This series appears here as a single essay, which includes all of the "Song of the Day" entries, my Facebook annoucements and discussions, and the finale. The Table of Contents below includes song titles and bracketed dates. The song titles are hyperlinks that will take the reader to the actual Notablog entry. The bracketed dates are bookmarks to content found below in this document, which includes not only the Notablog material but also whatever announcements and discussions ensued on Facebook, where each song was listed on a daily basis.
THE FRANK SINATRA CENTENARY:
CELEBRATING AN AMERICAN ICON
A "Song of the Day" Sinatra Tribute Begins "From This Moment On"
CHRIS MATTHEW SCIABARRA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Titles link to Notablog content; bracketed dates are bookmarks found below in this document, which includes material not found in the Notablog entries, such as the Facebook announcements and discussions.
1. The Frank Sinatra Centenary: Celebrating An American Icon -- A "Song of the Day" Tribute Begins "From This Moment On") [24 November 2015]
2. From This Moment On [24 November 2015]
3. In the Wee Small Hours [25 November 2015]
4. The House I Live In [26 November 2015]
5. Time After Time [27 November 2015]
6. Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week) [28 November 2015]
7. Sunny (which also celebrated the Billy Strayhorn Centenary) [29 November 2015]
8. Witchcraft [30 November 2015]
9. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry [1 December 2015]
10. Only the Lonely [2 December 2015]
11. Something's Gotta Give [3 December 2015]
12. Come Dance with Me [4 December 2015]
13. Nice 'n Easy [5 December 2015]
14. All of You [6 December 2015]
15. The World We Knew (Over and Over) [7 December 2015]
16. I've Got the World on a String [8 December 2015a]
17. You Were There (which marked the 90th anniversary of the birth of Sammy Davis, Jr.) [8 December 2015b]
18. Somethin' Stupid [9 December 2015]
19. September of My Years [10 December 2015]
20. Strangers in the Night [11 December 2015a]
21. Drinking Water (Agua de Beber) [11 December 2015b]
22. That's Life [12 December 2015]
The Frank Sinatra Centenary: Celebrating An
American Icon -
A "Song of the Day" Tribute Begins "From This Moment On") [24 November 2015]
Facebook Announcement: The Notablog early edition (20 minutes before midnight) is up! November 24, 2015 begins my 19-day tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra, culminating on December 12, 2015, in celebration of the Sinatra Centenary; check out my lead essay, "The Frank Sinatra Centenary: Celebrating an American Icon" on Notablog. Several individuals responded, including PS, who said: "We loved 'All Or Nothing At All,' too. We greatly look forward to your series on the Man!"; and FMA offered to "put [me] in contact with a New York based singer who has published a Sinatra CD. Let me know."
Today, Tuesday, November 24, 2015, I begin a tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra, which will culminate on Saturday, December 12, 2015, the day on which we will mark the one-hundredth anniversary of his birth. Yes, he was The Voice for seven decades of the twentieth-century, from the mid-1930s to the early 1990s. But his enormous artistic gifts have been preserved forever in film, vocal recordings, and concert performances, allowing future generations a glimpse of the ever-lasting impact he made on American culture, art, and music.
When Sinatra first entered the scene, he was this scrawny kid from humble Hoboken, New Jersey in search of a stage. But this was a proud Italian American, whose father emigrated from Sicily and whose mother came from Genoa. As a first-generation American son of immigrant parents, he was open to the musically diverse American palette. At first, he absorbed much from the crooner school of Bing Crosby, and, like Bing, he was deeply influenced by one of the most distinctly American musical idioms: Jazz. Sinatra's schooling in jazz came from a diverse array of artists, starting with sizzling hot trumpeter Harry James with whom he first sang. James would routinely throw him an improvised musical curveball, which Sinatra would learn to field vocally, so-to-speak. He submerged himself in the New York club scene, and learned much watching the live performances of English-born cabaret singer, Mabel Mercer and, especially, of Billie Holiday. But it was his tenure in the Big Band of trombonist Tommy Dorsey that taught him more about singing than any vocal teacher could possibly offer him. He always said that he learned more about breath control by watching Dorsey's trombone solos, played with such seamlessness that one could barely detect the jazzman's breathing. Before too long, his talent brought him front and center on the stage, as he captured the excitement of the bobby-soxer generation. The kids simply went wild. But he did not become The Voice, Ol' Blue Eyes, or the Chairman of the Board overnight. He didn't simply collect Grammy Awards, Golden Globes, Emmy Awards, and Oscar statuettes; in the early years, he battled his self-destructive tendencies, and it would take years for him to truly find himself, reinvent himself, giving new meaning to the Koehler lyric, "I've got the world on a string, sittin' on a rainbow, got the string around my finger. What a world! What a life!" What a life, indeed.
Eventually, it was Sinatra's self-reinvention that earned him Golden Globe and Oscar Awards for his film work, Grammy Awards for his singing, including the Grammy Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement and Legend Awards. In fact, he received recognition for Lifetime Achievement from so many of the industry's associations, that a brief summary doesn't do him justice. The accolades came from such institutions as the Screen Actors Guild; the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame; the Kennedy Center; the American Music Award of Merit; the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal. Moreover, he was a two-time winner of the critics' Downbeat poll for Male Singer of the Year, while the Downbeat readers named him Male Singer of the Year for sixteen years and Personality of the Year for six years.
A Deplorable Excess of Personality?
In the 1993 film version of "Jurassic Park," John Hammond, the creator of the park, played by Richard Attenborough, characterizes Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) as a person who suffers from a "deplorable excess of personality." Some might have said the same about Sinatra, whose excesses often undercut his early successes. So before we go on singing the praises of this Patron Saint of Song, it's best that we put some issues to rest, for they are not unimportant. I know that there are many people out there who find it impossible to separate the art from the artist. In some respects, it would be horrifically ahistorical and acontextal; grasping the artist's cultural or personal context might go a long way toward understanding and appreciating his accomplishments. But it is also true that many great artists throughout history have created magnificent works of art that either gave expression to the demons within, or provided a cathartic means by which to exorcize them. The point here is that it would be a mistake to dismiss the greatness of art because the artist suffers from character flaws. One thing that Sinatra accomplished, however, is that he emerged from these early years a better singer and a superior artist. As he says it in one of his signature tunes: "The record shows, I took the blows and did it My Way." By acknowledging his excesses and failures, Sinatra, in his vocals, became ever more expressive of a raw honesty, which came through whether he was singing of lost love, or of the joyous possibilities of life.
But the maturity of his art could not have emerged without his very public ups and downs. His critics viewed him as a thug, made all the worse because he was an Italian American with all the bigotry that this fact of ethnicity implied, especially in an era that gave us both the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. Gangsta rappers have nothing on Ol' Blue Eyes. We've seen and heard it all: from his mug shot, to his tumultuous affair with and marriage to Ava Gardner and his subsequent attempts at suicide; and, later, his rowdy days and nights in Las Vegas with the Rat Pack, which fueled rumors of rampant womanizing and alleged Mafia ties.
And then there were emergent political problems he had to face. Having been declared 4F for service in the military, he and actor Orson Welles campaigned fiercely for FDR. His ability to entertain on the home front, and to film such extravaganzas as the 1945 musical comedy, "Anchors Away" (in which he worked like a "prizefighter" behind the scenes to keep up with the gifted choreographer, dancer, singer, and actor Gene Kelly), made him a bona fide star, and uplifted many spirits in a world consumed by war. But his liberal FDR-friendly politics, his embrace of a 'progressive' New Deal agenda, and his public stances against racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry at the end of World War II (as expressed in the 1945 short film "The House I Live In," which won an Honorary Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Film Promoting International Good Will), provided fodder for his tabloid critics. Many branded him a "red," a "leftist," and an out-and-out commie, to which Sinatra is reported to have replied: "Bullshit." There is a touch of irony in all of this red-baiting: despite being a virtual cheerleader of "High Hopes" [YouTube link], the very song Sinatra adapted for the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign, the singer was marginalized by JFK, given his connections to mobster Sam Giancana and others. Sinatra's political journey went from supervising JFK's inaugural party to supervising the presidential gala of Republican Ronald Reagan, for whom he had become a vocal supporter, and from whom he received the "Medal of Freedom."
In the years after filming "The House I Live In," the McCarthy era press became increasingly suspicious and hostile toward anyone suspected of left-wing views. This was the era of the Cold War, which turned increasingly hot in places like Korea. He was advised by actor Humphrey Bogart to ignore the tabloids, because he could never win any battles against a hostile press. Sinatra being Sinatra, of course, ignored Bogie's sound advice. On April 8, 1947, he went to see Peggy Lee's opening night at Ciro's on the Sunset Strip; behind him, he overheard the voice of his chief newspaper nemesis, the columnist, Lee Mortimer, who questioned Sinatra's patriotism in print, and who, on this night, referred to Sinatra as a "dago" and "guinea bastard." This was overheard by an overheated Sinatra, who recalls: "I tapped him on the shoulder, and I hit him so fucking hard I broke the whole front of his face, and he banged his head." Mortimer said he was going to destroy Sinatra, but ultimately, the issue was settled with Sinatra paying damages. He never forgot Mortimer, though; any time their paths crossed, Sinatra would spit at him. (These priceless stories are from the terrific HBO two-part documentary, "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," from which I've drawn quite a bit for this essay.)
