Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra at Girl's Town Ball in Florida, March 12, 1960.
Background information
Birth name Francis Albert Sinatra
Also known as Ol' Blue Eyes[1]
The Chairman of the Board.
Born December 12, 1915(1915-12-12)
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.[2]
Died May 14, 1998(1998-05-14) (aged 82)
Los Angeles, U.S.
Genres Traditional pop, jazz, swing, big band, vocal[3]
Occupations Singer,[1] actor, producer,[1] director,[1] conductor[4]
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1935–95[5]
Labels Columbia, Capitol, Reprise
Associated acts Rat Pack, Bing Crosby, Nancy Sinatra, Judy Garland, Quincy Jones, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Dean Martin, Count Basie, Sammy Davis, Jr.

Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra (pronounced /sɨˈnɑːtrə/; December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998[6]) was an American singer and actor.

Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, being the idol of the "bobby soxers", he released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra in 1946. His professional career had stalled by the 1950s, but it was reborn in 1954 after he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity.

He signed with Capitol Records and released several critically lauded albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin' Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice 'n' Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records (finding success with albums such as Ring-A-Ding-Ding, Sinatra at the Sands and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and statesmen, including John F. Kennedy. Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with "Strangers in the Night" and "My Way".

With sales of his music dwindling and after appearing in several poorly received films, Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971. Two years later, however, he came out of retirement and in 1973 recorded several albums, scoring a Top 40 hit with "(Theme From) New York, New York" in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally, until a short time before his death in 1998.

Sinatra also forged a successful career as a film actor, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity, a nomination for Best Actor for The Man with the Golden Arm, and critical acclaim for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate. He also starred in such musicals as High Society, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls and On the Town. Sinatra was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.


Early life

Born December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey,[7] Sinatra was the only child of Italian immigrants Natalie Della Garaventa and Antonino Martino Sinatra[8] and was raised Roman Catholic.[9] He left high school without graduating,[10] having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. Sinatra's father, often referred to as Marty, served with the Hoboken Fire Department as a Captain. His mother, known as Dolly, was influential in the neighborhood and in local Democratic Party circles, but also ran an illegal abortion business from her home; she was arrested several times and convicted twice for this offense.[11] During the Great Depression, Dolly nevertheless provided money to their son for outings with friends and expensive clothes.[12] Sinatra was arrested for carrying on with a married woman, a criminal offense at the time.[13] He worked as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper,[14] and as a riveter at the Tietjan and Lang shipyard,[15] but music was Sinatra's main interest, and he carefully listened to big band jazz.[16] He began singing for tips at the age of eight, standing on top of the bar at a local nightclub in Hoboken. Sinatra began singing professionally as a teenager in the 1930s,[17] although he learned music by ear and never learned how to read music.[16]


1935–40: Start of career, work with James and Dorsey

Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four,[5] and they sufficiently impressed Edward Bowes. After appearing on his show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour, they attracted 40,000 votes and won the first prize – a six month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.

Sinatra left the Hoboken Four and returned home in late 1935. His mother secured him a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week.[18]

On March 18, 1939, Sinatra made a demo recording of a song called "Our Love", with the Frank Mane band. The record has "Frank Sinatra" signed on the front. The bandleader kept the original record in a safe for nearly 60 years.[19] In June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one year contract of $75 a week.[20] It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record "From the Bottom of My Heart" in July, 1939[21]- US Brunswick #8443 and UK Columbia #DB2150.[22]

Fewer than 8,000 copies of "From the Bottom of My Heart" (Brunswick #8443) were sold, making the record a very rare find that is sought after by record collectors worldwide. Sinatra released ten commercial tracks with James through 1939, including "All or Nothing At All" which had weak sales on its initial release but then sold millions of copies when re-released by Columbia at the height of Sinatra's popularity a few years later.[23]

In November 1939, in a meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, Sinatra was asked by bandleader Tommy Dorsey to join his band as a replacement for Jack Leonard, who had recently left to launch a solo career. This meeting was a turning point in Sinatra's career. By signing with Dorsey's band, one of the hottest at the time, he greatly increased his visibility with the American public. Though Sinatra was still under contract with James, James recognized the opportunity Dorsey offered and graciously released Sinatra from his contract. Sinatra recognized his debt to James throughout his life and upon hearing of James' death in 1983, stated: "he [James] is the one that made it all possible."[24]

On January 26, 1940, Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Dorsey band at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, Illinois.[25] In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra released more than forty songs, with "I'll Never Smile Again" topping the charts for twelve weeks beginning in mid-July.[26]

Sinatra's relationship with Tommy Dorsey was troubled, because of their contract, which awarded Dorsey one-third of Sinatra's lifetime earnings in the entertainment industry. In January 1942, Sinatra recorded his first solo sessions without the Dorsey band (but with Dorsey's arranger Axel Stordahl and with Dorsey's approval). These sessions were released commercially on the Bluebird label. Sinatra left the Dorsey band late in 1942 in an incident that started rumors of Sinatra's involvement with the Mafia. A story appeared in the Hearst newspapers that mobster Sam Giancana coerced Dorsey to let Sinatra out of his contract for a few thousand dollars, and was fictionalized in the movie The Godfather.[16] According to Nancy Sinatra's biography, the Hearst rumors were started because of Frank's Democratic politics. In fact, the contract was bought out by MCA founder Jules Stein for $75,000.[24]

1940–50: Sinatramania and decline of career

In May 1941, Sinatra was at the top of the male singer polls in the Billboard and Down Beat magazines.[27] His appeal to bobby soxers, as teenage girls of that time were called, revealed a whole new audience for popular music, which had been recorded mainly for adults up to that time.

