Spotlight on ....

Frank Sinatra

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on December 12th, 1915. He was the only child of Italian immigrants Anthony Martin and Natalie Della "Dolly".
Sinatra dropped out of high school at 15. He decided to become a singer after hearing Bing Crosby on the radio. Sinatra began his singing career after joining the Three Flashes and together they formed the Hoboken Four. In 1935 he entered a radio talent show called Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They won first prize and went on to more performances with the Major Bowes' travelling show. He began singing in small clubs and radio stations in New Jersey. He got his big break while working as a singer and waiter at one of the local restaurants, the Rustic Cabin. While there, he caught the eye of trumpet extraordinaire and band leader Harry James who offered the young artist the position of lead singer in his band The Music Makers.


Sinatra was interested in enlisting his services during World War 11, but on December 9, 1941, the 25 year old was classified as "4-F" at Newark Induction Center, due to a punctured eardrum he suffered from a difficult forceps delivery. This prevented the young singer being enlisted in the Air Force and allowed Sinatra to pursue his singing career.
Sinatra quit The Music Makers after seven months and joined Tommy Dorcey’s Swing Orchestra. where he rose to fame as a singer. The complete span of his career with Tommy Dorsey was released in the 1994 box set The Song Is You. It was as a featured singer with Dorsey that Sinatra made his earliest film appearances, such as the 1942 Eleanor Powell/Red Skelton comedy, Ship Ahoy in which the uncredited singer performed a couple of songs.
By the early forties Sinatra had made a name for himself and he bought out his contract with Dorsey to pursue a solo career. He later signed with Columbia Records as a solo artist with some success, particularly during the musicians' recording strikes.Vocalists were not part of the musician union and were allowed to record during the ban by using a capello vocal backing.

In 1946, Sinatra signed a five-year film contract with M.G.M, which diverted his primary focus away from music and toward acting. Just as on stage, Sinatra’s charisma came through on film and he went on to star in a variety of films that often featured his songs.

The most successful of the early films was Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly in 1945 and On the Town in 1949.

The tough times began in the early 1950s. In 1951, Frank left his first wife Nancy Barbato whom he had married in 1939. They had three children together: Nancy, Frank Jr and Christina. His affair with the movie starlet, Ava Gardner became public and Nancy and Frank divorced on 29th October 1951.

Sinatra married the actress Ava Gardner on November 7, 1951, only ten days after his divorce from his first wife became final. Their relationship made tabloid headlines worldwide and under the constant pressure they separated on October 27, 1953 but did not divorce until 1957.
In 1952, Sinatra suffered a severe blow to his career when his vocal cords haemorrhaged. At the age of 37, he was dropped by Universal, CBS-TV, Columbia Records and even his agent.
The downhill road began to slow thanks to Ava’s help in securing her husband the role of Private Angelo Maggio in 1953's From Here to Eternity.

Sinatra fought hard to convince the producers he could play the part and even agreed to take a huge pay cut and accepted a salary of only $8,000. His performance as Maggio opposite Burt Lancaster and Donna Reed earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Virtually overnight his career recovered.
The following year, Sinatra played a crazed, coldblooded assassin determined to kill the President in the thriller Suddenly. Critics found Sinatra's performance one of the most chilling portrayals of a psychopath ever committed to film. This was followed in 1955 by his riveting performance as a heroin addict in The Man with the Golden Arm.


Since his divorce from Ava Gardner, Sinatra the bachelor was back and he pursued such Hollywood sex symbols as Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, and Lauren Bacall whom he had been seeing shortly after her husband Humphrey Bogart died in 1957.
He received critical acclaim for his role in the 1962 Cold War psychodrama The Manchurian Candidate in which he played the troubled resolute hero. Along with the dramatic roles, Sinatra maintained his involvement in more light hearted, entertaining musical feature films like Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957).
In 1965's Von Ryan's Express, Sinatra added dimensionality to a World War II action role. Other film appearances during this time were either cameos or, as in the case of 1964's Robin and the Seven Hoods, critically-panned efforts to trade in on his image.


The Rat Pack was born under the leadership of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra's pals, namely Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop formed the core of the Rat Pack whose wild and unpredictable antics would dominate show business news for much of the period 1958-63.
The Pack performed on stage together, partied together and made several movies together, namely Ocean's Eleven (1960), Sergeants 3 (1962), Four for Texas (1963), and Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964).


In 1953, Sinatra’s musical career was reborn when he signed on with Capitol Records where he worked with many of the finest arrangers of the era. His collaborations with arranger Nelson Riddle produced some of the most popular albums of the time, such as Songs for Young Lovers, A Swingin' Affair, Come Fly With Me, Swing Easy, In the Wee Small Hours, and Songs for Swingin' Lovers. By the early 1960s, he was a big enough star to start his own record label: Reprise Records. His position with the label earned him the long-lasting nickname "The Chairman of the Board".