There is no doubt that this period in Sinatra's life took its toll; his excesses, his losses, his alcohol abuse, led him to a catastrophic collapse in his recording and acting career. His record company axed his contract and few film offers came his way. Even before the Ava Gardner-related suicide attempts in the early 1950s, Modern Television and Radio magazine was asking plainly in December 1948: "Is Sinatra Finished?"
If Sinatra's career had simply ended right then and there, we would barely be talking about the centenary of his birth. For indeed, the melodrama of his life dredges up the old debate about whether one can appreciate art apart from the artist, who might very well be a suicidal (or homicidal) maniac. Before discussing how Sinatra turned his life around, it's important to talk about this issue, for it has been raised so many times before with regard to other artists and their art.
For example, let's just say for a moment that every last accusation against Michael Jackson were true (with regard to the sexual abuse of minors, something for which he was acquitted in the only case to make it to trial). For me, it would not in any way, shape, or form, diminish my love and admiration of Jackson's talents as a musician, composer, and dancer. Jackson provided me with the soundtrack of my youth, and I cannot for a moment imagine a world without the songs I danced to, or laughed to, or cried to. I cannot for a single moment imagine a world where I'd never had the opportunity to see and hear him live, on stage, in a series of utterly brilliant concert performances. He was the quintessential "song-and-dance" man of my generation who touched the lives of millions of fans worldwide, which explains how deeply shattered we were by his own tragic death in 2009. So, whether he was a drug addict or a pedophile or a nutjob of the first order would have made no difference with regard to this fan's love of his art; and so it is with everyone from jazz guitar legend Joe Pass (who emerged from Synanon), or rock legends Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin or even to those classical philosophers, composers, musicians, painters, scultptors, writers, artists, etc., of whose flaws many of us are perenially unaware. Rest assured, if there was a tabloid press during the days of Classical Greece or Ancient Rome or the Renaissance, I can't imagine the stories that would have come to light about some of our philosophical and artistic heroes! It probably would have made the Robert Graves work, I, Claudius, look tame by comparison.
Loving a work of the creative imagination does not provide an apologia for the alleged or real sins or political views of its creator. In any event, our aesthetic responses are not generally guided by conscious reflection or articulated moral judgments about those who create. They are emotional responses that often emerge from the deepest and most complex corners of our soul. And here's the irony: a tortured artist (and there are plenty of them throughout history) might create a work of sublime beauty that speaks to those aspects of his own soul, crying out for objectification. And as responders, we may openly embrace that creation. Or perhaps, that same artist's tortured soul and life experiences might fully inhabit a work of art in its depiction of unimaginable sadness. But whatever our response, it is not necessarily a psychological confession concerning the depravity of our sense of life. It might simply speak to our own life experiences of loss, regret, and unfathomable grief. And we respond accordingly.
It is no accident that Sinatra was a consummate story-teller, for the way he delivered a lyric of heartbreak elicited responses from his fans, who, as part of the human family, had suffered through feelings of similar grief, loss, and regret. In "Angel Eyes" [YouTube link], there's that image of Frank sitting by himself in a bar, contemplating lost love. He tells us, conversationally, painfully, "Try to think that love's not around, but it's uncomfortably near. My old heart ain't gaining no ground, because my angel eyes ain't here." The listener feels every syllable of loss with his impeccable diction in the delivery of the lyric. He's an actor telling a story, yes; but he's connecting that story to the real losses he has experienced in his own life. The grief is palpable. It's as if he had adopted the technique of "method acting" to the very art of song. It helps one to understand just why he was referred to as "the poet laureate of loneliness."
A Life Worth Living: The Sinatra Revolution
One thing is clear about Frank Sinatra, perhaps best expressed in one of my all-time favorite recordings of his; when he hit bottom, he was determined to turn it around. "That's Life" [YouTube link, and here too], after all, "as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks stompin' on a dream. But I don't let it, let it get me down, 'cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin' around." He sings with defiance: "I've been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race. . . . I can't deny it; I thought of quitting, baby, but my heart just ain't gonna buy it. And if I didn't think it was worth one single try, I'd jump right on a big bird and then I'd fly."
But the vehicle for his comeback was neither a bird nor a song; it was a film. And a legendary Fedora (or shall we call it a Cavanaugh?).
It was with his reading of the 1951 James Jones novel, From Here to Eternity, that he became convinced that he would be perfect for the role of Private Angelo Maggio, for the upcoming 1953 film adaptation. He secured the role (most likely with the help of Ava Gardner, not Don Vito Corleone), and subsequently won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Film wasn't the only medium to conquer; Sinatra, after all, was a consummate stylist. He was no longer the scrawny looking kid from Hoboken; now, with a cocked Fedora atop his head, he seemed to define the very essence of cool, of attitude, of self-assuredness. And he influenced a whole generation of men on the sexiness of hats. My own Dad wore one of those hats till the day he died. Nevertheless, despite the Fedora, film was the central vehicle driving the Sinatra revolution to the next phase of his creativity.
Over the years, his very presence on the screen commanded your attention. He could move you to dance (in the 1955 film of "Guys and Dolls"), to laugh (in the 1960 heist film starring all of his Rat Pack cohorts, "Ocean's Eleven"), to cry (playing a heroin addict, with chilling film noir scenes of detox, in the 1955 film, "The Man with the Golden Arm"), to take notice, when his character depicted intense realism (in the 1962 film, "The Manchurian Candidate" and the 1968 film, "The Detective") and, finally, to suffer profound grief just when you thought you were on the precipice of glory (the 1965 World War II POW film, "Von Ryan's Express").
I actually saw "Von Ryan's Express" in 1965 when it first came out, at the age of 5 years old. The memory of it is so vivid, so engrained in my psyche because it was a night of trauma for me. The family took the drive out to Long Island to see the film at the Sunrise Drive-In Theater in Valley Stream, New York. Being at a Drive-In was a big thrill back then, and at the age of five, it was an overwhelming experience for me. I mean, you could go and get popcorn, and never miss any part of the movie. The thing about drive-ins though, is that they are built so that cars can be perched at an upward tilt, on mini-gravel hills. Well, when I went with my sister to get the requisite popcorn, I was running up one of those mini-gravel hills (which appeared closer to the size of Mount Everest to me). Somehow, I got tangled in my sneaker-laces, and went flying downside when I reached the apex of Everest. Naturally, like every other 5-year old boy, I ripped open my right knee for the umpteenth time of my youth. I had previously ripped it open getting caught in the metal of a fence, while I climbed it. And then there was the Becky Incident. Becky was the dog of my best friend's family, and she gave birth to my first dog: Timmy. In any event, I so wanted to walk Becky the Beagle, so, as a precaution, my best friend's mom tied Becky's leash to my wrist so that she would not run away, while I walked her. The stage was set for catastrophe. When the dog saw my friend up the block, she got very excited, and proceeded to run full-speed ahead along the sidewalk of Highlawn Avenue. The leash was still attached to my wrist. In hindsight, I figured this is what it must have felt like to be Messala, in "Ben-Hur," holding on to the reins, but being dragged to my death by horses galloping with a fallen chariot.
The gash scars from the Drive-In movie, and other sporting events, are still quite visible, even now, at the age of 55. But being a 5-year old at the Drive-In, I couldn't fight back the tears, from the pain, and from witnessing the blood pouring out of my wound. Mom and sister cleaned me up, and we returned to the car, to watch the epic climax of Sinatra's war film. He played the role of Colonel Joseph Ryan, leading a POW escape to Switzerland, across Nazi-occupied Italy. And [SPOILER ALERT!], in the final scenes, as the prisoner train is just about to cross into Switzerland, Ryan is running frantically behind that last train car, trying desperately to escape the Waffen-SS troops in pursuit. He is shot by machine gun rounds. Tragically, he falls dead.
Well, this was just too much for my traumatic night. I got hysterical crying, and it took lots of assurances from my mother and sister that Frankie was still alive; it was only a movie. Come to think of it, the last Drive-In theater experience I had also featured a tragedy; it was in April 1998, virtually one month to the day before Ol' Blue Eyes passed away. We were vacationing in Tucson, Arizona, and went to the De Anza Drive-In, where, fortunately, I did not rip open my knee, but I do admit to crying again, as I watched the last heartbreaking moments of the sinking "Titanic" on a huge 70mm screen!