On December 31, 1942, Sinatra made a "legendary opening" at the Paramount Theater in New York. Jack Benny later said, "I thought the goddamned building was going to cave in. I never heard such a commotion...All this for a fellow I never heard of." When Sinatra returned to the Paramount in October 1944, 35,000 fans caused a near riot outside the venue because they were not allowed in.[16]

Sinatra being interviewed for American Forces Network during World War II.

During the musicians' strike of 1942–44, Columbia re-released Harry James and Sinatra's version of "All or Nothing at All" (music by Arthur Altman and lyrics by Jack Lawrence), recorded in August 1939 and released before Sinatra had made a name for himself. The original release did not even mention the vocalist's name. When the recording was re–released in 1943 with Sinatra's name prominently displayed, the record was on the best–selling list for 18 weeks and reached number 2 on June 2, 1943.[28]

Sinatra signed with Columbia on June 1, 1943, as a solo artist, and he initially had great success, particularly during the 1942-43 musicians' strike. Although no new records had been issued during the strike, he had been performing on the radio (on Your Hit Parade), and on stage. Columbia wanted to get new recordings of their growing star as fast as possible, so Sinatra convinced them to hire Alec Wilder as arranger and conductor for several sessions with a vocal group called the Bobby Tucker Singers. These first sessions were on June 7, June 22, August 5, and November 10, 1943. Of the nine songs recorded during these sessions, seven charted on the best–selling list.[29]

Sinatra did not serve in the military during World War II. On December 11, 1943, he was classified 4-F ("Registrant not acceptable for military service") for a perforated eardrum by his draft board. Additionally, an FBI report on Sinatra, released in 1998, showed that the doctors had also written that he was a "neurotic" and "not acceptable material from a psychiatric standpoint". This was omitted from his record to avoid "undue unpleasantness for both the selectee and the induction service".[30][31] Active-duty servicemen, like journalist William Manchester, said of Sinatra, "I think Frank Sinatra was the most hated man of World War II, much more than Hitler", because Sinatra was back home making all of that money and being shown in photographs surrounded by beautiful women.[32] His exemption would resurface throughout his life and cause him grief when he had to defend himself.[30][33] There were accusations, including some from noted columnist Walter Winchell,[34] that Sinatra paid $40,000 to avoid the service – but the FBI found no evidence of this.[31][35]

In 1945, Sinatra co-starred with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. That same year, he was loaned out to RKO to star in a short film titled The House I Live In. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, this film on tolerance and racial equality earned a special Academy Award shared among Sinatra and those who brought the film to the screen, along with a special Golden Globe for "Promoting Good Will". 1946 saw the release of his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, and the debut of his own weekly radio show.

By the end of 1948, Sinatra felt that his career was stalling, something that was confirmed when he slipped to No. 4 on Down Beat's annual poll of most popular singers (behind Billy Eckstine, Frankie Laine, and Bing Crosby).[36]

The year 1949 saw an upswing, as Frank co-starred with Gene Kelly in Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It was well received critically and became a major commercial success. That same year, Sinatra teamed up with Kelly for a third time in On the Town.

1950–60: Rebirth of career, Capitol concept albums

After two years' absence, Sinatra returned to the concert stage on January 12, 1950, in Hartford, Connecticut. His voice suffered and he experienced hemorrhaging of his vocal cords on stage at the Copacabana on April 26, 1950.[12] Sinatra's career and appeal to new teen audiences declined as he moved into his mid-30s.

This was a period of serious self-doubt about the trajectory of his career. In February 1951, he was walking through Times Square, past the Paramount theatre, keystone venue of his earlier phenomenal success. The Paramount marquee glowed in announcement of Eddie Fisher in concert. Swarms of teen-age girls had gathered in frenzy, swooning over the current singing idol. For Sinatra this public display of enthusiasm for Fisher validated a fear he had harbored in his own mind for a long time. The Sinatra star had fallen; the shouts of "Frankieee" were echoes of the past. Agitated and disconsolate he rushed home, closed his kitchen door, turned on the gas and laid his head on the top of the stove. A friend returned to the apartment not long after to find Sinatra lying on the floor sobbing out the melodrama of his life, proclaiming his failure was so complete he could not even commit suicide.[37]

In September 1951, Sinatra made his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn. A month later, a second series of the Frank Sinatra Show aired on CBS. Ultimately, Sinatra did not find the success on television for which he had hoped. The persona he presented to the TV audience was not that of a performer easily welcomed into homes. He projected an arrogance not compatible with the type of cozy congeniality that played well on the small screen.[38]

Columbia and MCA dropped him in 1952.

