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Centenarian Sinatra

December 12, 2015


Belatedly caught up with this birthday.  Can I blog about Blue Eyes in 20 minutes?

Horrible human being of course.  Following his snubbing by the Kennedys after Bobby’s insistence on going after organised crime and a Camelot decision to distance themselves from Sinatra’s dodgier associates – the liberal politics he’d been also been associated with also appear to have disintegrated quite quickly.

Everything was personal for Sinatra – including politics.  Peter Lawford – who appears to have spent much of his life being yelled out in a triangulated fashion by mobsters, Kennedys and Frank, spent decades being afraid of Sinatra.  When comedian Jackie Mason made fun of Sinatra’s relationship with the very young Mia Farrow (“he’s got toupees older than her”) it was made very clear that his Vegas career was over.

In later life – he could only feel big by making others feel small.  If it was ever your job to open a door for Frank, or to take his coat, or to pour him a drink – he would routinely scream threats and obscenities at you – for no other reason than to remind you that you were Nobody and he was Somebody.

If a true test of character involves how well you treat the people who provide the material conditions for your lifestyle (and I think it is) then Sinatra’s character was worse than flawed.

But his legacy of song survives – and so it should.  His greatest gift was phrasing.  Like Bing Crosby before him (and apparently my Dad almost got into a knife fight with his brother over who was better) – but with greater expressive range – Sinatra fused singing and acting.  His was a poetic sense of innovative rhythm.   He was someone who understood that amplification offered the opportunity not to be louder than ever before but to be quieter than ever before.

A very great actor, popular song gave him the opportunity to experiment in the art of charging words with idiosyncratic emotion.  He’ll keep being found.




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