The Essence of Sinatra's Vocal Revolution
Having conquered the film world and the style world, there was nothing left to conquer but that
which Sinatra was born to be: The Voice. To say he was musically
triumphant in the 1950s and 1960s would be an understatement. He retains the
distinction of being among the very first artists to bring into the market the
idea of "the concept album." Sinatra would go on to sell more than 150 million
throughout his prolific recording career. Among the classic "concept
albums," one finds such gems as "Songs for
Young Lovers," "In
the Wee Small Hours," "Come
Fly with Me," "Nice 'n
Easy," and "September of My Years." But we can't forget some of those magnificent
live concert recordings such as "Sinatra
at the Sands" (with Count Basie), and those utterly remarkable sessions with
artists who transcended global boundaries and eras, men such as
throughout his prolific recording career. Among the classic "concept albums," one finds such gems as
Young Lovers," "In
the Wee Small Hours," "Come
Fly with Me," "Nice 'n
Easy," and "September of My Years." But we can't forget some of those magnificent
live concert recordings such as "Sinatra
at the Sands" (with Count Basie), and those utterly remarkable sessions with
artists who transcended global boundaries and eras, men such as
Duke Ellington andAntonio Carlos Jobim (check out this brilliant clip with Jobim and Sinatra, from the third installment of his TV specials, "A Man and His Music").
Not all of Sinatra's work with Jobim was first released when it was recorded; Sinatra was a
perfectionist, and some of it just didn't feel right. The "Complete
Reprise Recordings" of their work together wasn't issued until 2010. The
liner notes are absolutely priceless, as they tell the story of the meeting of
two giants from different parts of the world, who had vastly different
personalities: Sinatra, a veritable "fearless" Lion in the studio or on the stage;
Jobim, the quiet, reserved genius of Brazilian music, and one of the
creators of that lyrical fusion of samba and jazz known as the
bossa nova. The writer of the notes,
Stan "Underwood" Cornyn, who just passed away in May 2015, tells us a story
that by its very nature teaches us something about the universality of music.
One thing that the two artists worked on, over and over again, was to find just the
right balance between the louder instruments and percussive sounds and the
quiet, tender melodies that required near silence. Cornyn writes:
Not all of Sinatra's work with Jobim was first released when it was recorded; Sinatra was a perfectionist, and some of it just didn't feel right. The "Complete Reprise Recordings" of their work together wasn't issued until 2010. The liner notes are absolutely priceless, as they tell the story of the meeting of two giants from different parts of the world, who had vastly different personalities: Sinatra, a veritable "fearless" Lion in the studio or on the stage; Jobim, the quiet, reserved genius of Brazilian music, and one of the creators of that lyrical fusion of samba and jazz known as the bossa nova. The writer of the notes, Stan "Underwood" Cornyn, who just passed away in May 2015, tells us a story that by its very nature teaches us something about the universality of music. One thing that the two artists worked on, over and over again, was to find just the right balance between the louder instruments and percussive sounds and the quiet, tender melodies that required near silence. Cornyn writes:
Seemed like the whole idea was to out-hush each other. Decibels treated like daggers. The arranger tiptoeing about, eliminating some percussion here, ticks there, ridding every song of click, bings, bips, all things sharp. Doing it with the fervor matched only by Her Majesty's Silkworms. But when someone asks if the piano part (played by Sinatra's personal accompanist Bill Miller) didn't come off just a little jarring, Sinatra counters with, "Him percussive? He's got fingers made out of jello." Henceforth, Miller plays jello-keys. And Sinatra makes a joke about all this. "I haven't sung so soft since I had the laryngitis." But while singing soft, making no joke about it. Singing so soft, if he sang any softer he'd have to be lying on his back.
The resulting sessions are, in my view, among the most sublime music ever created by two masters of their craft.
In this essay, we have learned that few entertainers could top the tabloid adventures of Francis Albert Sinatra. However, even fewer performers could barely touch Sinatra's accomplishments as an exquisite interpreter of the Great American Songbook. He could deliver a ballad with graceful diction, and break your heart. He could swagger his way through the swinging orchestrations of some of the best arrangers and conductors in the business, from Nelson Riddle to Billy May to Quincy Jones, incorporating the American jazz idiom with a fluidity that enabled him to sing above and behind the beat. He may not have been a scat-singer, but his whole conception has led even some of the greatest jazz instrumentalists of the era to characterize him as a bona fide jazz vocalist; many of these same jazz artists had learned much from him, from his phrasing, his pacing, and his interpretive, improvised ways with both the lyric and the melody.
Citing Variety, CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow characterized Sinatra's re-emergence from the ashes as one of the greatest comebacks in entertainment history. Sinatra went from the generation of the bobby-soxers to a cultural phenomenon. He and his Rat Pack, with guys like Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, single-handedly turned around the struggling casino town of Las Vegas, making it a tourist attraction that offered some of the greatest musical and comedic entertainers in the business (one of those comedians, Don Rickles, had a ball roasting Sinatra, Davis, and even Ronald Reagan; and check out Sinatra and Rickles on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show"). In these unparalleled live performances, Sinatra rarely delivered songs exactly like his classic studio recordings. He sang the hits that the crowd worshipped and adored, but he often played with both the lyrics and the audience. The Rat Pack went on to star in films together in the early 1960s, including box office hits, such as "Ocean's 11" (1960) and "Robin and the 7 Hoods" (1964). Sinatra was emerging as the "King of the Hill, Top of the Heap, A Number One," as the lyric tells us in "New York, New York." In short, he had become a genuine cultural icon.
Today, however, we live in an age where the overuse of the word "icon" has had an effect no different than the flooding of any market; its overuse makes everything iconic, and therefore, nothing. You know you've reached a stage of cultural bankruptcy when, in today's culture, Sinatra is still recognized as one of America's icons, but that he'd share that iconic status with Kim Kardashian. Not. Unlike the Kardashians who are "famous for being famous," as Barbara Walters once put it, Sinatra is an icon precisely because he was a person who was revered or idolized for his accomplishments. He is an artist whose influence spreads into genres as diverse as jazz (he was selected in a 1956 poll of jazz musicians, with affirmative votes from Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Peterson, Billy Taylor, and Carmen McRae, among others, as "the greatest-ever male vocalist") and rap; it is felt in the work of contemporary popular artists as diverse as Alicia Keys, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, John Mayer, Josh Grobin, Gavin DeGraw, and Ne-Yo. It stretches from the jazz stylings of Harry Connick, Jr. and Michael Buble, to the cabaret of Ron Hawking and Michael Feinstein ("The Sinatra Project") [YouTube link], and the rap of Jay Z (who is a master of rapping above and behind the beat). In some respects, however, Sinatra's influence isn't felt enough, and this is to the detriment of the musical world in which we live. As jazz vocalist Cassandara Wilson put it: "I wish Frank Sinatra influenced more singers today. He comes from a time when it [was] about the phrasing of a piece, the emotional content of a piece. He descended from Billie Holiday and singers who placed more emphasis on the lyrical content of the song."
Here at "Notablog," on the list called "My Favorite Songs," I have always revered and idolized Sinatra. One would think that after featuring audio clips and full-length YouTube renditions by Sinatra on over 60 songs in my ever-growing list, that we would have exhausted our supply. By some estimates, however, the Chairman of the Board (a name given to him by New York's WNEW-AM radio personality, the beloved William B. Williams) recorded over 1,200 tracks, but this includes various recordings of the same song delivered with different arrangements. Clearly, the guy spent a lot of time in the studio, when he wasn't going on global concert tours or filming another hit movie.
Given the number of Sinatra performances highlighted in "My Favorite Songs," he is, perhaps, the artist cited more than any other on my list. So, before listening to the next 19 days of songs that I will post over the coming weeks, I invite folks to check out the ones already listed: "All of Me," "All or Nothing at All," "All the Things You Are," "Angel Eyes," "Autumn in New York," "The Best is Yet to Come," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Call Me," "Call Me Irresponsible," "Change Partners," "Cheek to Cheek," "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)," "Come Fly with Me," "Days of Wine and Roses," "Don't Take Your Love From Me," "Everything Happens To Me," "Falling in Love with Love," "The First Noel," "Fly Me To the Moon," "Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear to Tread)," "How About You?," "How Insensitive," "I Concentrate on You," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "If You Go Away," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "I'll Never Smile Again," "I'm a Fool to Want You," "I Should Care," "It Was a Very Good Year," "I've Got a Crush on You," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Just Friends," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Love is a Many-Splendored Thing," "Luck Be a Lady," "Me and My Shadow," "Meditation," "Moonlight in Vermont," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "My Buddy," "My Kind of Town," "My One and Only Love," "My Shining Hour," "My Way," "The Nearness of You," "New York, New York," "One for My Baby," "Pennies from Heaven," "Pocketful of Miracles," "Poor Butterfly," "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado)," "Someone to Light Up My Life," "The Song is You," "Spring is Here," "Summer Me, Winter Me," "Swinging on a Star," "That Old Black Magic," "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)," "They Can't Take That Away from Me," "Too Marvelous For Words," "Triste," "The Way You Look Tonight," "What a Little Moonlight Can Do," "Wives and Lovers," "Yesterdays," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "You'll Never Know," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "You Make Me Feel So Young," and "You're Gonna Hear From Me."