The rebirth of Sinatra's career began with the eve-of-Pearl Harbor drama From Here to Eternity (1953), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This role and performance marked a turnaround in Sinatra's career: after several years of critical and commercial decline, becoming an Oscar-winning actor helped him regain his position as the top recording artist in the world.[39]

Also in 1953, Sinatra starred in the NBC radio program Rocky Fortune. His character, Rocko Fortunato (aka Rocky Fortune) was a temp worker for the Gridley Employment Agency who stumbled into crime-solving by way of the odd jobs to which he was dispatched. The series aired on NBC radio Tuesday nights from October 1953 to March 1954, following the network's crime drama hit Dragnet. During the final months of the show, just before the 1954 Oscars, it became a running gag that Sinatra would manage to work the phrase "from here to eternity" into each episode, a reference to his Oscar-nominated performance.[40]

In 1953, Sinatra signed with Capitol Records, where he worked with many of the finest musical arrangers of the era, most notably Nelson Riddle,[21] Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May. With a series of albums featuring darker emotional material, Sinatra reinvented himself, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955)—Sinatra's first 12" LP and his second collaboration with Nelson Riddle—Where Are You? (1957) and Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely (1958). He also incorporated a hipper, "swinging" persona into some of his music, as heard on Swing Easy! (1954), Songs For Swingin' Lovers (1956), and Come Fly With Me (1957).

By the end of the year, Billboard had named "Young at Heart" Song of the Year; Swing Easy!, with Nelson Riddle at the helm (his second album for Capitol), was named Album of the Year; and Sinatra was named "Top Male Vocalist" by Billboard, Down Beat and Metronome.

A third collaboration with Nelson Riddle, Songs For Swingin' Lovers, was both a critical and financial success, featuring a recording of "I've Got You Under My Skin".

Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, a stark collection of introspective saloon songs and blues-tinged ballads, was a mammoth commercial success, spending 120 weeks on Billboard's album chart and peaking at #1. Cuts from this LP, such as "Angel Eyes" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", would remain staples of Sinatra's concerts throughout his life.

Through the late fifties, Sinatra frequently criticized rock and roll music, much of it being his reaction to rhythms and attitudes he found alien. In 1958 he lambasted it as "sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons. It manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth."[41]

Sinatra's 1959 hit "High Hopes" lasted on the Hot 100 for 17 weeks, more than any other Sinatra hit did on that chart, and was a recurring favorite for years on "Captain Kangaroo".

1960–70: Ring-A-Ding-Ding, Reprise records, Basie, Jobim, "My Way"

Sinatra started the 1960s as he ended the 1950s. His first album of the decade, Nice 'n' Easy, topped Billboard's chart and won critical plaudits. Sinatra grew discontented at Capitol and decided to form his own label, Reprise Records. His first album on the label, Ring-A-Ding-Ding (1961), was a major success, peaking at No.4 on Billboard and No.8 in the UK.

His fourth and final Timex TV special was broadcast in March 1960, and earned massive viewing figures. Titled It's Nice to Go Travelling, the show is more commonly known as Welcome Home Elvis. Elvis Presley's appearance after his army discharge was somewhat ironic; Sinatra had been scathing about him in the mid fifties, saying: "His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people."[42] Presley had responded: "... [Sinatra] is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it... [rock and roll] is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago."[43] Later, in efforts to maintain his commercial viability, Sinatra recorded Presley's hit "Love Me Tender" as well as works by Paul Simon ("Mrs. Robinson"), The Beatles ("Something", "Yesterday"), and Joni Mitchell ("Both Sides Now").[44]

Following on the heels of the film Can Can was Ocean's 11, the movie that became the definitive on-screen outing for "The Rat Pack".

From his youth, Sinatra displayed sympathy for African Americans and worked both publicly and privately all his life to help them win equal rights. He played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and led his fellow Rat Pack members and Reprise label mates in boycotting hotels and casinos that refused entry to black patrons and performers. He often spoke from the stage on desegregation and repeatedly played benefits on behalf of Dr. King and his movement. According to his son, Frank Sinatra, Jr., King sat weeping in the audience at a concert in 1963 as Sinatra sang Ol' Man River, a song from the musical Show Boat that is sung by an African-American stevedore.

On September 11 and 12, 1961, Sinatra recorded his final songs for Capitol.

In 1962, he starred with Janet Leigh and Laurence Harvey in the political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate, playing Bennett Marco. That same year, Sinatra and Count Basie collaborated for the album Sinatra-Basie. This popular and successful release prompted them to rejoin two years later for the follow-up It Might as Well Be Swing, which was arranged by Quincy Jones. One of Sinatra's more ambitious albums from the mid-1960s, The Concert Sinatra, was recorded with a 73-piece symphony orchestra on 35mm tape.

Sinatra's first live album, Sinatra at the Sands, was recorded during January and February 1966 at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

In June 1965, Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin played live in Saint Louis to benefit Dismas House. The concert was broadcast live via satellite to numerous movie theaters across America. Released in August 1965 was the Grammy Award–winning album of the year, September of My Years, containing the single "It Was A Very Good Year", which won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1966. A career anthology, A Man and His Music, followed in November, winning Album of the Year at the Grammys in 1966. The TV special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, garnered both an Emmy award and a Peabody Award.

In the spring, That's Life appeared, with both the single and album becoming Top Ten hits in the US on Billboard's pop charts. Strangers in the Night went on to top the Billboard and UK pop singles charts, winning the award for Record of the Year at the Grammys. The album of the same name also topped the Billboard chart and reached number 4 in the UK.

Sinatra started 1967 with a series of important recording sessions with Antônio Carlos Jobim. Later in the year, a duet with daughter Nancy, "Somethin' Stupid", topped the Billboard pop and UK singles charts. In December, Sinatra collaborated with Duke Ellington on the album Francis A. & Edward K..

