Patterico's Pontifications


Frank Sinatra at 100

Filed under: General — JVW @ 2:26 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Francis Albert Sinatra was born 100 years ago today in Hoboken, New Jersey to Natalina “Dolly” Garaventa Sinatra of Genoa and Antonio Martino “Marty” Sinatra of Palermo. The Sinatra Family experience was much the same as other immigrant family experiences in the early years of the 20th century: his mother worked as a midwife (and apparently an abortionist) and immersed herself in local politics, his father worked for the fire department and moonlighted as a prizefighter, and the two of them together ran a local tavern where young Frankie first performed for small change. He grew up listening to the music of Al Jolson, Rudy Vallee, and Russ Colombo, all of whom were first- or second-generation Americans, but he ended up idolizing a West Coast singer of Anglo-Irish background who could trace his father’s family back to the arrival of the Mayflower, Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby, Jr.

After getting his start singing in area clubs and doing free appearances on local radio, Sinatra got his first break in 1935 with a nearby group called the 3 Flashes, who changed their name to the Hoboken Four once Sinatra joined. The group appeared on the Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour radio show which was something of the American Idol of its day, and ended up winning first prize. In 1939 trumpet player Harry James left the Benny Goodman Orchestra to start up his own group, and he hired Sinatra as his singer. (Historical footnote: supposedly James wanted to change Sinatra’s stage name to “Frankie Satin,” which Sinatra smartly refused) Sinatra would leave the James Orchestra within a few months to join the more renowned Tommy Dorsey Orchestra as the boy singer at the height of the big band era.

It was this fortuitous pairing with Dorsey which would have the major impact on Sinatra’s career. From Dorsey, Sinatra learned how to take quick side breaths while holding a note, applying the trombonists’ playing trick to his own singing. During his years in the Dorsey Orchestra, Sinatra would meet staff arranger Axel Stordahl who would arrange many of Sinatra’s hits at Columbia and Capitol. (Historical footnote 2: a year after Sinatra left the Dorsey Orchestra, Dorsey hired a young trombone player named Nelson Riddle, who would go on to arrange and produce some of Sinatra’s most memorable hits.) Here is a brief clip of Sinatra and the Dorsey Orchestra, along with girl singer Jo Stafford and the Pied Pipers, singing one of the groups biggest hits:

Sinatra left the Dorsey Orchestra to embark upon a solo career in 1942. His life from there is well documented, from the sold-out run at New York’s Paramount Theater, to his turbulent marriage to and divorce from Ava Gardner, to the comebacks, the Academy Award, the hits at Capitol Records, the Rat Pack, the friendship with mobsters, the years on Las Vegas stages, the movies, starting his own record company, Mia Farrow, retirements, more comebacks, duets, and his death seventeen years ago. He lived his life publicly and without apology, he could be generous and he could be cruel, and he always maintained a soft spot in his heart for the underdog, and an enduring love of and gratitude to the country that had made him so rich and famous.

Like his idol Crosby, Sinatra’s career fortuitously coincided with the golden age of the American songwriter, and Sinatra recorded all of them from the Gershwins, to Cole Porter, to Sammy Cahn and Jule Steyn, to Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, to Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, to Johnny Burke and Jimmy Van Heusen, to Irving Berlin, to Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields, and countless others. His recordings span over a half-century, and he sang virtually every type of popular music imaginable. He embodied the American Dream, the Horatio Alger success story, the cautionary tale of too much too young, and the quintessential spirit of endurance and redemption. Even today it’s impossible not to feel your mood lift when the opening notes to Nelson Riddle’s arrangement of I’ve Got You Under My Skin play and Sinatra’s silky smooth voice croons the opening line, and the song (wonderful story about its recording here) sounds today every bit as fresh as must have when it was recorded 60 years ago. Sinatra’s music truly is timeless.

Mark Steyn has been counting down 100 great Sinatra songs throughout this entire year, culminating with the final pick to be announced today. As typical of Steyn, every one of his song essays is fascinating and well worth the read. He also links to some other bloggers who have been compiling lists of their own favorite Sinatra recordings.

Happy birthday, Mr. S.


22 Responses to “Frank Sinatra at 100”

  1. He voted for Roosevelt in 1940, Kennedy in 1960, Nixon in 1972, and Reagan in 1980. That too says something about the immigrant experience in America in the last century.