Some of these songs are so closely tied to their definitive Sinatra recordings, that it is hard to listen to them coming from the voices of other singers, no matter how wonderful other renditions might be. I mean, can anyone of us honestly think of such songs as "The Best is Yet to Come," "Come Fly with Me," "Fly Me to the Moon," and "It Was a Very Good Year," without thinking of Sinatra? Charlton Heston, the Oscar-winning actor who knew one or two things about 3- and 4-hour epics, once said that every single song that Sinatra ever sang was the equivalent of a 4-minute movie, so good was he at telling a story. Sinatra sang the standards, but his own renditions of so many of these standards became the standard by which to measure other renditions. For other artists who sang these songs, the best route to success was to completely change the interpretation and arrangement. For example, I can't think of anybody but Michael Jackson performing "Billie Jean," and yet several other successful renditions have been recorded only because the interpretation of the song was dramatically altered. Chris Cornell's version, in my view, is the most successful because it is dramatically different from the original. Check it all out here.
Clearly, I have always celebrated the talents of Sinatra, the self-confessed "saloon singer," who became the epitome of cool, the essence of musical class, and, as Bono once suggested, perhaps the only Italian Francis (with apologies to the Italian man from Assisi and the humble Argentinian Pope of Italian immigrants) to provide genuine proof that God is a Catholic ([YouTube link; I'm paraphrasing Bono's introduction of Sinatra at the 1994 Grammy Awards, where The Voice was recognized as a Grammy "Living Legend").
Nearly all of the selections that will be featured in this tribute can be found on "Ultimate Sinatra," a 4-CD Centennial Edition of 101 recordings, drawn from every label under which Sinatra recorded, including Columbia Records, Capitol Records, and his own Reprise label.
I was asked by a few people if I could possibly select a Top Ten List of Sinatra Favorites, and I find it virtually impossible to rank, but I'll try a knee-jerk Top Ten, literally off-the-top of my head, in alphabetical order, rather than a ranking: "The Best is Yet to Come," "Come Fly with Me," "Fly Me to the Moon," "I Concentrate on You," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "It Was a Very Good Year," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "One for My Baby," "New York, New York" (heard at the end of every home game played by my New York Yankees), and "That's Life." But if I think about this for any more than five minutes, I'll give you a whole other list of Top Ten... so let's keep it at that!
Today's "Song of the Day" is "From This Moment On" (on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra"). Indeed, from this moment on, prepare to be entertained through December 12th. We will feature a song each day (with one tip of the Fedora in the middle of our tribute to two other artists with links to Sinatra). As I have noted, not one of these songs has ever appeared on the illustrious list assembled above, which, in itself, is a testament to the breadth and the depth of this man's magnificent artistic legacy.
From This Moment On
[24 November 2015]
Facebook Announcement: I posted an announcement for the first Sinatra Tribute "Song of the Day."
From This Moment On, words and music by Cole Porter, was written in 1951 for the composer's musical, "Out of This World," but it was dropped, only to be included later in the 1953 MGM film of the musical, "Kiss Me Kate." The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1957, with a mid-tempo swinging arrangement by Nelson Riddle, for the album, "A Swingin' Affair!." It can also be found on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." As today's lead essay explains, with this entry, we begin a 19-day tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes, culminating on December 12, 2015, the 100th anniversary of the day of his birth. Check this song out on YouTube.
3. In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning
[25 November 2015]
Facebook Announcement: For those who missed it yesterday, I kicked off the celebration of the Sinatra centenary with a lead essay, followed by the first entry in the Song tribute. Today, I've added "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning." Stay tuned for the Song of the Day, a controversial one for sure, tomorrow, for Thanksgiving. Gobble. Gobble. To which RE replied: "Hi Chris! Reports of your death are inaccurate. :) Been busy!" And KZ added: "A public appearance rarer than Garbo!"
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning, music by David Mann, lyrics by Bob Hilliard, is the title track from a 1955 album regarded by many to be the greatest of Sinatra's career. Ths song is also featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Sinatra delivers the song in that personally reflective manner, which bathes the lyrics with his own yearnings and lovelorn loneliness. It speaks to any of us who has ever fallen in love and felt the sting of its loss. Listen to this classic on YouTube.
4. The House I Live In
[26 November 2015]
Facebook Announcement: A Happy Thanksgiving to all, as I continue my Centenary Song Tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra; this one is actually a bit controversial, as it heightened many of the post-World War II political problems of the day. See below for an interesting exchange between one reader and me.
The House I Live In features the music of Earl Robinson, and the lyrics of Abel Meeropol (under the pen name of Lewis Allan), both of whom were later identified as members of the Communist Party during the McCarthy era. In 1953, Meeropol actually adopted Michael and Robert, the orphans of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 for their acts of espionage in passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. The Robinson-Meeropol song is heard in a 1945 short film, directed by Albert Maltz, who would go on to be one of the Hollywood Ten. Being associated with some of these individuals kept the pressure on Sinatra, who was herded before investigators to answer questions with regard to his involvement with associations that had alleged "red" or "pink" connections. Seeking to travel to Korea to entertain the troops with the USO, Sinatra was offended that these investigators were impugning his patriotism; in the HBO documentary, "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," he relates his answer to those who questioned his love for America: "they could take the Korean War and shove it up their asses." With this, he walked out of the investigation room.
It's a tad ironic, perhaps, that, in 1962, Sinatra ended up starring in one of the most controversial Cold War thrillers of the day, based on a favorite novel of JFK's, written by Richard Condon, which was filled to the brim with tense international communist conspiratorial intrigue, an emergent by-product of the Korean War: "The Manchurian Candidate," directed by John Frankenheimer. Sinatra's film performance is surely a highlight of his acting career. In any event, Sinatra's involvement with "The House I Live In" was primarily due to his view that the song celebrated an America without bigotry or prejudice. He had heard the epithets spewed against Italian Americans throughout his whole life; he was a greaseball, a wop, a guinea bastard, a mobster, simply by virtue of his ethnicity. His hatred of ethnic prejudice extended to a principled stance against all forms of racism and bigotry. At the conclusion of World War II, the world had to confront the ugly reality of anti-Semitism, which had propelled many regimes throughout history toward discrimination and violence against Jews. But the Nazis fell to a level of human savagery that cashed-in on long-held cultural biases to justify the mass extermination of Jews (Nazi racial "cleansing" of the Third Reich targeted others as well, including many "inferior" ethnic, religious, and political groups, and even sexual "deviants" of the "pink triangle").
In any event, this song was actually first heard in the musical revue, "Let Freedom Sing." In the film, there's a small plot set-up; Sinatra walks out of a studio, where he's just completed a recording, and he sees a bunch of kids fighting over this one kid who is different from them; he's Jewish. They are taunting this one kid, and Sinatra asks the gang if they're Nazis. They object; some of the kids say that their dads went to fight the Nazis. And Sinatra asks them that if their dads got hurt in battle, did they get blood transfusions? Well, sure. He asks the Jewish kid if anyone in his family were blood donors, and the kid says that both his mom and dad were donors. He asks the kids, would their dads have rather died in battle than receive blood from people of another religion? He tells them to think, or he could have simply said, "Check your premises," because we're all human beings with human blood. He says he's Italian, and some others may be Irish, French, or Russian, but we are all Americans. He then tells them a story about the first airstrike by Americans against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. It was successful due to the skill of Meyer Levin (by the way, a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School and a member of its Hall of Fame [a BTHS .pdf file]), whose bomb hit and sunk the Haruna, a Japanese battleship. For all its controversy as a short-film, with its "commie" messages like, uh, "freedom of religion," the film moves into song, as Sinatra asks the opening question "What is America to Me?" He provides a lyrical celebration of American freedom and democracy, of "the right to speak my mind out," a paean to the American people of "all races and religions," and their values. This certainly didn't strike me as a piece of red propaganda, but I can understand the ways in which the material can be interpreted as "pinko," given its historical context and the people who were involved in its making. In the end, however, a special Honorary Oscar and Golden Globe were awarded to the short film, which can be seen on YouTube.
Right now, I
count my blessings that I am eating a Thanksgiving meal in America, in the
same Brooklyn, New York of
Meyer Levin, in the "house I live
in." A Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Facebook Discussion that followed the posting above on "The House I Live In":
"Interesting historical artifact, that
short film: As late as 1945, they were still repeating the myth of Colin Kelly sinking the
Japanese battleship HARUNA. (Although they didn't mention Kelly by name.)
See Jessica Lynch or Pat Tillman. What Kelly did was brave enough: Flying his crippled B-17 almost back to base, then ordering his crew to bail out while he tried to bring it in. Unfortunately, it exploded and crashed on approach. But reality wasn't good enough:
'Many reputable publications, including Webster's New Biographical Dictionary, continue to report that Kelly bombed and sank the Japanese battleship Haruna or the cruiser Natori or the Ashigara, and that the date of the bombing was December 9, 1941, and not December 10, 1941. Although initial reports were that the ship was sunk and Kelly's crew claimed the ship was heavily damaged, the Natori was, in fact, only lightly damaged.