During the late 1960s, press agent Lee Solters would invite columnists and their spouses into Sinatra's dressing room just before he was about to go on stage. The New Yorker recounted that "the first columnist they tried this on was Larry Fields of the Philadelphia Daily News, whose wife fainted when Sinatra kissed her cheek. 'Take care of it, Lee,' Sinatra said, and he was off." The professional relationship Sinatra shared with Solters focused on projects on the west coast while those focused on the east coast were handled by Solters' partner, Sheldon Roskin of Solters/Roskin/Friedman, a well-known firm at the time.[45]

Back on the small-screen, Sinatra once again worked with Jobim and Ella Fitzgerald on the TV special, A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim.

Watertown (1970) was one of Sinatra's most acclaimed concept albums[46] but was all but ignored by the public. Selling a mere 30,000 copies and reaching a peak chart position of 101, its failure put an end to plans for a television special based on the album.

With Sinatra in mind, singer-songwriter Paul Anka wrote the song "My Way", inspired from the French "Comme d'habitude" ("As Usual"), composed by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. (The song had been previously commissioned to David Bowie, whose lyrics did not please the involved agents.) "My Way" would, ironically, become more closely identified with him than any other song over his seven decades as a singer even though he reputedly did not care for it.

1970–80: Retirement and comeback

Empress Farah Diba of Iran and Frank Sinatra, Tehran, 1975.

On June 13, 1971 – at a concert in Hollywood to raise money for the Motion Picture and TV Relief Fund – at the age of 55, Sinatra announced that he was retiring, bringing to an end his 36-year career in show business.

In 1973, Sinatra came out of retirement with a television special and album, both entitled Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. The album, arranged by Gordon Jenkins and Don Costa, was a great success, reaching number 13 on Billboard and number 12 in the UK. The TV special was highlighted by a dramatic reading of "Send in the Clowns" and a song and dance sequence with former co-star Gene Kelly.

In January, 1974, Sinatra returned to Las Vegas, performing at Caesars Palace despite vowing in 1970 never to play there again after the manager of the resort, Sanford Waterman, pulled a gun on him during a heated argument.[47] With Waterman recently shot, the door was open for Sinatra to return.

In Australia, he caused an uproar by describing journalists there – who were aggressively pursuing his every move and pushing for a press conference – as "fags", "pimps", and "whores". Australian unions representing transport workers, waiters, and journalists went on strike, demanding that Sinatra apologize for his remarks.[48] Sinatra instead insisted that the journalists apologize for "fifteen years of abuse I have taken from the world press".[48] The future Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, then the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) leader, also insisted that Sinatra apologize, and a settlement was eventually reached to the apparent satisfaction of both parties,[48] Sinatra's final show of his Australian tour was televised to the nation.

In October 1974, Sinatra appeared at New York City's Madison Square Garden in a televised concert that was later released as an album under the title The Main Event – Live. Backing him was bandleader Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd, who accompanied Sinatra on a European tour later that month. The TV special garnered mostly positive reviews while the album – actually culled from various shows during his comeback tour – was only a moderate success, peaking at No.37 on Billboard and No.30 in the UK.

In August, 1975, Sinatra held several back-to-back concerts together with the newly-risen singer, John Denver. Soon they became friends with each other. John Denver later appeared as a guest in the Sinatra and friends TV Special, singing "September Song" together with Sinatra. Sinatra covered the John Denver hits "My Sweet Lady" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane". And, according to Denver, his song "A Baby Just Like You" was written at Sinatra's request.

In 1979, in front of the Egyptian pyramids, Sinatra performed for Anwar Sadat. Back in Las Vegas, while celebrating 40 years in show business and his 64th birthday, he was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award during a party at Caesars Palace.

1980–90: Trilogy, She Shot Me Down, L.A. Is My Lady

Sinatra sings with then First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House.

In 1980, Sinatra's first album in six years was released, Trilogy: Past Present Future, a highly ambitious triple album that found Sinatra recording songs from the past (pre-rock era) and present (rock era and contemporary) that he had overlooked during his career, while 'The Future' was a free-form suite of new songs linked à la musical theater by a theme, in this case, Sinatra pondering over the future. The album garnered six Grammy nominations – winning for best liner notes – and peaked at number 17 on Billboard's album chart, while spawning yet another song that would become a signature tune, "Theme from New York, New York", as well as Sinatra's much lauded (second) recording of George Harrison's "Something" (the first was not officially released on an album until 1972's Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2).

The following year, Sinatra built on the success of Trilogy with She Shot Me Down, an album that revisited the dark tone of his Capitol years, and was praised by critics as a vintage late-period Sinatra. Sinatra would comment that it was "A complete saloon album... tear-jerkers and cry-in-your-beer kind of things".[49]

Also in 1981, Sinatra was embroiled in controversy when he worked a ten-day engagement for $2 million in Sun City, South Africa, breaking a cultural boycott against apartheid-era South Africa. See Artists United Against Apartheid

He was selected as one of the five recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors, alongside Katharine Dunham, James Stewart, Elia Kazan, and Virgil Thomson. Quoting Henry James in honoring his old friend, President Ronald Reagan said that "art was the shadow of humanity" and that Sinatra had "spent his life casting a magnificent and powerful shadow".[50]

In 1984, Sinatra worked with Quincy Jones for the first time in nearly two decades on the album, L.A. Is My Lady, which was well received critically. The album was a substitute for another Jones project, an album of duets with Lena Horne, which had to be abandoned. (Horne developed vocal problems and Sinatra, committed to other engagements, could not wait to record.)

