Francis Albert Sinatra
Francis Albert Sinatra was born December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer and actor. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold an estimated 150 million records worldwide.
Born to Italian immigrants in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra was greatly influenced by the intimate, easy-listening vocal style of Bing Crosby and began his musical career in the swing era with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra found success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the "bobby soxers". Sinatra released his debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. However, by the early 1950s, his film career had stalled and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known residency performers as part of the Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of the film From Here to Eternity, his performance subsequently earning him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sinatra then released several critically lauded albums, some of which are retrospectively noted as being among the first "concept albums", including In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Only the Lonely (1958), No One Cares (1959), and Nice 'n' Easy (1960).
Sinatra left Capitol in 1960 to start his own record label, Reprise Records, and released a string of successful albums. In 1965, he recorded the retrospective album September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. After releasing Sinatra at the Sands, recorded at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas with frequent collaborator Count Basie in early 1966, the following year he recorded one of his most famous collaborations with Tom Jobim, the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was followed by 1968's Francis A. & Edward K. with Duke Ellington. Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971, but came out of retirement two years later. He recorded several albums and resumed performing at Caesars Palace, and released "New York, New York" in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally until shortly before his death in 1998.
Sinatra forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity, he starred in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He appeared in various musicals such as On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957), winning another Golden Globe for the latter. Toward the end of his career, he frequently played detectives, including the title character in Tony Rome (1967). Sinatra would later receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1971. On television, The Frank Sinatra Show began on ABC in 1950, and he continued to make appearances on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Sinatra was also heavily involved with politics from the mid-1940s, and actively campaigned for presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. He was investigated by the FBI for his alleged relationship with the Mafia.
While Sinatra never learned how to read music, he worked very hard from a young age to improve his abilities in all aspects of music. A perfectionist, renowned for his dress sense and performing presence, he always insisted on recording live with his band. His bright blue eyes earned him the popular nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". He led a colorful personal life, and was often involved in turbulent affairs with women, such as with his second wife Ava Gardner. He later married Mia Farrow in 1966 and Barbara Marx in 1976. Sinatra had several violent confrontations, usually with journalists he felt had crossed him, or work bosses with whom he had disagreements. He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was included in Time magazine's compilation of the 20th Century's 100 Most Influential people. After Sinatra's death, American music critic Robert Christgau called him "the greatest singer of the 20th century", and he continues to be seen as an iconic figure.
Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, in an upstairs tenement at 415 Monroe Street in Hoboken, New Jersey,[b] the only child of Italian immigrants Natalina "Dolly" Garaventa and Antonino Martino "Marty" Sinatra. Sinatra weighed 13.5 pounds (6.1 kg) at birth and had to be delivered with the aid of forceps, which caused severe scarring to his left cheek, neck, and ear, and perforated his eardrum—damage that remained for life.
Due to his injuries at birth, his baptism at St. Francis Church in Hoboken was delayed until April 2, 1916. A childhood operation on his mastoid bone left major scarring on his neck, and during adolescence he suffered from cystic acne that further scarred his face and neck. Sinatra was raised in the Roman Catholic Church.
Sinatra's mother was energetic and driven, and biographers believe that she was the dominant factor in the development of her son's personality traits and self-confidence. Sinatra's fourth wife Barbara would later claim that Dolly was abusive to him when he was a child, and "knocked him around a lot".Dolly became influential in Hoboken and in local Democratic Party circles. She worked as a midwife, earning $50 for each delivery, and according to Sinatra biographer Kitty Kelley, also ran an illegal abortion service that catered to Italian Catholic girls, for which she was nicknamed "Hatpin Dolly". She also had a gift for languages and served as a local interpreter.
Sinatra's illiterate father was a bantamweight boxer who fought under the name Marty O'Brien. He later worked for 24 years at the Hoboken Fire Department, working his way up to captain. Sinatra spent much time at his parents' tavern in Hoboken, working on his homework and occasionally singing a song on top of the player piano for spare change. During the Great Depression, Dolly provided money to her son for outings with friends and to buy expensive clothes, resulting in neighbors describing him as the "best-dressed kid in the neighborhood". Excessively thin and small as a child and young man, Sinatra's skinny frame later became a staple of jokes during stage shows.
Sinatra developed an interest in music, particularly big band jazz, at a young age. He listened to Gene Austin, Rudy Vallée, Russ Colombo, and Bob Eberly, and idolized Bing Crosby. Sinatra's maternal uncle, Domenico, gave him a ukulele for his 15th birthday, and he began performing at family gatherings. Sinatra attended David E. Rue Jr. High School from 1928, and A. J. Demarest High School (since renamed as Hoboken High School) in 1931, where he arranged bands for school dances. He left without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled for "general rowdiness". To please his mother, he enrolled at Drake Business School, but departed after 11 months. Dolly found Sinatra work as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper, where his godfather Frank Garrick worked, and after that, Sinatra was a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard.He performed in local Hoboken social clubs such as The Cat's Meow and The Comedy Club, and sang for free on radio stations such as WAAT in Jersey City. In New York, Sinatra found jobs singing for his supper or for cigarettes. To improve his speech, he began taking elocution lessons for a dollar each from vocal coach John Quinlan, who was one of the first people to notice his impressive vocal range.