That's a very interesting observation; I encountered the same issues looking at
the historical record. Take a look
here, and these stories from the newspapers: here
here, all of which repeat the story of the sinking of the Haruna. If the
ship didn't sink, I'm sure it was good press in the week after the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor. In any event, it is true that Meyer Levin was quite a
successful bombardier, and was eventually killed during World War II. See
I responded: That's a very interesting observation; I encountered the same issues looking at the historical record. Take a look here, and these stories from the newspapers: here and here, all of which repeat the story of the sinking of the Haruna. If the ship didn't sink, I'm sure it was good press in the week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In any event, it is true that Meyer Levin was quite a successful bombardier, and was eventually killed during World War II. See here.
HARUNA actually made it almost to the end of the war. It was sunk at dockside in
raised in 1946 to be sold for scrap. It was actually designed for the Japanese Navy by British engineers as
a battlecruiser prior to WWI, when the British and Japanese were allies, and later upgraded to a full battleship. Scoring one hit out of four bombs dropped, even a marginal hit, was a pretty good score. Most bombing missions on ships at sea by heavy bombers didn't do even that well.
HARUNA actually made it almost to the end of the war. It was sunk at dockside in
To which I responded: Understood; I suspect this was one of those bombardier hits that the newspapers celebrated and continued to celebrate (as the newspaper stories to which I linked clearly show), regardless of whether the battleship sunk or not They probably surmised correctly that after Pearl Harbor, American readers needed some "good" news. Anyway, a very interesting historical puzzle. Hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving; I return tomorrow for the next "Song of the Day" link in my ongoing Sinatra Centenary celebration.
5. Time After Time
[27 November 2015]
Facebook announcement and discussion: Ol' Blue Eyes is Back as my Sinatra Centenary Tribute continues (and you'll be hounded by this til December 12th): Today, it's from a film close to heart for obvious reasons, "It Happened in Brooklyn." You got a problem with dat? The timeless Jule Styne & Sammy Cahn classic: "Time After Time" from that 1947 musical. Enjoy! Till tomorrow! Sue Mayham replied: "Love this tribute! We lost Frank the same day as I lost my Dad - I am sure the two of them were singing together once they hit the pearly gates..."; to which I replied: "Sue that I didn't know; the pearly gates were surely full of heavenly music on that day. My own Dad was a ballroom dancer his whole life (as with Mom) and died at the age I am now, 55, three months short of his 56th birthday: ON THE DANCE FLOOR. He died doing what he loved.", to which Sue replied: "As ELP sang to us "Ooh what a lucky man he was..." - not everyone gets to do what they love ever!
Time After Time, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Sammy Cahn (both of whom knew a thing or two about writing songs that were Sinatra hits), was first introduced in the score to the 1947 MGM musical, "It Happened in Brooklyn," by Sinatra and also Kathryn Grayson. (The film also starred Peter Lawford, a future Rat Pack member.) It can also be found on Disc 1 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Recently, the Sinatra rendition of this song was heard in an episode of the summer TV series, "Aquarius," inspired by actual events, though mixed with a large dose of historical fiction. In the series, starring David Duchovny, we follow the early days of the infamous Manson family, responsible for the Tate-LaBianca murders in August 1969. You know you transcend "time" when your music is heard in a period piece in the years when psychedelic rock reached its peak. Sinatra never much cared for rock, even if he did a few covers of rock songs, without much success. His views of rock were probably on a par with those of the original "Tonight Show" host and comedian, Steve Allen, who saw the genre as eternally inferior to jazz, and regularly did "mock" poetry readings of the lyrics from the rock hits of the day. Allen once joked that rock and roll was based on three chords, and two of them were wrong. In any event, listen to Frank Sinatra's take on "Time After Time" [YouTube link] (not to be confused with rocker Cyndi Lauper's song of the same name [YouTube link], whose retro video actually opens with Lauper watching a scene from "The Garden of Allah," a 1936 film starring Marlene Dietrich and Charles Boyer).
6. Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week)
[28 November 2015]
Facebook announcement: What song could possibly be highlighted on a Saturday in the Sinatra Centenary Tribute? But of course!
Saturday Night (Is the Loneliest Night of the Week), music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was a Columbia hit single for Ol' Blue Eyes in 1944. It provides just the slightest indication of the swinging ways to come. This one can be found on Disc 1 of "Ultimate Sinatra," arranged by Alex Stordahl. What other song would have been a better choice on ... a Saturday!? Check it out on YouTube. And let's not forget that guys like New York-based Jonathan Schwartz have been hosting variations on "Saturday Night with Sinatra" radio shows on various channels and streaming services for umpteen years now; for Philly-based radio disc jockey Sid Mark, it's the syndicated "Sounds of Sinatra," heard usually the morning after "the loneliest night of the week."
also marks the Billy Strayhorn Centenary)
[29 November 2015]
Facebook announcement: The Sinatra Centenary intersects with the Strayhorn Centenary in the next song celebrating Francis A. It's a "Sunny" Sunday.
Sunny, words and music by Bobby Hebb, has been performed and recorded by hundreds of artists over the years. The song can be heard on an album that got mixed reviews, but it is nonetheless a meeting of giants: Sinatra and Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington. The album, "Francis A. and Edward K," which was released in 1968, was to be orchestrated by Duke's longtime partner, the superb lyricist and arranger: Billy Strayhorn, born 100 years ago on this date. So we celebrate the centenary of another giant of the music world. Sadly, Strayhorn passed away before the sessions began, and the orchestrations and arrangements were left to long-time Sinatra collaborator, Billy May. This well-known song gets a fine treatment, with those patented opening trumpet figures by Cootie Williams; check it out on YouTube.
[30 November 2015]
Facebook announcement: The Sinatra Centenary continues today with a little "Witchcraft," featuring not only the 1957 Sinatra single but a Sinatra duet with the King, Elvis Presley. Enjoy!
Witchcraft, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, was released as a Sinatra single in 1957, and spent 16 weeks on the Billboard singles chart, topping off at #20. This song was originally presented strictly as an instrumental in the musical revue, "Take Five." Sinatra actually recorded it on three separate occasions, but this one, featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra," is the 1957 single release [YouTube link]. It was also performed on a 1960 television special, "The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis," marking the return of Sargeant Elvis Presley from his military service in Germany. Presley became the King for a whole new generation of young rock and roll fans; Sinatra knew a bit about this kind of frenzied, wild fan response, given his regal reign during the bobby-soxer generation. Like Sinatra, Presley was a multifaceted entertainer, taking on stage, screen, and song. Check out the Sinatra-Presley TV special duet on YouTube, with Sinatra singing Presley's "Love Me Tender," and Presley taking on "Witchcraft."
9. Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry
[1 December 2015]
Facebook announcement and discussion: It's a rainy day in Brooklyn, New York, which would have been a perfect segue to "Here's That Rainy Day," but that one already appears on "My Favorite Songs". So, I think we'll go with a classic entry in the Sinatra songbook, a selection entitled "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry," from his milestone album, "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely"; This tribute will culminate with the December 12th entry, which commemorates the date on which the Chairman of the Board was born. Enjoy! I added in a comment: "Oh, just one more aside: This is the kind of album that solidified Sinatra's standing among jazz artists; it's influence on jazz (among trailblazers such as tenor saxman Lester Young, and trumpeter Miles Davis) is noted in the entry. Several comments came, including one from Tracey Leonard ("Hey Chris. It's Tracey just wanted to wish u and ski happy holday. Miss you guys. Hope you are doing well.") and JS: "Love that song in many versions"; to which I responded: "That is one of the truly trailblazing albums in the Sinatra discography; for those who didn't have a chance to see "A Man and His Music" on TCM last night, as it kicked off a month's long tribute to its Star of the Month, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of his birth, it's never too late. Tune in every Wednesday night, and see a concert event, followed by up to a dozen films touching every genre, showing the amazing talent of this brilliant artist."
Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was introduced by Jane Withers in the 1944 Philadelphia stage show, "Glad to See You," which never quite made it to Broadway. This song was one of those saved by Sinatra's rendition of it. Indeed, it wasn't until it appeared on Sinatra's 1958 album, "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely," that the song became a hit, and a jazz standard sung by vocalists and played by many jazz instrumentalists thereafter. Sinatra's way with a ballad led jazz legends like trumpeter Miles Davis and tenor saxophonist Lester Young to sing his praises. Miles once said that when he played "Porgy and Bess," a collaboration with the great arranger, Gil Evans, he wanted his trumpet to sound like Frank Sinatra. Both Miles and Lester wanted their solos to tell a story, in the way that Sinatra had perfected vocally. Even Quincy Jones maintained that Sinatra used his voice like a jazz saxophonist. The Enny Monaco Quartet ["Sinatra on Sax"] would agree, as would jazz pianist Oscar Peterson [YouTube links]. This song is also featured on Disc 2 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Check it out on YouTube.
