Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, in an upstairs tenement at Monroe Street in Hoboken, New Jersey, the only child of Italian immigrants Natalina Garaventa andAntonino Martino Sinatra. At birth he weighed 13 pounds (5.9 kg) and had to be ripped out from his mother with forceps, causing severe scarring to his left cheek, neck, and ear, and perforating his ear drum which remained for life.  His mother, known as Dolly, an "extrovert blonde" of barely five feet tall, was the daughter of a lithographer. She was born in Genoa in northern Italy, and was brought to the United States at the age of two months. Sinatra's father, a small, blue-eyed, ruddy-complexioned man, came fromCatania in Sicily. He was a bantamweight boxer who fought under the name Marty O'Brien, and lost hisJOB as a boilermaker after breaking his wrists while boxing. He later served with the Hoboken Fire Department for 24 years, working his way up to Captain. Sinatra was raised a Roman Catholic.
Dolly was influential in the neighborhood and in local Democratic Party circles, but also ran an illegal abortion business from her home that provided services for free. She was arrested six or seven times and convicted twice for this offense. During the Great Depression, Dolly, nevertheless, providedMONEY to her son for outings with friends, and for him to buy expensive clothes. She once remarked: "My son is like me. You cross him, he never forgets". At the age of six, Sinatra's uncle Babe, Dolly's brother, was arrested for driving a getaway car after a Railway Express truckDRIVER was shot to death, and was sentenced to prison for 15 years. Excessively thin and small as a child and young man, Sinatra's skinny frame later became a staple of his own jokes and those of the Rat Pack members during stage shows, one self-effacing joke being "A little kid, skinny. So skinny my eyes were single file. Between those two and my belly button my old man thought I was a clarinet".
Sinatra developed an interest in music, particularly big band jazz, from a young age, and became addicted to listening to the radio, "entranced by the new musical and comedy routines and captivated by the huge audiences they commanded", according to biographer Chris Rojek. He began singing at a young age, sitting on top of the piano at his father's bar in Hoboken. Dolly was not enthusiastic at the idea of her son becoming a singer, but she realized when Sinatra was as young as 11 he had something. Sinatra later recalled: "One day, I got a nickel. I said "This is the racket". I thought, "It's wonderful to sing.... I never forgot it." During his early teenage years Sinatra forced himself to develop his voice. wanting to "make something of himself". He listened heavily to Gene Austin, Rudy Vallée, Russ Colombo and Bob Eberly, and "idolized"Bing Crosby, adopting Crosby's props such as a sailor's cap and pipe in his own performances. Sinatra's maternal uncle, Domenico, gave him a ukulele for his 15thBIRTHDAY, and he began performing at family gatherings.
Sinatra enrolled at Demarest High School on 28 January 1931, where he arranged bands for school dances. He left without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. Sinatra's father was particularly disappointed with his son, hoping that he would make it to college. Sinatra recalled his father scolding him in his strong local accent on the school step after the principal ordered Sinatra senior to "get him out", exclaiming, "What's the matter with you? You don't want to learn nothing?". To please his mother, he enrolled at Drake Business School, but departed after 11 months.
Sinatra's father, who knew that his son was interested in getting into show business, insisted that his son find a "realJOB" to avoid becoming a "bum" after leaving school. Dolly found him work as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper, and briefly as a riveter at the Tietjen and Lang shipyard. In New York he found work singing for his supper or for cigarettes.  Sinatra began taking elocution lessons, and in 1938 he foundEMPLOYMENT as a singing waiter at a roadhouse called The Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week. It was at the cabin that he became involved in a dispute between his girlfriend Toni Della Penta, who suffered a miscarriage, and Nancy Barbato, a stonemason's daughter, in 1939. Sinatra had met Barbato in Long Branch, New Jersey, where he spent most of the summer working as a lifeguard. After Della Penta attempted to tear off Barbato's dress, Sinatra ordered Barbato away and told Della Pinta that he would marry Barbato, several years his junior, because she was pregnant. Della Penta went to the police, and Sinatra was arrested on a morals charge for seduction. After a fight between Della Penta and Dolly, Della Penta was later arrested herself. Sinatra married Barbato later that year, and Nancy Sinatra was born the following year.
1935–40: Early years with Harry James and Tommy DorseyEdit
Sinatra (far right) with the Hoboken Four on Major Bowes' Amateur Hour
Sinatra began singing professionally as a teenager in the 1930s, although he learned music by ear and never learned how to read music. He got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, the Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four, and they sufficiently impressed Edward Bowesenough for him to ask for them to appear on his show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They attracted 40,000 votes and won firstPRIZE: a six-month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States. Due to the success of the group, Bowes kept asking for the group to return, disguised under different names, varying from "The Seacaucus Cockamamies" to "The Bayonne Bacalas". In early 1936, Dolly "footed the bill for a $65 portable public-address system", which could be used by her son for performing in public.