On 8th December 1963, Frank Sinatra, Jr. was kidnapped. Sinatra paid the kidnappers' $240,000 ransom demand and his son was released unharmed two days later. Because the kidnappers demanded that Sinatra call them from payphones, Sinatra carried a roll of dimes with him throughout the ordeal, and this became a lifetime habit. The kidnappers were subsequently apprehended and convicted. A movie called Stealing Sinatra has been shot about this incident


In 1966 he married the little known actress Mia Farrow, who was 30 years his junior, but within two years they were divorced.
The hit songs kept coming, he was back at the top of the music, movie and TV world. In the 1950s and 1960s, this new Sinatra would become the most popular attraction in Las Vegas, the venue of choice for performers of his era.
Sinatra played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. Sinatra led his fellow members of the Rat Pack in refusing to patronize hotels and casinos that denied service to Sammy Davis Jr. With the release of the film Ocean's Eleven (1960), the Rat Pack became the subject of great media attention, and this gave the Rat Pack, Sinatra in particular the leverage the needed to force hotels and casinos to end segregation.
Sinatra has often been linked to members of the Mafia and it has long been rumored that his career was aided behind the scenes by organized crime.
Comedian Jackie Mason has alleged that after mocking Sinatra in his routine, he received threats and his hotel room was shot up in his presence. After he continued, he received death threats and was roughed up and his nose was broken.
J. Edgar Hoover apparently suspected Sinatra over the years, and Sinatra's file at the FBI ended up at 2,403 pages, detailing allegations of extortion against Ronald Alpert for $100,000. Sinatra publicly rejected these accusations many times, and was never charged with any crimes in connection with them.


Sinatra announced his retirement from both recording and acting in 1971 but continued to perform in Las Vegas and around the world. It was a period during which, by taking to the road again, Sinatra sought to bring the great American songbook of the 1920s and 1930s to a much wider audience than the one that frequented the casinos of Las Vegas.
In 1973 he released the television special and album, Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back and in 1980 he appeared in the urban crime drama The First Deadly Sin.


In 1976 Sinatra married his fourth and final wife, Barbara Blakely Marx (formerly married to Zeppo Marx), who converted to Catholicism to marry him. She remained his wife until his death, although her relations with Sinatra's children were consistently portrayed as stormy, something Nancy Sinatra confirmed when she publicly claimed that Barbara had not bothered to call Frank's children even when the end was near, although they were close by, and the children missed the opportunity to be at their father's bedside when he died.

In 1988 Sinatra launched a hugely successful Rat Pack reunion tour with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Dean Martin but when Dean pulled out due to the strenuous schedule, Liza Minnelli provided a very qualified replacement. Sinatra's singing career continued into the 1990s, most notably with his commercially-successful Duets albums on which he sang with other stars such as U2's Bono, Luther Vandross, Barbara Streisand, Tony Bennett and other huge celebries of the music world. He continued to perform live until February 1995, but the nearly 80-year-old singer often had to rely on teleprompters for his lyrics, to compensate for his failing memory.
Frank Sinatra died at the age of 82 of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California, following a long battle with coronary heart disease, kidney disease, bladder cancer, and dementia. He had undergone surgery to remove part of his intestines in 1986, and had suffered a bad fall from the stage in 1994.
His funeral was held on May 20, 1998 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills and he was buried a few miles away from Palm Springs next to his parents in Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City.
Legend has it that Sinatra was buried with a flask of Jack Daniel's whiskey, a roll of ten dimes (in reference to the kidnapping of his son, see above), a Zippo lighter (which some take to be a reference to his mob connections) and a packet of Camel cigarettes. The words The Best is Yet to Come are imprinted on his tombstone.


In 2001, after Sinatra's death, Las Vegas named Frank Sinatra Drive, a new street parallel to Interstate 15 and Las Vegas Boulevard, in his honour.
Sinatra left a vast legacy of recordings, from his very first sides with the Harry James orchestra in 1939, the vast catalogues at Columbia in the 1940s, Capitol in the 1950s, and Reprise from the 1960s onwards, up to his 1994 album Duets II.
Of all his many albums, At the Sands with Count Basie, which was recorded live in Las Vegas in 1966, with Sinatra in his prime, backed by Count Basie's big band, remains his most popular and is still a big seller. Unfortunately there are few recordings or videos of his concerts. In addition to the Sands performance with Basie, three performances of Sinatra at the very peak of his career were captured: With Red Norvo Quintet: Live In Australia, 1959, Sinatra '57 In Concert, a performance in Seattle with an orchestra conducted by Nelson Riddle and Sinatra and Sextet: Live in Paris, recorded in June of 1962.
Sinatra is also credited with putting out perhaps the first concept albums. 1955's In the Wee Small Hours is the prime example: a set of songs specifically recorded for the album, using only ballads, organized around a central mood of late-night isolation and aching lost love, with a now-classic album cover reflecting the theme
The following year's Songs For Swingin' Lovers took an alternate tack, recording existing pop standards in a hipper, jazzier fashion, revealing an overall exuberance.
Other Sinatra milestone albums include 1965's September of My Years, 1973's comeback album Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back, and 1980's Trilogy: Past Present Future, an ambitious triple album using three arrangers that attempted to portray the past, present, and future of his career. For many Sinatra admirers, 1981's She Shot Me Down is the last great Sinatra album. A collection of what Sinatra called "saloon songs", it includes Alec Wilder's "A Long Night", in a performance that can stand the test of comparison with the work Sinatra did in his Capitol years.


Sinatra also sought a musical legacy beyond singing. He conducted Peggy Lee's 1957 album The Man I Love (arranged by Nelson Riddle), Dean Martin's 1958 album Sleep Warm, Sylvia Syms' 1982 album Syms by Sinatra, and commissioned and conducted the 1956 album Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color.


Sinatra won ten Grammy Awards during his career, including Album of the Year for Come Dance With Me in 1959, September of My Years in 1965, and A Man and His Music in 1966.


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