10. Only the Lonely [2 December 2015]
Facebook announcement: It's still a foggy, rainy day in Brooklyn-town, and if you're in the mood for a little "torch song" (part of a wider music genre I have long called, with a touch of gallows humor, "Slit Your Wrists" music), it doesn't get much better than Sinatra's "Only The Lonely," today's song of the day in the continuing Sinatra Centenary Tribute. Check out all the links on Notablog. Tomorrow, the sun should come out so we can change the tempo a bit. I mean, something's gotta give. Hint, hint. Reader JS observed: "I have loved that whole disc since I was about 15," to which I responded: "That is one of the truly trailblazing albums in the Sinatra discography; for those who didn't have a chance to see 'A Man and His Music' on TCM last night, as it kicked off a month's long tribute to its Star of the Month, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of his birth, it's never too late. Tune in every Wednesday night, and see a concert event, followed by up to a dozen films touching every genre, showing the amazing talent of this brilliant artist."
Only the Lonely, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title song of the 1958 album we visited yesterday, a Sinatra collection of "torch songs" (songs that might be called "torturous songs" or "songs of spiritual torture or torment," a derivative of what I call the wider "Slit Your Wrists" music genre, which can include both ballads and uptunes, so-to-speak). It is said that Sinatra considered this song of his repertoire to be his favorite. It is, as author Will Friedwald notes, the "most classically oriented Sinatra recording . . . which opens with a Chopin-like piano solo played by Harry Sucoff, a classical pianist." The song can also be found on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra". Listen to it on YouTube. Tonight, though, nobody will be lonely at the Wynn Las Vegas's Encore Theater, where many artists gather to throw a 100th birthday bash in honor of Sinatra, which will be broadcast in prime time on CBS television on December 6th. In the meanwhile, don't forget to check out Turner Classic Movies, whose "Star of the Month" is, appropriately, Frank Sinatra. Starting tonight, and every Wednesday throughout the month, the Prime Time hours will be devoted to Sinatra films and concerts. It kicks off with the Emmy- and Peabody-award winning television special, "A Man and His Music," which marked Sinatra's 50th birthday year. Fifty years later, we're celebrating A Century of Sinatra.
Something's Gotta Give
[3 December 2015]
Facebook announcement: So much is going on in the world around us that is tragic. And yet, I move forward with today's Sinatra Centenary "Song of the Day": "Something's Gotta Give." It's an idiomatic expression that there is just no 'give-and-take' between an "irresistible force" and an "immovable object," bless Johnny Mercer. Well, folks, Sinatra sings this one with joy and swagger; Billy May's arrangment is pure swinging bliss. But if I May, at some point, in this world of tragedies, indeed, "Something's Gotta Give." The day we stop enjoying music, and its cathartic grace, is the day we stop enjoying life. In that spirit, celebrate life and enjoy the music." RE said: "It's so nice to see you around, Chris."
Something's Gotta Give, words and music by Johnny Mercer, was first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1955 musical "Daddy Long Legs." Among the many other renditions of this song is Frank Sinatra's, which can be found on his 1959 album, "Come Dance with Me!" (and also on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra"). The 1959 album, which spent two-and-a-half years on the Billboard chart, is the second of a trilogy of Capitol albums arranged by Billy May, preceded by the iconic "Come Fly with Me" (1958) and followed by "Come Swing with Me!". Mercer's lyrics are just wonderful, but Sinatra's ad-libbed, "Awe, let's tear it up," at the end -- just classic Blue Eyes Magic. This Sinatra rendition was later featured in the 37 minutes of film of the same name that survived, but was abandoned when its star, Marilyn Monroe, passed away, tragically. Check out Sinatra, with that fabulous Billy May arrangement [YouTube link]. In the light of yesterday's tragic shootings in San Bernadino, California, not too far from where members of my family live and work, I prefaced today's "Song of the Day" announcement on Facebook, with the following message: "So much is going on in the world around us that is tragic. And yet, I move forward with today's Sinatra Centenary "Song of the Day": "Something's Gotta Give." It's an idiomatic expression that there is just no 'give-and-take' between an "irresistible force" and an "immovable object," bless Johnny Mercer. Well, folks, Sinatra sings this one with joy and swagger; Billy May's arrangment is pure swinging bliss. But if I May, at some point, in this world of tragedies, indeed, "Something's Gotta Give." The day we stop enjoying music, and its cathartic grace, is the day we stop enjoying life. In that spirit, celebrate life and enjoy the music."
12. Come Dance with Me [4 December 2015]
Facebook announcement: Today and tomorrow, I have two short and sweet entries in our Sinatra Centenary tribute. I'll let the music do the talking. Have no fear... as we head into the homestretch of the last seven days of this tribute, we'll take it Nice 'N Easy and "make every stop along the way." For now, just sit back and enjoy the music. Today and tomorrow's entries are significant for me because I was born in 1960, and it was in 1960 that Sinatra won an armful of Grammy Awards for this album, "Come Dance with Me," both Album of the Year and Male Performance of the Year, and Billy May as Best Arranger of the Year; tomorrow's entry was an album released in 1960 with some of the most Sinatra-esque hits of a lifetime. To say this guy hit his stride is an understatement; though the 1960s were the decade of rock, Sinatra notched up 18 nominations in Grammy categories, and walked away with 9, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. From 1970-2001, he received another 11 nominations, and 3 wins, including the Grammy Trustees Award and the Grammy Legend Award. Ol' Blue Eyes Was Back, with a vengeance. Let's Dance...
Come Dance with Me, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title song of Sinatra's 1959 album, which won the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year. Sinatra also won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male, and Billy May got a Grammy for Best Arrangement. The song can also be found on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Check out the wonderful May arrangement for a Swingin' Saloon Singer [YouTube link].
13. Nice 'n Easy [5 December 2015]
Facebook announcement: Tomorrow, we're headed into the homestretch of my Sinatra Centenary Tribute, which will culminate on December 12th, the 100th anniversary of Sinatra's birthday. So, today, let's just take it "Nice 'n Easy"... CB said: "Happy Saint Nicholas Day"
Nice 'N' Easy, music by Lew Spence, lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman (then Marilyn Keith), is the mid-tempo title track of Sinatra's 1960 album of ballads, which went to Number One on the Billboard album chart. The songs were all arranged by the gifted Nelson Riddle. It is also featured on Disc 3 of "Ultimate Sinatra." It's one of those Sinatra recordings that has to be included on any list of his classics. Check it out on YouTube.
14. All of You[6 December 2015]
All of You, words and music by Cole Porter, has been recorded by many artists through the years, including jazz pianist Bill Evans, for his album, "Sunday at the Village Vanguard," his final recording with his famous trio that included Scott LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums [YouTube link]; ten days after this live performance, the pathbreaking, innovative bassist, LaFaro, died tragically in an automobile accident. This song was recorded late in Sinatra's career, on September 17, 1979. Sinatra did a wonderful recording of the song "All of Me," which talks of a broken love affair, with poignant lyrics: "You took the part, that once was my heart, so why not take all of me?" But this song has a decidedly different message, perhaps more appealing to the "Fifty Shades of Grey" generation, with its "I'd love to take complete control of you" motif. The song first appeared on Sinatra's 1980 album, "Trilogy: Past, Present, Future," and it is found on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra," as well. Listen to the Chairman of the Board with this swinging Billy May arrangement [YouTube link]. Tonight a Grammy all-Star Las Vegas bash, taped on December 2nd, is being shown on CBS television to honor the Sinatra Centenary. Sinatra himself did many TV specials, including the three "Man and His Music" specials, which included, in its third installment, that lovely section with Jobim [see here in my opening essay], and one with The First Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald; check them out in "The Lady is a Tramp" [YouTube link]. [6 December 2015]
15. The World We Knew (Over and Over)[7 December 2015]
The World We Knew (Over and Over)features words and music credits given to Bert Kaempfert, Carl Sigman, and Herbert Rehbein. It is the title track of a 1967 studio album that gave Sinatra a few hits on the rock-dominated Billboard charts. This song hit #30 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the "Easy Listening" chart, while his duet with his daughter Nancy ("Somethin' Stupid", coming soon...) actually hit #1 on both charts. It is also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra". This particular song is actually based on a German composition by Bert Kaempfert. A throwback of sorts, since Kaempfert served in the German army in World War II, which, back in 1941, at this precise time, was on the verge of joining its Axis allies (Japan and Italy) in a declaration of war against the United States. (Rehbein was actually conscripted into the German army in 1941, but was assigned to the Music Corps, stationed in Crete, becoming a POW in Belgrade, until the end of World War II.) Literally, the world everyone once knew was about to change forever. And it is on this date in 1941 that Pearl Harbor was devastated by a brutal Japanese "surprise" attack, which, in retrospect wasn't much of a surprise at all, since the tensions between the U.S. and Japan were severely strained for years. Well, here it comes... the Sinatra connection the reader is waiting for (our Sinatra version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon"): it was in the 1953 film, "From Here to Eternity," which won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Sinatra, that we follow the trials and tribulations of soldiers stationed in Hawaii in the months before that "date which will live in Infamy." Check out this song on YouTube. And while you're at it, check out a nice picture book from last night's CBS Grammy Special commemorating Sinatra 100.