    JVW (d60453)

  2. he helps america remember who she is

    contrast him with uglywhore barbra streisand

    so glad he’s more alive than she is

    happyfeet (831175)

  3. Listened to the Sinatra channel on Sirius today, so good.
    He never wrote a song, but he sure could sing.

    mg (31009b)

  4. i used to serve the italian foozles in a place what played nothing but Mr. Chairman

    i love my boots broke-in i love my camo hat

    happyfeet (831175)

  5. What a great post, JVW. I enjoyed every word, video and link.

    DRJ (15874d)

  6. Thanks DRJ. I wanted to do a week’s worth of posts discussing the various aspects of his rich career, but alas, I couldn’t find the time. Besides, Steyn and others have done a far better job than ever could have.

    JVW (835a5b)

  7. Frank called the shots for all those guys.

    Patterico (86c8ed)

  8. speaking of Jerseytrash vocalists, Jon Bon Jovi is a sleazy obamaslut and an ardent and almost-always-sleeveless democrat besides

    I once flew on a plane with Bill Clinton and a reporter asked whose job was better, mine or the President’s? I said that mine was, cause I get to keep the plane and the house!

    happyfeet (831175)

  9. This is a fun post, JVW. Thanks.

    I recently watched some on Dean Martin show clips (was the man ever sober??), and there was a pretty funny one with Sinatra. He and Martin showed up on a park bench to meet a date… Anyway, the skit would never be allowed on the air today. The public scolds and SJWs would be apoplectic at the offensiveness of it all. Feminists, gays, the whole shebang is fodder for them.

    Dana (86e864)

  10. The subscription is an indulgent luxury, but Sirius XM’s satellite radio service (which I listen to in my car) has a permanent channel called “Siriusly Sinatra” — not all Old Blue Eyes all the time, but music of his (very broad) era, of which he’d have approved and frequently playing some of his almost-forgotten oldies. It’s remarkably easy for me to peg, just by the timber of his voice and the style of the supporting arrangements, whether I’m hearing 1940s Sinatra or 1970s Sinatra.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  11. I love the Sirius XM show “Nancy on Frank” where Nancy Sinatra plays songs by her father and many of his contemporaries. She always has such cool stories about all those characters. Have you ever noticed that when she is discussing his music she always refers to him as “Frank,” but when she starts telling personal anecdotes she reverts to calling him “dad.” I find that to be really endearing.

    JVW (d60453)

  12. lawyers have frivolous subscriptions to digital media

    it wasn’t sposed to be this way

    halp us obi pickles

    happyfeet (831175)

  13. ONLY HPE

    happyfeet (831175)

  14. I guess it goes as well here as anywhere. I didn’t respond to Pat’s anniversary tribute to his dad because my father has only been gone just over a year.

    He was a Senior Chief. His job was to whip these guys into shape.

    Marines scaring another Marine

    Marines. Coasties. They aren’t all that different. I’ll hoist one to all of them. And my dad. And Sinatra.

    Steve57 (50e6a1)

  15. What I meant was my dad was a big Sinartra fan. So it’s difficult for me to to remember Sinatra an not remember my dad.

    Steve57 (50e6a1)

  16. httOps://

    “I want to be a part of it, New York, New York!…”

    Steve57 (50e6a1)

  17. I can’t think of Sinatra without also using the words “jerk” and “shmuck” … AND “virulent anti-racist”. He was making pronouncement and short film clips preaching against racism way before it was ‘cool’ .

    ps: Dean Martin was rarely even tipsy. 99% of the time the drink was a prop.

    seeRpea (ecb07d)

  18. I liked Sinatra. Nobody’s perfect. And PS I knew that about Dean Martin. Yeah, and Foster Brooks wasn’t a drunk neither.

    Steve57 (50e6a1)

  19. Sinatra the person – ugh except for his views and practices on race relations. Hopefully history will give him the credit he deserves.
    Sinatra the actor – okay, i liked.
    Sinatra the singer – I can appreciate his craft (helps that i took a music appreciation course) but most of his songs don’t impress me. I can think of 3 that did:
    Summer Wind
    It was a Very Good Year and
    Stranger in the Night (which still gives me goose bumps)

    seeRpea (ecb07d)

  20. I never took a music appreciation course. I know what it means to go three, three minute rounds.

    No, I’m not suggesting I’m tough. I wish I had taken a music appreciation course. It would have done me a lot more good.

    Steve57 (50e6a1)

  21. I took the course decades ago , so there was no politics. It helped me in understanding what type of music i like and also what to listen for to help understand the point of what was done.
    Actually Sinatra was the subject of one class, demonstrating what it was about his singing that made officiants so excited, how he used his “phrasing” to make his voice part of the arrangement and to even change how a song came across.

    seeRpea (ecb07d)

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