The Christmas Waltz

Frosted window panes. Candles gleaming inside. Painted candy canes on the tree. Santa’s on his way. He’s filled his sleigh with things. Things for you and for me. It’s that time of year, when the world falls in love. Every song you hear, seems to say: Merry Christmas, may your New Year dreams come true. And this song of mine, in three quarter time, wishes you and yours the same thing, too. 

And a very Merry Christmas to all of you! May it be a time of joy and peace, of harmony and love. What a pleasure it is for me to share this joy with you on Singing About Sinatra. May your holiday be one of Frank’s Christmas album and family tradition.

The Christmas Waltz is one of my favorite Christmas songs, and of course who could sing it better? It brings such a wonderful feeling of peace into my heart to listen to this song and to hear Frank sing these lyrics. May you take them into your heart and enjoy your season to the fullest.

Merry Christmas.

At Least A Little In Love

smileThis week is it, everyone. The Sinatra Centennial is officially two days away. This is a time that I’ve been waiting for for years.

And as the big day draws nearer, it’s caused me to think a lot. I’ve always thought that this week would be marked by lots of celebration and it would be a big day. I mean, it’s the Sinatra Centennial!! This day is huge in the world of Frank’s fans.

But, interestingly enough, it hasn’t been anything like I thought it would be.

On the way home from work tonight I listened to Frank. It was wonderful! The thing is, I love Frank Sinatra. I’m a huge Frank Sinatra fan and always will be. But I don’t have to have a party all week this week to prove it or to celebrate it.

There have been concerts, album re-releases, new merchandise, and the suit and hat.jpglist goes on and on and on. And it has been amazing! In the Frank Sinatra world, 2015 has been absolutely great. And this Saturday, December 12, 2015, it will be Frank’s 100th birthday.

I guess you could say, that though I may not have been the best deliverer on this blog, that I’ve still been celebrating. And I hope that all of you have to.

I guess you could say that, looking back on this Centennial year, we’re all at least a little in love.

All The Way

frankI’ll never forget the moment that I saw my very first Frank Sinatra record.

I was in Birmingham, Alabama, at the National Speech and Debate competition with my coach and two team members. We’d just gotten breakfast in this great little restaurant in Birmingham and saw an old record shop near where we’d parked. Naturally, there was no choice but to go inside.

It was up a narrow flight of wooden stairs, located in a tiny little room stuffed to the roof with records. Old movie posters covered the walls, tables and tables were filled with every record imaginable. The floor was covered in a thin carpet. Morning sunlight streamed through the windows and the air, of course, smelled slightly damp in the summer humidity. The shop had an old smell, and of course some music was playing from the corner.

I found the Frank records as soon as I possibly could, and purchased three, along with a Dean Martin record. For the rest of the trip in Birmingham they were my precious little find. I wrapped them carefully in my suitcase and prayed they would be safe on the trip back across the country.

And even more than that moment of finding the records in Birmingham, a moment where the sunlight streaming through the windows reflected off of the records like they were gold, is the moment when I got home and turned one on.

The very first song that I ever heard Frank Sinatra sing on a record player was “All the Way.”

I’d listened to Frank nonstop for years, but I’d never heard him on an actual record player until that very moment. My mom placed the needle on the record, and sound came out of the record player as if by magic. And then, in that really close yet somehow faraway and incredibly clear sound that a record player makes, he began singing.

“When somebody loves you, it’s no good unless he loves you all the way…taller than the tallest tree is, that’s how it’s got tofrankie feel. Deeper than the deep blue sea is, that’s how deep it goes if it’s real.”

I couldn’t help myself. I put my head in my hands and started crying. It’s been a while since I posted anything about Frank Sinatra, but most of you know that I’m a pretty big admirer of his. And when I heard that sound for the first time, it just got to me in a way I hadn’t expected.

Tonight I’m thinking about that experience, about how it felt. And it makes me grateful for beautiful things, and precious moments. For special things that tug at your heart and make you feel that deeply.

“Who knows where the road will lead us

Only a fool would say

But if you let me love you

It’s for sure I’m gonna love you, all the way…”

Ad-Lib Blues

I was waiting for an event. Not edge of my seat waiting, but lounging back with patience waiting. (Which, knowing my capacity for patience, is actually extremely impressive.) It has been so long since I’ve published a post on Singing About Sinatra, to my ultimate shame, I’m afraid, that I was waiting for something tremendous to happen. Something incredible to write about that would make this lapse in writing justified and spring us into another round of commemorative posts. I was waiting for an event, not really expecting one, truthfully.

