“May you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.”
— Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert Sinatra was born on this day in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA in 1915. Today is the 97th anniversary of his birth.
Frank was the only child of Marty and Dolly Sinatra. As a kid he stood on top of the bar at a local nightclub and sang for tips. He dropped (or was kicked) out of high school, and help make ends meet at home by delivering the local paper, the Jersey Observer. He also worked as a riveter at a local shipyard. Although he couldn’t read music he began singing professionally by the mid 1930s when he joined the Three Flashes (they changed their name to the Hoboken Four.)
He worked as a singing waiter in Englewood Cliffs for $15 a week for almost 4 years. Then Henry James signed him for a one year contract at $75 a week. On July 13th, 1939, as the US was emerging from a decade of Depression and the world was on the advent of another great War, 23-year-old Frank Sinatra recorded his first record, From the Bottom of my Heart, with the Harry James Orchestra.
He released 10 songs with James (none of which charted particularly high in their original pressing.) Sinatra switched to the more popular Tommy Dorsey’s band (with James’ blessing) in November. He recorded over 40 songs on Dorsey. One of his biggest hits with Dorsey was I’ll Never Smile Again.
By 1941 he was at the top of both the Billboard and Down Beat magazine polls. Not only did he sell records, he opened up an entirely new audience — the bobby soxers (aka teenagers.) [It seems odd today — when so much of a company’s advertising budget goes toward capturing the 12-20 year old’s pocketbook — but prior to 1940 most consumers were adults. Sinatra appealed to both adult women and bobby sox wearing girls.]
He went solo in 1943 and in the next three years he charted 17 times. Sinatra was classified 4-F for military service because of a perforated eardrum, so he did not serve in the military.
He started making films as part of the Dorsey Band with Las Vegas Nights and Ship Ahoy, he had a walk on / singing part in the wonderfully named Reveille with Beverly but then had his first real role in Higher and Higher. He teamed with Gene Kelly for the hugely successful Anchors Aweigh in 1945. It was the first of three Sinatra/Kelly films with Take Me Out to the Ball Game and On the Town coming out in 1949. He won a special academy award for his work on the (dated) short film The House I Live In. (1945)
At the beginning of the 1950’s Sinatra saw his popularity wane somewhat. The bobby soxers who had screamed out deafening choruses of “FRANKIE” for the thin, blue-eyed singer had found new idols to adore.
He came back with a bang with his next movie, 1953’s From Here to Eternity. He won an Oscar as bad boy Angelo Maggio.
The same year he signed with Capitol Records. In 1954 his album Swing Easy! was named Album of the Year by Billboard and the single Young At Heart was picked for Song of the year. Swing Easy was arranged by Nelson Riddle. Sinatra and Riddle worked together again for Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! which included I’ve Got You Under My Skin.
He poked fun at his mobster image in the movie version of Guys and Dolls. in 1955 as Nathan Detroit. In 1956 he played Mike Connor to Grace Kelly’s Tracy Lord in High Society. The next year he was Joey in Pal Joey.
He started his own record label in 1960, Reprise Records.
In 1962 he starred in his most dramatic movie the classic political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate. [For my money The Manchurian Candidate is the best movie of the bunch.]
He was a founding member of the Rat Pack and worked alongside Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop in several movies and countless nightclub acts.
Here he is having a ton of fun singing Lady Is a Tramp with the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald
Sinatra was a sucker for charities. He raised over a billion dollars in the course of his life for charities all over the world.
His generosity touched the worlds of education, medicine, science, and children’s needs, his favorite cause. … Sometimes it was a late-night phone call that moved him; sometimes he just caught wind of a hard-luck story on the news or in the paper and did what he could to fix it. [Sinatra.com]
In 1962 he led a 12 country World Tour for Children that raised over a million dollars for children’s charities worldwide. He paid for the entire cost of the tour himself, and recruited other musical luminaries to join him.
He also worked against segregation , taking a major role in the desegregation of Nevada entertainment and hospitality industry in the 1960s. He boycotted venues and hotels where black performers and guest were banned. And he played benefits for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Equal Right Movement.
Sinatra received the Presidential medal of Freedom from Ronal Reagan in 1985.
Ole’ Blue Eyes faced his final curtain on May 14, 1998. He was 82 years old.
Image courtesy last.fm
- Frank Sinatra: 10 quotes on his birthday (csmonitor.com)
- Thats Life! Happy Birthday Frank Sinatra (femaleimagination.wordpress.com)
- Frank and Ella (contrarianconsulting.com)
- Frank Sinatra’s haunting, beautiful (depressing!) ‘lost’ masterpiece, ‘Watertown’ (dangerousminds.net)