Chris Chew asked:
Frank Sinatra, also affectionately also known as Old Blue Eyes was probably the most outstanding popular music singer of the 20th century. Sinatra’s only real rivals during those days were perhaps a handful of other singing superstars such as Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, and the fab four or The Beatles.
In a professional singing and acting career spanning more than six decades, Sinatra demonstrated a remarkable ability to maintain his popular appeal to his fans across almost two generations. This is a ringing endorsement of the status of this singing and acting superstar.
Frank Sinatra’s singing career started during the big band swing era of the 1930s and 1940s. His first number one hit on the charts was in 1940 and was still making million-selling recording rights up to 1994.
This superb entertainer was able to take the work of great composers of the 1920s and 1930s, such as Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern , Cole Porter and Richard Rodger and turn their compositions into masterful singing pieces and enshrined them into eternal classics.
Sinatra was the son of a humble fireman and dropped out of high school to pursue a career in singing much to his father’s disappointment. In September 1935, the young Sinatra appeared as part of the singing group, the Hoboken Four on Major Bowes’ Original Amateur Hour show. The quartet won the radio show contest and toured the country with Bowes.
Sinatra then took up a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood, New Jersey. He was singing there in early 1939, when he was talent spotted by trumpeter Harry James, who had organized his own big band after leaving Benny Goodman, which was another famous big band leader of that era. Harry James hired Sinatra as a singer in his band and Frank made his first recording on July 13, 1939.
At the end of 1939, Sinatra accepted an offer from the more popular big band leader Tommy Dorsey. Over the next two and a half years, he was featured on 16 Top Ten hits recorded by Dorsey and his band, amongst them the legendary chart-buster “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
During this while, young Sinatra also performed on various radio shows with Tommy Dorsey and his band. He also appeared with the band in movies such as Las Vegas Nights in 1941 and Ship Ahoy in 1942.
Frank Sinatra started out his solo singing career in early 1942 showcasing his singing talent by recording a four-song session arranged and conducted by Axel Stordahl. One of the songs was Cole Porter’s “Night and Day,” and that song went on to become his first hit chart entry under his very own name.
His big break came from his engagement as a singing support act to Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theatre in New York, which began on New Year’s Eve. This engagement catapulted his singing career and made him the first real teen singing idol, with throngs of girls screaming and swooning in the aisles.
From then on, Sinatra’s singing career never looked back. His singing talent scored him another successful chart topper with “There Are Such Things,” occupying number one position in January 1943. Then in August that same year, the singing superstar did another chart buster with “In the Blue of the Evening”. From then on, Sinatra successfully scored hits after hits with songs such as “It’s Always You,”, “I’ll Be Seeing You,” and “All or Nothing at All”.
Frank Sinatra did many radio shows around that time and in April 1943, he made his first credited appearance in a movie, singing “Night and Day” in Reveille With Beverly which launch his acting career.
This was followed by Higher and Higher in which he played a minor role acting as himself and followed up with another movie, Step Lively which was released in mid 1944 in which he played a larger role. In November 1944, he returned to cutting records, beginning with a cover version of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” which was again another chart topper. Sinatra then hired Styne and Cahn to write the songs for his first MGM musical, Anchors Aweigh, and over the course of his successful singing career, he recorded more songs by Cahn than by any other songwriter.
Anchors Aweigh, in which Sinatra was paired with Gene Kelly, was released in July 1945 and went on to become the most successful film in 1945. He then went on to appear in many more movies such as MGM musicals On the Town and lower budget ones such as The Kissing Bandit.
At the same time, he continued to hit eight Top Ten hits in 1947 to 1949 which included “Mam’selle,” which hit number one in May 1947, and “Some Enchanted Evening,” from the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific.
By 1950s, his singing career was on the decline, but he was still very active. At the fall of 1950 marks his first venture into television. His film work had nearly subsided athough in March 1952 he was featured in the drama Meet Danny Wilson which tested his acting skills on stage which gave him the opportunity to sing some of his greatest songs such as Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s “That Old Black Magic,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You” by George and Ira Gershwin, and “How Deep Is the Ocean” by Irving Berlin.
Then in 1955, the singing superstar hit number one again with the single “Learnin’ the Blues” and the 12 inch album, “In the Wee Small Hours “which was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Sinatra acted in a television special in November 1965, A Man and His Music, and released a corresponding double vinyl album, which reached the Top Ten chart and also went gold. A Man and His Music won the 1966 Grammy for Album of the Year. Following this release, Old Blue Eyes catapulted back to number one on the singles charts for the first time in 11 years with “Strangers in the Night” in July 1966. This song also won him 2 Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Vocal Performance.
Towards the end of 1966, the singer released two more Top Ten albums, Sinatra At The Sands and That’s Life. In April 1967, he was again number one on the singles charts with “Somethin’ Stupid,” a duet which he sung with his daughter Nancy Sinatra. Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits was a compilation of his 1960s singles successes released in August 1968, was a million-seller.
Then in March 1969, perhaps the most recognized Sinatra song, “My Way,” with lyrics specially written for him by Paul Anka was released. This amazing single reached the Top 40, and an album of the same name hit the Top Ten and went gold.
Frank Sinatra then announced his retirement in early 1971 at the age of 55. However, he burst into the limelight again in 1973 with a gold album and a TV special called Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back. In the twilight of his career, Sinatra cut down on producing albums, acting in movies and television in favor of live concert tours.
For six years, he did not release any albums until March 1980 with a three-LP set, Trilogy: Past, Present, Future. The most memorable track from the trilogy set was perhaps “Theme From New York, New York,” the title song from the 1977 movie.
He returned to Capitol Records in 1993 and recorded Duets, on which he re-recorded his old songs, joined by other popular singers such as Tony Bennett, Elvis Costello, KD Lang and Bono of U2. It became his biggest-selling album selling over three million copies world wide. This was followed up in 1994 by Duets II, which won the 1995 Grammy Award for Traditional Pop Performance.
Frank Sinatra finally retired from acting and performing entertainment when he turns 80 in 1995. He died of a heart attack 2 years later when he was 82. Today, his songs are still heard in concert halls and clubs all over the world.