This morning, it happened. IT HAPPENED!

I was driving to work, about a 25-30 minute commute. I got in the car, plugged in bluesmy music, pressed on my Frank playlist, and went on my merry way. I don’t know how many of you have experienced a time when the shuffle feature decided to tell a story to you. But, this morning, this very thing happened to me. Here is the story it told me:

  1. One For My Baby
  2. Taking A Chance On Love
  3. How Could You Do A Thing Like That To Me?
  4. Someone To Watch Over Me
  5. Put Your Dreams Away
  6. You Make Me Feel So Young
  7. You’ll Get Yours
  8. When Somebody Loves You

The shuffle feature decided to tell me a story about a heart broken man singing in a bar about love gone wrong, who then decides that he’ll take a chance again – a chance on this love business, which apparently then goes horribly wrong AGAIN, in which case we’d all need a shoulder to cry on, which shoulder apparently turns out to accidentally fall in love with our resilient character, and brings him youthful joy, and then leaves – breaking his heart yet again- leaving him in a state to sing that it will probably happen to said lover once more, at which point our character writes an essay on love and what it REALLY means to love somebody.

So, the story itself doesn’t have an incredibly happy ending, but I thought about it all day at work. Why? Because songs themselves are stories- expressions of life. And when you have a string of them put together in such a lovely fashion that the individual stories come together and tell you an even grander story, that is really quite something.

That, is Frank Sinatra.

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?

Say It

“Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.” It is one of my all time favorite Frank Sinatra quotes. I like it because of what it says about character, confidence, and honesty.

frankAs with any megastar, much of Frank’s life was an open book. You’ll find no shortage of books about him, and opinions of what everybody thinks he was “really” like. Well, as much as I’d like to say otherwise, I didn’t know Frank either. I decided early on that because of that, I would rely on what he said about himself and what those that were closest to him said about him. I think that’s the best way to try and understand it all.

It was when I stumbled upon this quote that my research into Frank really opened up. It makes perfect sense. Frank’s story lies in his music, in his truest way of expressing himself. When he sang, he believed. It was when he was the most honest. Who was Frank Sinatra? Who was the person behind The Voice? To find out, all you have to do is listen.

Sensational

Yes. Yes, it is true. For the second week in a row now I have missed my Frank Thursday post. I can’t even believe it, honestly. I’m quite bitter about the whole situation. Last week I was deathly ill and this week there was no internet connection all day yesterday. Not any other day of the week, of course, just Thursday. Luckily though, last Thursday when I was ill I watched an undisclosed number of Frank movies, so today as I catch up on yesterday’s post I had to decide which one to tell you about. And though they were all very good, of course, it actually wasn’t a very hard decision.

Mike Connor and Tracy Lord. Grace Kelly's dress in this part of the movie is wonderful!
Mike Connor and Tracy Lord. Grace Kelly’s dress in this part of the movie is wonderful!

High Society (1956) is a movie which features Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Grace Kelly. With a cast like that, you know that the movie’s got to be dynamite. But it actually is! It is definitely one of my all time favorites, and so much fun!

Grace Kelly plays Newport, Rhode Island socialite Tracy Lord, who is divorced from her highly successful jazz musician first husband Dexter, played by Crosby. She is about to be remarried, and Spy magazine sends a reporter by the name of Mike Connor, played by Frank, and his photographer to cover the wedding. Well, by the end of the movie Tracy finds herself about to be married but in a position to choose between three very different men. The movie has many different wonderful musical numbers, including Sensational which Frank’s character sings to Tracy at one point in the movie.

The movie is an absolutely marvelous one, and is actually the last one that Grace Kelly made before going to Monaco to marry Prince Rainier. Watch it, love it, and Happy (late) Frank Thursday!

Learnin’ The Blues

3 more days! 3! Just 3! It’s so close I can almost taste the Tootsie Rolls and cherry Lifesavers. Frank Sinatra Day is just over the hill and our countdown continues! Yesterday we began 4 Reasons Frank Sinatra Has Influenced Your Life, and gave the first reason. Today we get to continue!

Frank working in the studio.
Frank working in the studio.

