Sinatra at 100: A singer for every age
“It was a very good year” is not only the title of a big hit for Frank Sinatra back in 1965, it’s an apt summary of 2015. The centennial year of his birth has been very good indeed for Francis Albert Sinatra.
Born 100 years ago on Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra’s rise from nothing to everything has been told and retold in books, movies, dance, documentaries and museum exhibits.
His 100th birthday has spawned a cottage industry of new biographies, photo collections, re-issues of famous recordings, TV specials, digitally remastered radio broadcasts and uncountable live tributes by wonderful singers in concert halls and nightclubs as well as dreadful singers croaking out booze-fueled solos on a dare at karaoke night in saloons from Las Vegas to Rangoon.
In 2015, a dead Frank Sinatra was hotter than nearly every living singer.
But now the end is near. Not quite the final curtain but the beginning of the slow fade. Fame has an expiration date.
We have forgotten to “Remember the Alamo” or “the Maine” and barely remember Pearl Harbor. It is inevitable. Even Frank Sinatra’s titanic stardom is doomed to retreat into the mystic chords of memory.
The world will forget the Rat Pack and Ava Gardner, Sam Giancana and swooning bobby-soxers. Perhaps cultural historians will pick over the detritus of 1940s, ’50s and ’60s pop culture, but the world moves forward, always forward. As the tabloid jet-setting ring-a-ding-ding trappings of Sinatra’s life fade to black, there is one thing that will endure.
Pitch perfect, emotionally engaged, masculine yet vulnerable, sexy, witty, timelessly tasteful. The details of Sinatra’s life may fade, but his voice is here to be discovered and rediscovered by each succeeding generation. Frank Sinatra sang to the tempo of the beating human heart. He sang universal truths. He was more than a celebrity; he was a great interpretive artist whose body of work set a standard for standards and for adult popular music that’s never been equaled. He never sang for kids even when he was a kid himself. You have to age your way to Frank Sinatra.
Sinatra starred in more than 50 movies. He made TV specials and practically invented Las Vegas. He filled nightclubs, arenas, even stadiums. Right to the end fans and the curious paid real money buying up every ticket. He was often wobbly in his last years, the voice rough and the lyrics frequently forgotten. He was a ruin, but so is the Acropolis, and people still marvel at that.
As the centennial celebrations play out — culminated in Frank Jr.’s concert at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills — the publicity machine will throttle down. Who gets worked up about the 101st anniversary of anything?
His body of work is jammed with gems, big hits everyone knows and hundreds, literally hundreds, of lesser-known masterpieces, musical buried treasure.
The passage of years hasn’t dimmed our appreciation of Beethoven or Mozart. Do we care who they slept with? Who they hung around with? The future will make room for Frank Sinatra and his world of lyrical, melodic, rhythmic perfection ensuring every year to come is a very good year.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays 5-10 on AM 790. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.