Bandleader Harry James had an engagement at the Paramount Theatre in New York in June 1939. One evening after his show, James was listing to a program on WNEW radio called "Dance Band Parade" which consisted of a series of remote broadcasts. James heard a voice on the program which was of much interest to him; the announcer did not identify the male singer and the vocalist did not sing another song during the program. James was able to find out that the vocalist was with Harold Arlen's Band and that they were from the Rustic Cabin in Englewood, New Jersey. When James went to the Rustic Cabin asking about the singer, he was told that the club had no singer, but they did have an emcee who did some singing. After James had heard more of Sinatra's singing, he asked Sinatra to meet with him at the Paramount and a one-year contract of $75 a week was signed. The only sticking point was that James wanted Sinatra to change his name. Sinatra would not agree to this; he told James that his cousin, Ray Sinatra, was a bandleader in Boston, kept his own name and was doing well with it. James knew of Ray Sinatra, so he did not press any further to get him to change his name.[a]
It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record "From the Bottom of My Heart" in July 1939 – US Brunswick No. 8443 and UK Columbia #DB2150. Fewer than 8,000 copies of the record were sold, making the record now a very rare find that is sought after by record collectors worldwide. Sinatra released ten commercial tracks with James through 1939, including "All or Nothing At All" which had weak sales on its initial release, but then sold millions of copies when re-released by Columbia at the height of Sinatra's popularity a few years later.
In November 1939, in a meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, Sinatra was asked by bandleader Tommy Dorsey to join his band as a replacement for Jack Leonard (the vocalist, not to be confused with the comedian Jack E. Leonard), who had recently left to launch a solo career. This meeting was a turning point in Sinatra's career. By signing with Dorsey's band, one of the biggest bands at the time, he greatly increased his visibility with the American public. Though Sinatra was still under contract with James, James recognized the opportunity Dorsey offered and graciously released Sinatra from his contract. Sinatra recognized his debt to James throughout his life and upon hearing of James' death in 1983, stated: "he [James] is the one that made it all possible."
On January 26, 1940, Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Dorsey band at the Coronado Theatre in Rockford, Illinois. 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 skid with big ears. I used the stand there so amazed I'd almost forget to take my own solos". Dorsey also observed that Sinatra would "take a musical phrase and play it all the way through seemingly without breathing for eight, ten, maybe sixteen bars. How the hell did he do that?" Sinatra later confessed that he regularly swam and held his breath underwater, thinking of song lyrics to increase his breathing power. In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra released more than forty songs, with "I'll Never Smile Again" topping the charts for twelve weeks beginning in mid-July. In September 1940, Sinatra, after playing with Tommy Dorsey at Old Orchard Beach Pier, surprised nightclubbers in Portland, Maine, by turning up at the Morocco Lounge.
Sinatra's relationship with Tommy Dorsey was troubled, because of their contract, which awarded Dorsey as much as 43% of Sinatra's lifetime earnings in the entertainment industry. In January 1942, Sinatra recorded his first solo sessions without the Dorsey band (but with Dorsey's arranger Axel Stordahl and with Dorsey's approval). These sessions were released commercially on the Bluebird label. On September 3, 1942, Dorsey bid farewell to Sinatra, reportedly saying as Sinatra left, "I hope you fall on your ass". Dorsey replaced him with singer Dick Haymes. A story appeared in the Hearst 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. The incident started rumors of Sinatra's involvement with the Mafia, and was fictionalized in the book and movie The Godfather. Sinatra later said of his reason for the departure: "The reason I wanted to leave Tommy's band was that Crosby was Number One, way up on top of the pile. In the open field, you might say, were some awfully good singers with the orchestras. Bob Eberly (with Jimmy Dorsey) was a fabulous vocalist. Mr. Como (with Ted Weems) is such a wonderful singer. I thought, if I don't make a move out of this and try to do it on my own soon, one of those guys will do it, and I'll have to fight all three of them to get a position".
In May 1941, Sinatra was at the top of the male singer polls in Billboard and Down Beat magazines. His appeal to bobby soxers, as teenage girls of that time were called, revealed a whole new audience for popular music, which had been recorded mainly for adults up to that time.The phenomenon became officially known as "Sinatramania" after his "legendary opening" at the Paramount Theatre in New York on December 30, 1942. According to Nancy Sinatra, Jack Benny later said, "I thought the goddamned building was going to cave in. I never heard such a commotion ... All this for a fellow I never heard of." When Sinatra returned to the Paramount in October 1944, 35,000 fans caused a near riot outside the venue because they were not allowed in.