Reason #2: Frank redefined music.

For Frank, it was always about the music from day one. When learning a new song, he would sit down with just the lyrics, so that at that point it was just a poem. He wouldn’t just learn the words themselves, he would learn what the meant and what the song was trying to say. It was this approach to his music that gave him the deep appeal that he had from the start. People loved him because when he sang, you somehow knew that he meant every word of it.  He cared about every part of a song, every word and every note of music.

He wanted to make ripples with his music and reach people not just on the surface. His music found a way into the hearts of so many. In no way am I suggesting that Frank was the first or the only one to do this, but the way he did it was just different. There was always something about Frank that was just different. He changed what it meant to be a star, he changed what music was supposed to mean. It wasn’t just words and a tune, it was something that could reach inside your soul. When reading about him in various books, you can find evidence of this. Many people remember him for the way he sang and what music meant to him; for what he wanted it to mean to others.

When Frank Sinatra stepped onto that stage, music was simply destined to be different. Frank once said, “Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.” Frank may have been a wonderful humanitarian and actor, but music was always at his heart and the way he went about everything. Much of his humanitarian work was done through singing, for example. Not only was it his life, he happened to change it in the process. Music was changed by Frank Sinatra, and is the way it is today because of that change.

I’ve Got The World On A String

There are only 9 more days!! We have made it to single digits everyone, please join me in the Hallelujah Chorus!!! 9 more days until Frank Sinatra Day! And with that wonderful knowledge in our grasp, it is time to continue the narrative. Today is going to be so much fun!

At this point in our narrative, we head into the 1960’s, when Frank’s song I’ve Got The World On A String was never more true for anybody than himself. The 1950’s and 1960’s made Frank. I don’t really know how to describe it and make it accurate. He was the king, the it, the all. His nicknames were The Voice and The Chairman of the Board. He was Frank Sinatra!! 

The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop
The Rat Pack: Frank, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop

And with all of this came the Rat Pack. The history behind the Rat Pack is actually pretty straightforward. It was begun by Humphrey Bogart. He wanted to begin a group that was basically dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life and not caring what people thought about it. Frank was appointed the “leader” of the group. From then on, the group became iconic. Even after Humphrey Bogart died the Rat Pack lived on. If nothing else, they definitely had a good time together. They were in movies together. Frank, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. often did performances together. It was quite the life they lived.

Frank and Mia Farrow on their wedding day in 1966.
Frank and Mia Farrow on their wedding day in 1966.

In 1966, Frank got married again. Mia Farrow was 19 years old when they got married, and Frank was 51. Nobody thought that the marriage would last, not even them. When Frank’s daughter Nancy, who was five years older than Mia, asked her father about the marriage, he is reported to have told her that he just wanted to try. He thought that they would maybe only have a few years together, but that they had to try. The marriage ended two years later. It is a very sad story because Frank truly loved Mia, and she truly loved him, I think. But in the end, perhaps they were in stages of life that were just too different.

Although career wise, Frank continued to have outrageous success in both acting and music. In 1962, the film The Manchurian Candidate was a Cold War  suspense drama that did extremely well. Frank also directed his first and only film in 1965, None But The Brave. In 1968, The Detective was an extremely intense film Frank worked on that was very controversial. True to form, Frank pulled it off wonderfully. Besides intense career boosters like these, Frank did several movies with members of the Rat Pack that were all great fun such as Ocean’s Eleven in 1960 and Robin and the Seven Hoods in 1964. Music wise, Frank continued to crank out records and they continued to have smashing success.

Frank on the set of The Detective in 1968.
Frank on the set of The Detective in 1968.

These times weren’t without their challenges, of course. There was the divorce from Mia Farrow, and while filming Robin and the Seven Hoods Frank’s son was kidnapped. While Frank was on a payphone with the kidnappers, he almost ran out of change and feared that his son would be killed. His son was successfully saved, but from then on Frank always carried a role of dimes with him. There was also the assassination of President John F. Kennedy during this time, and it was devastating for Frank as well as for the entire country. However, the thing that has hit me over and over again about Frank is the way he was able to deal with challenges. Just because he was Frank Sinatra does not mean that he didn’t face many difficulties. The thing about him though, was he knew how to pick himself back up. Because at the end of the day he did have the world on a string. He was, after all, Frank Sinatra.