1990s: Duets, final performances

In 1990, Sinatra did a national tour,[51] and was awarded the second "Ella Award" by the Los Angeles–based Society of Singers. At the award ceremony, he performed for the final time with Ella Fitzgerald.[52]

In December, as part of Sinatra's birthday celebrations, Patrick Pasculli, the Mayor of Hoboken, made a proclamation in his honor, declaring that "no other vocalist in history has sung, swung, crooned, and serenaded into the hearts of the young and old ... as this consummate artist from Hoboken."[53] The same month Sinatra gave the first show of his Diamond Jubilee Tour at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

In 1993 Sinatra made a surprise return to Capitol and the recording studio for Duets, which was released in November.

The other artists who added their vocals to the album worked for free, and a follow-up album (Duets II) was released in 1994 that reached No.9 on the Billboard charts.

Still touring despite various health problems, Sinatra remained a top concert attraction on a global scale during the first half of the 1990s. At times during concerts his memory failed him and a fall onstage in Richmond, Virginia, in March, 1994, signaled further problems.

Sinatra's final public concerts were held in Japan's Fukuoka Dome in December, 1994. The following year, on February 25, 1995, at a private party for 1200 select guests on the closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, Sinatra sang before a live audience for the very last time. Esquire reported of the show that Sinatra was "clear, tough, on the money" and "in absolute control". His closing song was "The Best is Yet to Come".

Sinatra was awarded the Legend Award at the 1994 Grammy Awards, where he was introduced by Bono, who said of him, "Frank's the chairman of the bad attitude... Rock 'n roll plays at being tough, but this guy is the boss—the chairman of boss... I'm not going to mess with him, are you?"[54] Sinatra called it "the best welcome...I ever had", but his acceptance speech ran too long and was abruptly cut off, leaving him looking confused and talking into a dead microphone.[55]

In 1995, to mark Sinatra's 80th birthday, the Empire State Building glowed blue. A star-studded birthday tribute, Sinatra: 80 Years My Way, was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. At the end of the program Sinatra graced the stage for the last time to sing the final notes of "New York, New York" with an ensemble. It was Sinatra's last televised appearance.

In recognition of his many years of association with Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.[56]

Film career

Sinatra enjoyed a huge film career and began making movies almost as soon as his singing career took off. His most important pictures include The Manchurian Candidate, From Here to Eternity with Burt Lancaster, The Man With the Golden Arm, Kings Go Forth, Guys and Dolls with Marlon Brando, High Society with Bing Crosby, Pal Joey with Rita Hayworth, Some Came Running with Dean Martin, Never So Few with Steve McQueen, A Hole in the Head with Edward G. Robinson, Meet Danny Wilson with Shelley Winters, On the Town with Gene Kelly, Robin and the 7 Hoods with Bing Crosby and the Rat Pack, Ocean's Eleven and Sergeants 3 with the Rat Pack (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop), Step Lively, None But the Brave, directed by Sinatra, The Detective with Lee Remick, Come Blow Your Horn with Lee J. Cobb and Barbara Rush and The Pride and the Passion starring Cary Grant, among many others spanning most of his lengthy career.

Personal life

Sinatra had three children, Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina, all with his first wife, Nancy Barbato (married 1939–1951). He was married three more times, to actresses Ava Gardner (1951–1957) and Mia Farrow (1966–1968) and finally to Barbara Marx (married 1976), to whom he was still married at his death.

Throughout his life, Sinatra had mood swings and bouts of depression. Solitude and unglamorous surroundings were to be avoided at all cost. He struggled with the conflicting need "to get away from it all, but not too far away."[57] He acknowledged this, telling an interviewer in the 1950s: "Being an 18-karat manic depressive, and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation."[58] In her memoirs My Father's Daughter, his daughter Tina wrote about the "eighteen-karat" remark: "As flippant as Dad could be about his mental state, I believe that a Zoloft a day might have kept his demons away. But that kind of medicine was decades off."[59]

Alleged organized crime links

Sinatra garnered considerable attention due to his alleged personal and professional links with organized crime,[60] including figures such as Carlo Gambino,[61] Sam Giancana,[61] Lucky Luciano,[61] and Joseph Fischetti.[61] The Federal Bureau of Investigation kept records amounting to 2,403 pages on Sinatra. With his alleged Mafia ties, his ardent New Deal politics and his friendship with John F. Kennedy, he was a natural target for J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.[62] The FBI kept Sinatra under surveillance for almost five decades beginning in the 1940s. The documents include accounts of Sinatra as the target of death threats and extortion schemes. They also portray rampant paranoia and strange obsessions at the FBI and reveal nearly every celebrated Sinatra foible and peccadillo.[63]

For a year Hoover investigated Sinatra's alleged Communist affiliations, but found no evidence. The files include his rendezvous with prostitutes, and his extramarital affair with Ava Gardner, which preceded their marriage. Celebrities mentioned in the files are Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, and Giancana's girlfriend, singer Phyllis McGuire.