During the musicians' strike of 1942–44, Columbia re-released Harry James and Sinatra's version of "All or Nothing at All" (music by Arthur Altman and lyrics by Jack Lawrence), recorded in August 1939 and released before Sinatra had made a name for himself. When the recording was re–released in 1943 with Sinatra's name prominently displayed, the record was on the best–selling list for 18 weeks and reached number 2 on June 2, 1943.
Sinatra radio interview
Sinatra signed with Columbia on June 1, 1943, as a solo artist, and he initially had great success, particularly during the 1942–44 musicians' strike. Although no new records had been issued during the strike, he had been performing on the radio on Your Hit Parade from February 1943 until December 1944, and on stage. Columbia wanted new recordings of their growing star as quickly as possible, so Alec Wilder was hired as an arranger and conductor for several sessions with a vocal group called the Bobby Tucker Singers. These first sessions were on June 7, June 22, August 5, and November 10, 1943. Of the nine songs recorded during these sessions, seven charted on the best–selling list.
Sinatra did not serve in the military during World War II. On December 11, 1943, he was classified 4-F ("Registrant not acceptable for military service") for a perforated eardrum by his draft board. Also reported in army files was that Sinatra was "not acceptable material from a psychiatric viewpoint", but the physical eardrum condition was cited instead of emotional instability as the issue to avoid "undue unpleasantness for both the selectee and the induction service". His exemption status occasionally resurfaced from certain critics, often Democrat pundits who resented his endorsement of Republican candidates when he turned Republican in the early 1970s. Biographers have noted that the singer actively supported the war effort (much as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope did, although both were much older), via USO shows and other actions in support of the military during and after WWII. Briefly, there were rumors reported by columnist Walter Winchell, that Sinatra paid $40,000 to avoid the service – but the FBI found this to be without merit.
Author Maxene Andrews recalled that when Sinatra entertained the troops during one of several successful overseas USO tours with comedian Phil Silvers during the war, "Sinatra asked whether they should take their own plane, but Bing [Crosby] said they'd fly the less comfortable military aircraft, and that they should get busy 'singing our hearts out.' So, they did." Sinatra worked frequently with the popular Andrews Sisters, both on radio in the 1940s, appearing as guests on each other's shows, as well as on many USO shows broadcast to troops via the Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS). He appeared as a special guest in the sisters' ABC Eight-to-the-Bar Ranch series, while the trio in turn guested on his Songs by Sinatra series on CBS.
Sinatra in 1947
According to biographer John Frayn Turner, "The three aspects of his persona progressed in parallel through 1946: his professional life, his social outlook, and his family connections".He released his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, By the end of 1948, Sinatra felt that his career was stalling, something that was confirmed when he slipped to No. 4 on Down Beat's annual poll of most popular singers (behind Billy Eckstine, Frankie Laine, and Bing Crosby).
Starting in September 1949, the BBD&O advertising agency produced a radio series starring Sinatra for its client Lucky Strike called "Light Up Time" – some 176 15-minute shows which featured Frank and Dorothy Kirsten singing – which lasted through to May 1950.
1950–60: Rebirth of career, Capitol concept albumsEdit
In September 1951, Sinatra made his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn, at a time when hisCAREER was struggling. Biographer Arnold Shaw remarked that "If Las Vegas had not existed, Sinatra could haveINVENTED it". He quoted reporter James Bacon in saying that Sinatra was the "swinging image on which the town is built", adding that no other entertainer quite "embodied the glamor" associated with Las Vegas as him. Sinatra became a prominent figure on the Vegas scene throughout the 1950s and 1960s, a period described by Rojek as the "high-water mark" of Sinatra's "hedonism and self absorption". Rojek notes that the Rat Pack "provided an outlet for gregarious banter and wisecracks", but argues that it was Sinatra's vehicle, possessing an "unassailable command over the other performers". Dean Martin referred to Sinatra's authoritative presence as "Frank's World". Sinatra made his first performance at the Sands Hotel and Casino on 4 October 1953, after an invitation by the manager Jack Entratter. Sinatra typically performed there three times a year, and later acquired a share in theHOTEL. Sinatra was ordered to sell his interest in the Sands in 1963, due to his association with mobster Sam Giancana.
After two years' absence, Sinatra returned to the concert stage on January 12, 1950, inHartford, Connecticut. Sinatra'sCAREER and appeal to new teen audiences declined as he moved into his mid-30s. In October 1951, the second season of The Frank Sinatra Show began on CBS Television. Ultimately, Sinatra did not find the success on television for which he had hoped.[b] His last studio recording for Columbia was made in New York in September 1952, "Why Try To Change Me Now", with orchestra arranged and conducted by Percy Faith. Columbia and MCA dropped him later in 1952.