I've Got the World on a String [8
Facebook announcement: The Centenary Sinatra tribute will have two entries today; the first is being published on "Notablog," 'in the wee small hours of the morning.' The second will be posted sometime after the sun rises in Brookyn; hint: we'll be taking a slight detour to commemorate the 90th anniversary of one of Sinatra's "Rat Pack" friends. CB states that: "It's also the 50th anniversary of this song": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN3GbF9Bx6E .
I've Got the World on a String,music by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Ted Koehler, was first heard in the 1932 Cotton Club Parade, introduced by both Cab Calloway and Bing Crosby. The song was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1953, and reached #14 on the Billboard "most played" chart. It appeared as the lead track on his 1956 album, "This is Sinatra!", which constituted his first Capitol Records compilation set. Arranged by Nelson Riddle, it became a staple of the Sinatra Songbook, and was recognized in 2004 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences as a Grammy Hall of Fame recording. It is one of those songs that is almost inseparable from Sinatra's rendition, even though it has been covered by so many wonderful artists through the years. Indeed, I'll never forget an instrumental rendition by sweet trumpeter Bobby Hackett [YouTube link (and that's Carl Kress on guitar)], who went on to record so many of those romantic mood music albums produced by The Great One, Jackie Gleason. Gleason was so impressed by how background music magnified romantic scenes in the cinema that he once said: "If [Clark] Gable needs music, a guy in Brooklyn must be desperate!" [And be warned: the Jackie Gleason Centenary is Coming in February!] Johnny Carson [YouTube link] turned that same thought around; he once acknowledged the role of Sinatra's music as background to his own romantic encounters and he asked Sinatra: "When you're in a romantic mood, and you're trying to 'make out,' whose records do you put on?" Check out the Carson link for Sinatra's answer (and a surprise guest). Well, this song may not be soft, cuddly, and "romantic," but it celebrates the ecstatic state of being in love. And if its bouncy rhythm helps you in your romantic romps, more power to you! Because no Centenary Tribute is complete without this swinging original Sinatra recording [YouTube link].
You Were There (which also marked the 90th
anniversary of the birth of Sammy Davis, Jr.)
[8 December 2015b]
Facebook announcement: Today, I've already posted "I've Got the World on a String" in the ongoing Sinatra Centenary Tribute. But this is one of those very rare occasions that I post TWO songs of the day, and Ol' Blue Eyes would not have been bothered at all; it's a song written and performed by Michael Jackson, in honor of Sammy Davis, Jr., who would have turned 90 today. Both Frankie and Mikey loved Sammy lots; check it out, and make sure to go through those links, where you'll find a Sinatra-Davis duet ("Me and My Shadow") and a young MJ doing his best "Ring-a-ding-ding" performance of The Chairman of the Board (on a Diana Ross TV special).
You Were There,words and music by Buz Kohan and Michael Jackson, was performed by Michael Jackson in 1989 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Sammy Davis, Jr. in show business. Michael's performance received an Emmy Award nomination. Today, marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Sammy Davis Jr., an inner-circle member of Sinatra's Rat Pack. Check out Jackson's performance [YouTube]. Throughout my "Song of the Day" entries, the reader will find so many celebrations of Davis's artistic talents. He was one of the great "song-and-dance men" of any generation and was unafraid to tackle songs from any generation. Check out the highlighted songs from my own list. First and foremost on that list, of course, is Davis's own rendition of MJ's "Bad," [YouTube link], and then a dazzling Davis line-up, including: "Come Back To Me" (with a bit of "Birth of the Blues") recorded live with the slammin' swingin' Buddy Rich Orchestra jazzing up the Vegas strip at the Sands Copa Room [YouTube link]; with that same band and setting doing "I Know a Place" [You Tube link]; "MacArthur Park," with its lush orchestration [YouTube link]; "Me and My Shadow," performed with Sinatra and a little "Ring-a-ding-ding" charm [YouTube link]; "Once in a Lifetime," which Davis performed in a 1978 Broadway revival of "Stop the World: I Want to Get Off" [YouTube link]; a Disco-fied "That Old Black Magic" [YouTube link]; the jazzy "Too Close for Comfort" [YouTube link]; an absolutely lovely rendition of "We'll Be Together Again," performed with Brazilian classical and jazz guitarist Laurindo Almeida [YouTube link]; a definitively terrific version of "What Kind of Fool Am I?" [YouTube link]; and "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?" [YouTube link]. Even though I feature "I've Got the World on a String," as part of the continuing Centenary Sinatra Tribute, I have added this MJ tribute song, where the "Six Degrees of Sinatra" work out quite well. After all, the young Michael Jackson once did a comedic Sinatra Tribute of sorts [YouTube link]. MJ was actually present for what Sinatra's son, Frank Jr., called his father's last great day in the studio. Quincy Jones, who had produced albums for both Sinatra and Jackson [one of those albums, "Thriller," was just certified 30X Platinum by the RIAA; it has been certified as having been the only album in recording history to sell 30 million units in the United States and 100 million units worldwide --Ed.] conducted the orchestra for that 1984 album, which would be Sinatra's last solo production: "L.A. is My Lady." During the sessions, Michael and Frank hung out together. Quincy said it was remarkable to see the two most dominant artists of their generation chatting, laughing, and taking photos together [YouTube links]. And they were certainly both united by their love of Sammy Davis, Jr.,, who would have turned 90 on this date. So here's to the unique bond between Sammy, Mikey, and Frankie. All of them gone too soon.
18. Somethin' Stupid[9 December 2015]
Somethin' Stupid,words and music by C. Carson Parks, is a duet with Frank and his daughter Nancy Sinatra. It appears on the 1967 album, "The World We Knew." It is also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." This song sung between two lovers hit Number One on the Bilboard Hot 100 singles chart, a near-miraculous occurrence in the rock era, perhaps helped a bit by Top 40 DJs who insisted on calling it "The Incest Song." But in truth, Sinatra scored 209 hits on Billboard's pop singles chart; 127 of these made the Top 20, 70 of these made the Top 10, and 10 of them peaked at Number One. As I pointed out back in July 2015, Sinatra actually was featured on the first #1 single ever recorded for the first national Billboard chart in 1940. He hit #1 again with "There Are Such Things" in 1942; "In the Blue of the Evening" in 1943; "All or Nothing at All" in 1944; "Five Minutes More" in 1946; and "Mam'sele" [YouTube links] (from the 1947 film, "The Razor's Edge"). But only two additional Number Ones came to Sinatra in the post-1958 "rock era" of the Hot 100 chart: "Strangers in the Night" in 1966 and this sweet duet in 1967 [YouTube link].
19. September of My Years[10 December 2015]
September of My Years, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is the title track of an album released in late 1965, to coincide with Sinatra's 50th birthday. The festivities led to a surge of popularity, or, what might be termed a resurrgence of interest in one of America's great talents. The singer received the Grammy Awards for Album of the Year in two successive years: with this album and the 1967 album, "The Man and His Music" (he holds the record for having won this award three times, tied with Stevie Wonder, and several other artists; "Come Dance with Me" was Sinatra's first win in this category). Yes, in the rock-and-roll era of the 1960s, non-rock artists (like Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, Stan Getz, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Astrud Gilberto) still had a chance in hell to win Album of the Year. The title tune from Sinatra's album offers just one moment from a blockbuster collection of music, jam-packed with reflections on the "autumn" of his life. It includes one of my absolutely all-time favorite Sinatra recordings: "It Was a Very Good Year" [YouTube link], for which he won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male. This was the same year that Sinatra was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (previously awarded only once before, in 1962, to one of those who had a great impact on our Centenary birthday boy: Bing Crosby). This album was arranged and conducted by the great Gordon Jenkins. This song is also found on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra." Listen to it on YouTube. Throughout this Centenary tribute, I've mentioned several times that Sinatra made an impact on jazz, just as jazz made an impact on Sinatra; but people have wondered whether it is proper to call him a "jazz singer." In truth, Sinatra defied strict categorization, but the great musician and composer, Billy May, who was one of the seminal arrangers and conductors of some of the finest songs in the Sinatra Songbook, once said: "If your definition of a jazz singer is someone who can approach [a song] like an instrumentalist and get [the written melody] across but still have a feeling of improvisation, a freshness to it, and do it a little bit differently every time, then I would agree that Frank is."