The FBI's secret dossier on Sinatra was released in 1998 in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

The released FBI files reveal some tantalizing insights into Sinatra’s lifetime consistency in pursuing and embracing seemingly conflicting affiliations. But Sinatra’s alliances had a practical aspect. They were adaptive mechanisms for behavior motivated by self-interest and inner anxieties. In September 1950 Sinatra felt particularly vulnerable. He was in a panic over his moribund career and haunted by the continual speculations and innuendos in circulation regarding his draft status in World War II. Sinatra “was scared, his career had sprung a leak.” In a letter dated September 17, 1950 to Clyde Tolson, Sinatra offered to be of service to the FBI as an informer. An excerpted passage from a memo in FBI files states that Sinatra “feels he can be of help as a result of going anywhere the Bureau desires and contacting any people from whom he might be able to obtain information. Sinatra feels as a result of his publicity he can operate without suspicion…he is willing to go the whole way.” The FBI declined his assistance.[64]

Political views

Sinatra held differing political views throughout his life.

Sinatra's parents had immigrated to the United States in 1895 and 1897 respectively. His mother, Dolly Sinatra (1896–1977), was a Democratic Party ward boss.[65]

Sinatra, pictured here with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1960, was an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party until 1970.

Sinatra remained a supporter of the Democratic Party until the early 1970s when he switched his allegiance to the Republican Party.

Political activities 1944–1968

In 1944, after sending a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sinatra was invited to meet Roosevelt at the White House, where he agreed to become part of the Democratic party's voter registration drives.[66]

He donated $5,000 to the Democrats for the 1944 presidential election and by the end of the campaign was appearing at two or three political events every day.[67]

After World War II, Sinatra's politics grew steadily more left wing,[68] and he became more publicly associated with the Popular Front. He started reading liberal literature and supported many organizations that were later identified as front organizations of the Communist Party by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, though Sinatra was never brought before the committee.

Sinatra spoke at a number of New Jersey high schools in 1945, where students had gone on strike in opposition to racial integration. Later that year Sinatra would appear in The House I Live In, a short film that stood against racism. The film was scripted by Albert Maltz, with the title song written by Earl Robinson and Abel Meeropol (under the pseudonym of Lewis Allen).

In 1948, Sinatra actively campaigned for President Harry S. Truman.[69] In 1952 and 1956, he also campaigned for Adlai Stevenson.[69] In 1956 and 1960, Sinatra sang the National Anthem at the Democratic National Convention.[69]

However, Sinatra's closest friendship with a president came with John F. Kennedy.[69] In 1960, Sinatra and his friends Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. actively campaigned for Kennedy throughout the United States;[69] On the campaign trail, Sinatra's voice was heard even if he wasn't physically present.[69] The campaign’s theme song, played before every appearance, was a newly recorded version of “High Hopes,” specially recorded by Sinatra with new lyrics saluting JFK.[69]

In January 1961, Sinatra and Peter Lawford organized the Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C., held on the evening before President John F. Kennedy was sworn into office.[69] The event, featuring many big show business stars, was an enormous success, raising a large amount of money for the Democratic Party. Sinatra also organized an Inaugural Gala in California in 1962 to welcome second term Democratic Governor Pat Brown.[12]

Sinatra's move toward the Republicans seems to have begun when he was snubbed by President Kennedy in favor of Bing Crosby,[70] a rival singer and a Republican, for Kennedy's visit to Palm Springs, in 1962. Kennedy had planned to stay at Sinatra's home over the Easter holiday weekend, but decided against doing so because of Sinatra's alleged connections to organized crime.[70] Kennedy stayed at Bing Crosby's house instead.[70] Sinatra had invested a lot of his own money in upgrading the facilities at his home in anticipation of the President's visit.[71] At the time, President Kennedy's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was intensifying his own investigations into organized crime figures such as Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, who had earlier stayed at Sinatra's home.

Despite his break with Kennedy, however, he still mourned over Kennedy after he learned he was assassinated.[69] According to his daughter Nancy, he learned of Kennedy's assassination while filming a scene of Robin and the Seven Hoods in Burbank.[69] After he learned of the assassination, Sinatra quickly finished filming the scene, returned to his Palm Springs home, and sobbed in his bedroom for three days.[69]

The 1968 election illustrated changes in the once solidly pro-JFK Rat Pack: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Shirley MacLaine all endorsed Robert Kennedy in the spring primaries; Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop backed Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. In the fall election, Sinatra appeared for Humphrey in Texas at the Houston Astrodome with President Lyndon Johnson and in a television commercial soliciting campaign contributions.[72] He also re-stated his support for Humphrey on a live election-eve national telethon.

Political activities 1970–1984

In 1970, the first sign of Sinatra's break from the Democratic Party came when he endorsed Ronald Reagan for a second term as Governor of California;[52][69] Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat and encouraged Reagan to become more moderate.[69] In July 1972, after a lifetime of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, Sinatra announced he would support Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon for re-election in the 1972 presidential election. His switch to the Republican Party was now official;[69] he even told his daughter Tina, who had actively campaigned for Nixon's Democrat opponent George McGovern,[69] "the older you get, the more conservative you get."[69] Sinatra said he agreed with the Republican Party on most positions, except that of abortion.[66]

Sinatra is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

During Nixon's Presidency, Sinatra visited the White House on several occasions.[69] Sinatra also became good friends with Vice President Spiro Agnew. In 1973, Agnew was charged with corruption and resigned as Vice President; Sinatra helped Agnew pay some of his legal bills.[73]

In the 1980 presidential election, Sinatra supported Ronald Reagan, and donated $4 million to Reagan's campaign. Sinatra said he supported Reagan as he was "the proper man to be the President of the United States... it's so screwed up now, we need someone to straighten it out."[74] Reagan's victory gave Sinatra his closest relationship with the White House since the early 1960s.[69] Sinatra arranged Reagan's Presidential gala,[53] as he had done for Kennedy 20 years previously.

