I’ve Got You Under My Skin

There is, quite simply, no way around it. I’ve thought about it under my skinendlessly. I’ve gone different routes and attempted to dissect it. All to no avail. I can’t figure it out, and probably never will. If I’d known in the beginning that this would end up happening…I’d probably still do it all the same.

I am not alone in this feeling of mine. Not at all. In fact, it has been the plague of Sinatra fans since the beginning of his career. The dilemma is this: we find ourselves drawn to Frank. There was always, and still is, something about him that got at you. There was something about him that got under your skin and wouldn’t leave, something that makes you keep coming back and listening to the music over and over again. In her book about their life together, Frank’s wife Barbara talks often about his incredible magnetism. How people just couldn’t seem to get away. There is only one way I’ve ever heard this accurately explained, and it is this: He’s Frank Sinatra.

During the height of his career, and perhaps even more since Frank passed away, we’ve been trying to figure out why people flocked to him. What is it about Frank Sinatra that just gets at you? Is it the fact that he started a young immigrant boy from New Jersey and ended a legend? Is it that, even after all the books and articles and the endless things you can find about him, there is always an element of mystery? It always seems that no matter how much you think you know about him, you really don’t know anything at all.

I’m far from being able to answer this question with any kind of authority. All I can say about it is from my own personal experience, and I’ve had these exact thoughts so many times. Each time I meet somebody new and tell them how much I love Frank, I get the same question every time. “Oh, why Frank Sinatra?”

frankThe fact that I can never really come up with anything to say makes me realize that I am in this same boat as everybody else. I can really only say as an answer, “What do you mean? Why not?” Because it is something so intangible, I doubt that all of us philosophizing about it will get us anywhere. There is no answer, it is just the way it is. He is wonderful because he is Frank Sinatra. His music and movies are phenomenal because, no matter what, he gets under your skin. And on top of all of that, he does it with class.

I’ve got you under my skin.
I’ve got you deep in the heart of me.
So deep in my heart that you’re really a part of me.
I’ve got you under my skin.
I’d tried so not to give in.
I said to myself: this affair never will go so well.
But why should I try to resist when, baby, I know so well
I’ve got you under my skin?

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Oh! Look At Me Now!

12 more days, everyone! 12 more days until Frank Sinatra Day! And that being the case, we have a story to continue! Today we’ll be visiting the explosion of a career, a little bit of wartime controversy, and the story of the bobby soxers.

Frank surrounded by bobby soxers upon his arrival in L.A.
Frank surrounded by bobby soxers upon his arrival in L.A.

Frank began his solo career in 1942, and was pretty much met with instant success.  In the years 1943 through 1946 he had 17 different Top Ten Singles. In New York City he was the king of music, and with it came the bobby soxers. The droves of teenage girls that ran out to see “Frankie” and idolize him were outstanding. According to the stories, the teenagers would wait in line for hours and hours and ambulances had to wait outside the concert halls and there were specific people in the theater with ammonia because so many girls would faint during the performances. Events like this earned Frank the nicknames “Swoonatra” or “The Sultan of Swoon”.

Navy soldiers on shore leave throwing tomatoes at a picture of Frank.
Navy soldiers on shore leave throwing tomatoes at a picture of Frank.

But it wasn’t all glamorous. Right as Frank started his solo career, the United States entered World War II. Like many other young men of 27 years, Frank was drafted. However, he was given a 4F because of his punctured eardrum. But with that you have the controversy. Many people, and mostly soldiers, resented this and thought that Frank had paid off the draft board. He had, after all, just begun a solo career with a lot of promise and if he went off to fight the war, there weren’t any guarantees that he’d return. Because of the huge controversy this caused, Frank went through the physical examination several times. In the end, he wasn’t able to serve as a soldier. It was something he always regretted, too, I think. Frank was always exceedingly politically active, and whatever the controversy says, he loved his country. But, I’ll get to that later in the countdown.

At any rate, he wasn’t the most loved man in America because of the wartime controversy, yet his career continued to soar. And eventually he went on an overseas tour and performed for soldiers. He also performed in a ten minute short, The House I Live In (1945) which promoted racial tolerance and unity on the home front. He received a special Academy Award for it. He also spoke out for the Jewish cause, and raised his voice to rouse America into helping to save Europe’s remaining Jews. He was a strong supporter of Jewish causes his whole life.

Frank in 1943
Frank in 1943

Besides all of the wartime humanitarian work, Frank continued to sing and record. But that isn’t all. He made his movie acting debut in 1943 in the film Higher and Higher. It was a fun little musical in which he played himself, the crooner next door. From there he went on to be in other wartime musicals with Gene Kelly. During this time he also moved from Hoboken to L.A so that he could focus more on his acting. He became a resident of California and Nancy eventually joined him there with their daughter and son, Frank Jr., who was born in 1944.

To anybody who had known Frank even in the big bands, he was an entire world away from that now. Not only was his singing career shooting off, but he was acting and being a humanitarian on top of it all. For now, things were only going  higher and higher for Frank.