Spotlight on ....
Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey
on December 12th, 1915. He was the only child
of Italian immigrants Anthony Martin and Natalie
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Sammy Davis Jr.