In 1984, Sinatra returned to his birthplace in Hoboken, bringing with him President Reagan, who was in the midst of campaigning for the 1984 presidential election. Reagan had made Sinatra a fund-raising ambassador as part of the Republican National Committee's "Victory '84 Get-Out-The-Vote" (GOTV) drive .[75]


Sinatra's gravestone

Sinatra began to show signs of dementia in his last years and after a heart attack in February 1997, he made no further public appearances. After suffering another heart attack,[7] he died at 10:50 pm on May 14, 1998 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with his wife Barbara by his side.[7] He was 82 years old.[7] Sinatra's final words, spoken after Barbara encouraged him to "fight" as attempts were made to stabilize him, were "I'm losing."[76] The official cause of death was listed as complications from dementia, heart and kidney disease, and bladder cancer.[77] His death was confirmed by the Sinatra family on their website with a statement accompanied by a recording of the singer's version of "Softly As I Leave You". The next night the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed for 10 minutes in his honor. President Bill Clinton, as an amateur saxophonist and musician, led the world's tributes to Sinatra, saying that after meeting and getting to know the singer as President, he had "come to appreciate on a personal level what millions of people had appreciated from afar".[78] Elton John stated that Sinatra, "was simply the best – no one else even comes close".[78]

On May 20, 1998 at the Roman Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, Sinatra's funeral was held, with 400[79] mourners in attendance and hundreds of fans outside.[79] Gregory Peck,[79] Tony Bennett,[79] and Frank, Jr., addressed the mourners, among whom were Jill St. John, Tom Selleck,[79] Joey Bishop, Faye Dunaway,[79] Tony Curtis,[79] Liza Minnelli,[79] Kirk Douglas,[79] Robert Wagner,[79] Bob Dylan, Don Rickles,[79] Nancy Reagan,[79] Angie Dickinson, Sophia Loren,[79] Bob Newhart,[79] Mia Farrow,[79] and Jack Nicholson.[76][79] A private ceremony was held later that day at St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Palm Springs. Sinatra was buried following the ceremony next to his parents in section B-8 of Desert Memorial Park[6] in Cathedral City, a quiet cemetery on Ramon Road where Cathedral City meets Rancho Mirage and near his compound, located on Rancho Mirage's tree-lined Frank Sinatra Drive.[76] His close friends, Jilly Rizzo and Jimmy Van Heusen, are buried nearby in the same cemetery.

The words "The Best Is Yet to Come" are imprinted on Sinatra's grave marker.[80]


"Sinatra was... the first modern pop superstar... Following his idol Bing Crosby, who had pioneered the use of the microphone, Sinatra transformed popular singing by infusing lyrics with a personal, intimate point of view that conveyed a steady current of eroticism... Almost singlehandedly, he helped lead a revival of vocalized swing music that took American pop to a new level of musical sophistication... his 1950s recordings... were instrumental in establishing a canon of American pop song literature."

The U.S. Postal Service issued a 42-cent postage stamp in honor of Sinatra on May 13, 2008.[81] The design of the stamp was unveiled Wednesday, December 12, 2007 – on what would have been his 92nd birthday – in Beverly Hills, California, with Sinatra family members on hand.[82] The design shows a 1950s-vintage image of Sinatra, wearing a hat. The design also includes his signature, with his last name alone.[82] The Hoboken Post Office was renamed in his honor in 2002.[82] The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens and the Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken were named in his honor.

The U.S. Congress passed a resolution on May 20, 2008, designating May 13 as Frank Sinatra Day to honor his contribution to American culture. The resolution was introduced by Representative Mary Bono Mack.[83]

To commemorate the anniversary of Sinatra's death, Patsy's Restaurant in New York City, which Sinatra frequented, exhibited in May 2009 fifteen previously unseen photographs of Sinatra taken by Bobby Bank.[84] The photos are of his recording "Everybody Ought to Be in Love" at a nearby recording studio.[84]

Stephen Holden wrote for the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide:

Frank Sinatra's voice is pop music history. [...] Like Presley and Dylan – the only other white male American singers since 1940 whose popularity, influence, and mythic force have been comparable – Sinatra will last indefinitely. He virtually invented modern pop song phrasing.

Wynn Resorts dedicated a signature restaurant to Sinatra inside Encore Las Vegas on December 22, 2008.[85] Memorabilia in the restaurant includes his Oscar for "From Here to Eternity", his Emmy for "Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music", his Grammy for "Strangers in the Night", photographs and a gold album he received for "Classic Sinatra".

There is a residence hall at Montclair State University named for him in recognition of his status as an iconic New Jersey native.[86]

The Frank Sinatra International Student Center at Israel's Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus campus, was dedicated in 1978 in recognition of Sinatra's charitable and advocacy activities on behalf of the State of Israel.

Film portrayals

  • In 1992, CBS aired a TV mini-series about the entertainer's life called Sinatra, directed by James Steven Sadwith and starred Philip Casnoff as Sinatra. Opening with his childhood in Hoboken, New Jersey, the film follows Sinatra's rise to the top in the 1940s, through the dark days of the early 1950s and his triumphant re-emergence in the mid-1950s, to his status as pop culture icon in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In between, the film hits all of the main events, including his three marriages, his connections with the Mafia and his notorious friendship with the Rat Pack. Tina Sinatra was executive producer. Casnoff received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
  • In 1998, Ray Liotta portrayed Sinatra in the HBO movie The Rat Pack, alongside Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin and Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis, Jr. It depicted their contribution to John F. Kennedy's election as U.S. president in 1960.
  • In 2003, Sinatra was portrayed by James Russo in "Stealing Sinatra", which revolved around the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. in 1963
  • Also in 2003, he was portrayed by Dennis Hopper in "The Night we Called it a Day", based upon events that occurred during a tour of Australia where Frank had called a member of the news media a "two-bit hooker" and all the unions in the country came crashing down on him.
  • Sinatra was also portrayed by Sebastian Anzaldo in the film Tears of a King, who also impersonated Sinatra in a TV episode of The Next Best Thing.
  • Brett Ratner is currently developing a film adaptation of George Jacobs' memoir Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra.[87] Jacobs, who was Sinatra's valet, will be portrayed by Chris Tucker.[88]
  • Martin Scorsese is developing a biopic of Sinatra's life to be scripted by Phil Alden Robinson and produced by Scott Rudin.[89] When the film as first announced, three actors were said to be in contention for the part: Leonardo DiCaprio was Scorsese's preference, Johnny Depp was the studio's, and the Sinatra estate preferred George Clooney.[90] Scorsese later mentioned that he wanted Al Pacino for Sinatra and Robert DeNiro as Dean Martin.[91] The film covers his whole life, so three or more actors will be playing him at different ages.[92]


Awards and recognitions

See also


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  4. ^ Gigliotti, Gilbert L. A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit
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  6. ^ a b Palm Springs Cemetery District "Interment Information
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  10. ^ Summers, Antony and Swan, Robbyn. Sinatra: The Life. Doubleday, 2005. ISBN 0-552-15331-1. pg38.
  11. ^ Summers, Anthony; Swan, Robbyn (2005). Sinatra: The Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 16. ISBN 0-375-41400-2. 
  12. ^ a b c His Way: Frank Sinatra, the Unauthorized Biography, by Kitty Kelley, 1988.
  13. ^ "Mug Shots of the Week". 
  14. ^ Summers and Swan, pg44
  15. ^ Summers and Swan, pg47
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  17. ^ Summers and Swan, p48.
  18. ^ Nelson, Michael. Frank Sinatra: the Loneliness of the Long Distance Singer.
  19. ^ Summers, Anthony, and Robbyn Swan. Sinatra: The Life. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.
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    —Kelley, Kitty (1987). His Way. New York: Bantam Books. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-553-26515-6.
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  72. ^ Humphrey campaign ad
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  75. ^ Kelley. p. 560. ("Victory (year)" and "Get-Out-The-Vote" is a specific proper name for a particular campaign/election activity.)
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Further reading



  • Ash, Vic. (2006) I Blew it My Way: Bebop, Big Bands and Sinatra. Northway Publications. ISBN 0-9550908-2-2
  • Jacobs, George and Stadiem, William. (2003) Mr. S.: The Last Word on Frank Sinatra. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-330-41229-9
  • Falcone, Vincent. (2005) Frankly – Just Between Us: My Life Conducting Frank Sinatra's Music Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-0634094989


Cultural criticism

  • Gigliotti, Gilbert L. A Storied Singer: Frank Sinatra as Literary Conceit. Greenwood Press, 2002.
  • Hamill, Pete. Why Sinatra Matters. Back Bay Books, 2003.
  • Mustazza, Leonard, ed. Frank Sinatra and Popular Culture. Praeger, 1998.
  • Petkov, Steven and Mustazza, Leonard, ed. The Frank Sinatra Reader. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Pugliese, S., ed. Frank Sinatra: "History, Identity, and Italian American Culture ". Palgrave, 2004.
  • Smith, Martin. When Ol' Blue Eyes was a red. Redwords, 2005.
  • Zehme, Bill. The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'. Harper Collins, 1997.


  • Gigliotti, Gilbert L., ed. (2008) Sinatra: But Buddy I'm a Kind of Poem. Entasis Press ISBN 978-0-9800999-0-4
  • Giordmaina, Diane [McCue]. (2009) "Sinatra and The Moll". iUniverse. ISBN 978-0-595-53234-6
  • Havers, Richard. (2004) Sinatra. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 1-4053-1461-3
  • Ingham, Chris. (2005) The Rough Guide to Frank Sinatra. Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-414-2
  • Knight, Timothy. (2010) Sinatra – Hollywood His Way. Running Press. ISBN 9780762437436
  • Kuntz, Tom; Kuntz, Phil. (2000) The Sinatra Files: The Secret FBI Dossier. Three Rivers Press ISBN 0-8129-3276-5
  • Lloyd, David. (2003) The Gospel According to Frank. New American Press. ISBN 1-930907-19-2
  • O'Neill, Terry, ed. Morgan, Robert. (2007) Sinatra: Frank and Friendly. Evans Mitchell Books. ISBN 1-901268-32-2
  • Phasey, Chris. (1995) Francis Albert Sinatra: Tracked Down (Discography). Buckland Publications. ISBN 0-7212-0935-1
  • The New Rolling Stone Record Guide, Rolling Stone Press, 1983.

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