The rebirth of Sinatra'sCAREER began with the eve-of-Pearl Harbor drama From Here to Eternity (1953), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This role and performance marked a turnaround in Sinatra's career: after several years of critical and commercial decline, becoming an Oscar-winning actor helped him regain his position as the top recording artist in the world. Author John Lahr comments that the new Sinatra was "not the gentle boy balladeer of the forties. Fragility had gone from his voice, to be replaced by a virile adult's sense of happiness and hurt". He quoted Nelson Riddle as saying "It was Ava who did that, who taught him how to sing a torch song. That's how he learned. She was the greatest love of his life and he lost her, and Sinatra as declaring "You have to scrape bottom to appreciate life and start living again".
In 1953, Sinatra starred in the NBC radio program Rocky Fortune. His character, Rocco Fortunato (a.k.a. Rocky Fortune) was a temp worker for the Gridley Employment Agency who stumbled into crime-solving by way of the oddJOBS to which he was dispatched. The series aired on NBC radio Tuesday nights from October 1953 to March 1954, following the network's crime drama hit Dragnet. During the final months of the show, just before the 1954 Oscars, it became a running gag that Sinatra would manage to work the phrase "from here to eternity" into each episode, a reference to his Oscar-nominated performance.
Also in 1953, Sinatra signed with Capitol Records, where he worked with many of the finest musical arrangers of the era, most notably Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May. HisCAREER at the time was facilitated by developments in technology. As disc jockey Jonathan Schwartz said, "Never before had there been an opportunity for a popular singer toEXPRESS emotions at an extended length". In the words of Lahr, "as many as sixteen songs could be held by the twelve-inch L.P., and this allowed Sinatra to use song in a novelistic way, turning each track in a kind of chapter, which built and counterpointed moods to illuminate a larger theme". With a series of albums featuring darker emotional material, Sinatra reinvented himself, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955) – Sinatra's first 12" LP and his second collaboration with Nelson Riddle – Where Are You? (1957) his first album in stereo, with Gordon Jenkins, and Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958). He also incorporated a hipper, "swinging" persona into some of his music, as heard on Swing Easy! (1954), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), andCome Fly With Me (1957).
By the end of the year, Billboard had named "Young at Heart" Song of the Year (the title song of his 1954 movie with Doris Day); Swing Easy!, with Nelson Riddle at the helm (his second album for Capitol), was named Album of the Year; and Sinatra was named "Top Male Vocalist" byBillboard, Down Beat and Metronome.
Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, a stark collection of introspective saloon songs and blues-tinged ballads, was released in September 1958, and proved a huge commercial success, spending 120 weeks on Billboards album chart and peaking at No. 1. Cuts from this LP, such as "Angel Eyes" and "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)", would remain staples of Sinatra's concerts and played as evocative of the mood of an era and still are sung with appreciation even today.
Through the late '50s, Sinatra defended the classy, stylish, lyrical music genre of the '30s and '40s that evoked romance and respect for women, but frequently criticized rock and roll music. Sinatra despised music that he found publicly demeaning of women and tasteless.
Sinatra's 1959 hit "High Hopes" lasted on the Hot 100 for 17 weeks, more than any other Sinatra hit did on that chart, and was a recurring favorite for years on Captain Kangaroo.
1960–70: Ring-a-Ding-Ding!, Reprise records, Basie, Jobim, "My Way"Edit
Sinatra started the 1960s as he ended the 1950s. His first album of the decade, Nice 'n' Easy, topped Billboard 's chart and won critical plaudits. Sinatra grew discontented at Capitol and decided to form his own label, Reprise Records. His first album on the label, Ring-a-Ding-Ding!(1961), was a major success, peaking at No.4 on Billboard and No.8 in the UK.
Frank Sinatra at Girl's Town Ball in Florida, March 12, 1960
His fourth and final Timex TV special was broadcast in March 1960, and earned massive viewing figures. Titled It's Nice to Go Travelling, the show is more commonly known asWelcome Home Elvis. Elvis Presley's appearance after his army discharge was somewhat ironic; Sinatra had been scathing about rock and roll earlier, saying: "His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people." Presley had responded: "... [Sinatra] is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn't have said it ... [rock and roll] is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago." Later, in efforts to maintain his commercial viability, Sinatra recorded Presley's hit "Love Me Tender" as well as works by Paul Simon ("Mrs. Robinson"), the Beatles ("Something", "Yesterday"), and Joni Mitchell ("Both Sides, Now").
From his youth, Sinatra displayed sympathy for African Americans and worked both publicly and privately all his life to help them win equal rights. He played a major role in thedesegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s often stepping in to demand apologies for a racist incident and abolishing of Jim Crow policies before he would fulfill his show contract. On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr. and led his fellow Rat Pack members and Reprise label mates in boycotting hotels and casinos that refused entry to black patrons and performers. He often spoke from the stage on desegregation and repeatedly played benefits on behalf of Dr. King and his movement. According to his son, