Dec 12, 2015
In Podcast 491 we took on the question "What Makes Frank Sinatra Great?". Go to my conversation with Anna Harwell Celenza, as we discuss the various aspects of Sinatra’s career to determine just why he has remained a major cultural figure today,
December 12th is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra, the pride of Hoboken, New Jersey. Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby may have been more important in the development of jazz singing and recording; Billie Holiday may have been more innovative and moving; and Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan more technically adroit, no one could touch Ol’ Blue Eyes for sheer star power, charisma and yes, vocal prowess.
Wisely associating himself with great supporting artists, Sinatra conquered every type of song he attempted. There was backing musicians led by Harry James in 1939 or Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band in the early 1940’s. Later, there was Count Basie’s Band in Las Vegas and two exquisite sessions with Antonio Carlos Jobim in the 1960’s. Arrangements by Nelson Riddle (1953-1959), Billy May (1959 through the mid-60’s) and Gordon Jenkins (the 1970’s) helped make his “sound” and turned his recordings into classics.
And oh that voice! At least three of his albums capture the incredible range of drama and emotion his tone could bring perfectly – 1955’s In the Wee Small Hours, 1956’s Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and my favorite, 1958’s Sings for Only the Lonely. No record collection is complete without these discs.
Sinatra was also an innovator behind the scenes. He produced the first concept albums in the Fifties, with his travelogue Come Fly With Me in 1959 and the “suicide songs” of 1958’s Sings for Only the Lonely. He took control of his album releases by establishing Reprise Records after he failed to buy Verve Records. Earning the nickname “The Chairman of the Board”, he released his own albums on the imprint along with those by Crosby, Jo Stafford, Rosemary Clooney, daughter Nancy Sinatra, and comedians Soupy Sales and Red Foxx.
So for Podcast 51_, here is a highly subjective overview of his career - twenty-one tunes from Frank Sinatra in close to chronological order, over four decades – from “I Get a Kick Out of You” in 1954 to the appropriately titled “A Hundred Years From Today” in 1984:
“I Get a Kick Out of You”
“I Get Along Without You Very Well”
“Just One of Those Things”
“Night and Day”
“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”
“I Cover the Waterfront”
“South of the Border”
“One for My Baby (And One for the Road)”
“On the Sunny Side of the Street”
“I Love Paris”
“Nancy (With the Laughing Face)”
“The House I Live In”
“Baubles, Bangles and Beads”
“Don’t Sleep in the Subway”
“Manha de Carnaval (A Day in the Life of a Fool)”
“A Hundred Years From Today”
Thanks Dad, for all the times you made me listen to Sinatra instead of some trendy pop record I was enamored of. You made me a lifelong fan.