20. Strangers in the Night[11 December 2015a]
Strangers in the Nightfeatures the English lyrics of Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder,and the music of Bert Kaemfert, who actually composed the instrumental as part of the score for the 1966 film, "A Man Could Get Killed." The Sinatra recording is the title track of his 1966 album (also featured on Disc 4 of "Ultimate Sinatra"), and was one of only two singles of his in the rock era to go to #1. It reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and the Easy Listening charts. The album became Sinatra's most commercially successful release among the many he released throughout his career. And in 1967, though he won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for "A Man and His Music," he received two additional Grammys recognizing this song: Record of the Year and Best Male Vocal Performance. Over the years, this was never one of my all-time Sinatra favorites (and it is said that it wasn't one of Sinatra's own all-time favorites either). It was akin to the case of Stevie Wonder, an artist who has given us such brilliant albums as "Innervisions" and "Songs in the Key of Life," and an array of wonderful compositions, from "Superstition" to "All in Love is Fair" to "Another Star." And then he receives an Oscar for Best Original Song and a matching Golden Globe for "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (from the 1984 film, "The Woman in Red"). Like Sinatra's "Strangers," Wonder's tune became his most commercially successful single, going to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot R&B, and Adult Contemporary charts. As I said, Wonder's song was really never one of my favorites (and the critics were not kind to it either). But then, it grew on me. And that was primarily due to the fact that I watched the 1999 Kennedy Center Honors, where Stevie was one of the honorees. One tribute segment featured jazz pianist Herbie Hancock accompanying jazz vocalist Diane Schurr, who spoke authentically about how she, as a blind woman, received such inspiration from Stevie. What followed was a completely altered jazz-infused rendition of the song; if you have never seen or heard it, check out this musical magic on YouTube, and you'll find out why it eventually became an entry on "My Favorite Songs." But "Strangers" is another matter entirely. It was difficult to like, and became increasingly difficult to embrace as the culture grabbed onto it, satirized it, and butchered it countless times to the point of sacrilege. It was even the title of a gay porn film (and the lyrics lend themselves to the chance meetings of people in forbidden places), and then came a Teddy and Darell 1966 gay parody [YouTube link] that is now considered part of Queer Music History 101. In any event, I gave in because something in that song just grew on me over time, particularly because of its fade out, when we hear that utterly famous Sinatra-ism. All together now: "Do-Be-Do-Be-Do." It became one of those phrases that has been eternally incorporated into the American Zeitgeist from Sinatra's repertoire (another being "Ring-a-Ding-Ding!", the title track from Sinatra's 1961 album). It just endears the song to me on another level entirely. In the 1970s, I used to wear a T-Shirt that said, on successive lines: "To Be is To Do" - Socrates; "To Do is to Be" - Sartre; "Do Be Do Be Do" - Sinatra. A Centenary Tribute to Sinatra without this would just not be complete. Listen to the original #1 Hit by Frank Sinatra on YouTube. [11 December 2015a]
21. Drinking Water (Agua de Beber)[11 December 2015b]
Drinking Water (Agua De Beber), music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Brazilian lyrics by Vinicius de Moreas, English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, was not in the original line-up of songs that appeared on the 1967 Grammy-nominated album "Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim." (Though one thing is for sure: I don't think Sinatra was drinking water!) Instead, it appeared in the 1971 album, "Sinatra & Company"; it was also included in the fully reconstituted Sinatra-Jobim collaboration, a 20-track compilation, "Sinatra/Jobim: The Complete Reprise Recordings," released in 2010. I did a double "Song of the Day" dose on December 8th, and I can still list almost every song Sinatra ever recorded with Jobim, so I'm squeezing at least one more in before tomorrow's finale. It's just such a melodic, lyrical, flowing tune, with lyrics like "Your love is rain. My heart the flower." All I can say is: Rio hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics, and if, in the Opening Ceremonies, there is not a single mention of Jobim and all the other magnificent Brazilian artists who gave birth to this lilting melodic genre, impacting American music, and music throughout the world: Well, it's practicaly grounds to boycott the Games! In any event, celebrate this Sinatra-Jobim collaboration [YouTube link]. And for those who would like the DVD collection of all four "Man and His Music" television specials, one of which featured Jobim, check it out on Amazon.com.
That's Life [12 December 2015]
Facebook announcement: We've reached the final song in my Centenary Salute to Ol' Blue Eyes. But this entry includes more than a final song; it is the finale of the series, which I have now published as a single piece with all 19-days of entries and Facebook material, found in the Essays section of my website. This has been a labor of love; thanks to all of those who reminisced with me and enjoyed it. This Facebook post elicited nice commentary from a variety of readers, and includes lovely videos of other Sinatra songs, and duets that Sinatra did: with Ella Fitzgerald and Doris Day, of whom, I remark: There's been a long movement for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give her the recognition she deserves, the Great Doris Day. And unbeknownst to me, Sinatra did a number of lovely duets with Keely Smith (who was a terrific partner for Louis Prima, the White Sicilian Satchmo); check out "Nothing in Common": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFD9ObuLoOM.
That's Life,words and music by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, is one of my absolute all-time favorite Sinatra recordings, an album title track that went to the Top Five (a #4 singles hit) on the Billboard pop chart, smack in the middle of the rock-dominated Beatles era. It also hit #1 on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks (December 1966 to January 1967). It had been previously recorded by others, including O. C. Smith [YouTube link]. But unlike Smith's slower, bluesier version, Sinatra swaggers through it and makes the song his own. He first performed the song on his television special, "A Man and His Music, Part II." The TV version, however, takes a backseat to the recorded version [both YouTube links], which was produced by Jimmy Bowen and conducted by Ernie Freeman.
Uplifting a glass, Francis Albert Sinatra offered this toast on more than one occasion: "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine." Sinatra passed away in 1998, at the age of 82. But if I were blessed to live to 100, the loveliness of his recorded performances gives me the opportunity to hear "The Voice" on my way to the Pearly Gates... or whetever warmer climates my Maker has in store for me. But today is not about obituaries; it is about births, rebirths, resurrections. For today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra. We conclude with One Hundred Toasts to a man who was indeed a poet, the so-called "poet laureate of loneliness," but no less a poet of joy. He was the recipient of Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys (and he has three stars on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," commemorating his work in film, television, and recording, respectively). I've tried to provide this tribute with a widescreen version that encompasses all of his artistry, but ultimately, I have always returned to song, for it is there that his magic conjoins the supreme method actor to the supreme musician. He could introduce the Grammy Awards [1963 video], and haul home a wagon full of them. He was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner (1965), a Grammy Trustees Award winner (1979), and a Grammy Living Legend Award winner (1994; presented to him with style by U2's Bono) [Grammy video link]. He has five albums and eight singles inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Among his "Hall of Fame" albums are: "Come Fly with Me" (1958; inducted in 2004); "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely" (1958; inducted 1999); "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955; inducted 1984); "September of My Years" (1965; inducted 1999); and "Songs for Swingin' Lovers!" (1956; inducted 2000). Among his "Hall of Fame" singles: "The House I Live In" (1946; inducted in 1998); "I'll Never Smile Again" (1940, with Tommy Dorsey and the Pied Pipers; inducted in 1982); "I've Got the World on a String" (1953; inducted in 2004); "I've Got You Under My Skin" (1956; inducted in 1998); "My Way" (1969; inducted in 2000); "One for My Baby" (1958; inducted in 2005); "Strangers in the Night" (1966; inducted 2008); and the "Theme from 'New York, New York'" (1980; inducted 2013). I've got links to each of them on "My Favorite Songs."
It took a bit of thought to come up with a musical finale best suited for the occasion. "My Way" could have played the part, but it is already among my ever-growing list, used thematically for a commercial by Hall-of-Fame-bound Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, to mark his retirement from professional baseball. Surely the lyrics, written by Paul Anka are even more appropriate for Francis Albert Sinatra, who retired several times along the way, only to come back to that music, which was hard-wired into his DNA. He sings of a life that's full, acknowledges the few regrets he's had along the way, and takes pride in the "charted course" he planned. He admits his doubts, his loves, his joy, his "share of losing." He concludes with the ultimate statement of individual integrity: "For what is a man, what has he got, if not himself, then he has naught to say the things he truly feels, and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows, I took the blows. And did it My Way."
Alas, given my policy of never repeating a song, I can still appreciate its significance as one of Sinatra's signature pieces. But, for me, the very first words of the song provide an almost maudlin context ("And now, the end is near. And so I face the final curtain"). If this Centenary Sinatra Tribute has proven anything, it is that the end was not near, even when Sinatra passed away in 1998. When I think of Sinatra, so many themes come to mind, so many definitive renditions of songs from the Great American Songbook that were stamped by Sinatra in an almost autobiographical way. As appropriate a song as "My Way" was, for Sinatra, a statement of individual integrity, it is still sung when "the end was near." That end will never come as long as humans have ears to hear with and minds and hearts to think and feel with.
I conclude this tribute with one of those quintessential Sinatra recordings, which expresses the guts of the kick-ass "I-ain't-beaten-yet" genre that Sinatra championed. This is the Sinatra for whom the end is never near and it certainly resonates with me and so many others, expressing a universal motif for people who have faced life head on, and who won't give in to anything or anyone who "get[s] their kicks, stompin' on a dream." When you focus on these lyrics, it is as if Sinatra could have written the song himself. He is the prizefighter personified who gets knocked down, bruised, battered, bloodied . . . but still, somehow, gets back on his feet and stays in the ring. He stands up because, and only because, this is a life worth living and fighting for.
Sinatra could understand and communicate a remarkable range of human emotion, for he lived it: as an actor, a singer, a concert performer, he could embody everything from grief to ecstasy, from defeat to defiance. We complete our tribute and commemorate his birthday as one of the greatest artists to have ever graced this world. Bravo, Ol' Blue Eyes.