Sinatra began singing professionally as a teenager, but he learned music by ear and never learned to read music. He got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, the 3 Flashes, to let him join. Fred Tamburro, the group's baritone, stated that "Frank hung around us like we were gods or something", admitting that they only took him on board because he owned a car[g] and could chauffeur the group around. Sinatra soon learned they were auditioning for the Major Bowes Amateur Hour show, and "begged" the group to let him in on the act. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four, and passed an audition from Edward Bowes to appear on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour show. They each earned $12.50 for the appearance, and ended up attracting 40,000 votes and won first prize—a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States. Sinatra quickly became the group's lead singer, and, much to the jealousy of his fellow group members, garnered most of the attention from girls.[h] Due to the success of the group, Bowes kept asking for them to return, disguised under different names, varying from "The Secaucus Cockamamies" to "The Bayonne Bacalas".
In 1938, Sinatra found employment as a singing waiter at a roadhouse called "The Rustic Cabin" in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week. The roadhouse was connected to the WNEW radio station in New York City, and he began performing with a group live during the Dance Parade show. Despite the low salary, Sinatra felt that this was the break he was looking for, and boasted to friends that he was going to "become so big that no one could ever touch him". In March 1939, saxophone player Frank Mane, who knew Sinatra from Jersey City radio station WAAT where both performed on live broadcasts, arranged for him to audition and record "Our Love", his first solo studio recording.[i] In June, bandleader Harry James, who had heard Sinatra sing on "Dance Parade", signed a two-year contract of $75 a week one evening after a show at the Paramount Theatre in New York.[j] It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record "From the Bottom of My Heart" in July. No more than 8,000 copies of the record were sold, and further records released with James through 1939, such as "All or Nothing at All", also had weak sales on their initial release. Thanks to his vocal training, Sinatra could now sing two tones higher, and developed a repertoire which included songs such as "My Buddy", "Willow Weep for Me", "It's Funny to Everyone but Me", "Here Comes the Night", "On a Little Street in Singapore", "Ciribiribin", and "Every Day of My Life.
Sinatra became increasingly frustrated with the status of the Harry James band, feeling that he was not achieving the major success and acclaim he was looking for. His pianist and close friend Hank Sanicola persuaded him to stay with the group, but in November 1939 he left James to replace Jack Leonard[k] as the lead singer of the Tommy Dorsey band. Sinatra earned $125 a week, appearing at the Palmer House in Chicago, and James released Sinatra from his contract.[l] On January 26, 1940, he made his first public appearance with the band at the Coronado Theatre in Rockford, Illinois, opening the show with "Stardust". Dorsey recalled: "You could almost feel the excitement coming up out of the crowds when the kid stood up to sing. Remember, he was no matinée idol. He was just a skinny kid with big ears. I used to stand there so amazed I'd almost forget to take my own solos". Dorsey was a major influence on Sinatra and became a father figure. Sinatra copied Dorsey's mannerisms and traits, becoming a demanding perfectionist like him, even adopting his hobby of toy trains. He asked Dorsey to be godfather to his daughter Nancy in June 1940. Sinatra later said that "The only two people I've ever been afraid of are my mother and Tommy Dorsey". Though Kelley says that Sinatra and drummer Buddy Rich were bitter rivals, other authors state that they were friends and even roommates when the band was on the road, but professional jealousy surfaced as both men wanted to be considered the star of Dorsey's band. Later, Sinatra helped Rich form his own band with a $25,000 loan and provided financial help to Rich during times of the drummer's serious illness.
In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra recorded over forty songs. Sinatra's first vocal hit was the song "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" in late April 1940. Two more chart appearances followed with "Say It" and "Imagination", which was Sinatra's first top-10 hit. His fourth chart appearance was "I'll Never Smile Again", topping the charts for twelve weeks beginning in mid-July. Other records with Tommy Dorsey issued by RCA Victor include "Our Love Affair" and "Stardust" in 1940; "Oh! Look at Me Now", "Dolores", "Everything Happens to Me", and "This Love of Mine" in 1941; "Just as Though You Were There", "Take Me", and "There Are Such Things" in 1942; and "It Started All Over Again", "In the Blue of Evening", and "It's Always You" in 1943. As his success and popularity grew, Sinatra pushed Dorsey to allow him to record some solo songs. Dorsey eventually relented, and on January 19, 1942, Sinatra recorded "Night and Day", "The Night We Called It a Day", "The Song is You", and "Lamplighter's Serenade" at a Bluebird recording session, with Axel Stordahl as arranger and conductor. Sinatra first heard the recordings at the Hollywood Palladium and Hollywood Plaza and was astounded at how good he sounded. Stordahl recalled: "He just couldn't believe his ears. He was so excited, you almost believed he had never recorded before. I think this was a turning point in his career. I think he began to see what he might do on his own".
After the 1942 recordings, Sinatra believed he needed to go solo, with an insatiable desire to compete with Bing Crosby, but he was hampered by his contract which gave Dorsey 43% of Sinatra's lifetime earnings in the entertainment industry. A legal battle ensued, eventually settled in August 1942. On September 3, 1942, Dorsey bade farewell to Sinatra, reportedly saying as Sinatra left, "I hope you fall on your ass", but he was more gracious on the air when replacing Sinatra with singer Dick Haymes. Rumors began spreading in newspapers that Sinatra's mobster godfather, Willie Moretti, coerced Dorsey to let Sinatra out of his contract for a few thousand dollars, holding a gun to his head. Upon leaving Dorsey, Sinatra persuaded Stordahl to come with him and become his personal arranger, offering him $650 a month, five times his salary from Dorsey. Dorsey and Sinatra, who had been very close, never reconciled their differences. Up until his death in November 1956, Dorsey occasionally made biting comments about Sinatra to the press such as "he's the most fascinating man in the world, but don't put your hand in the cage"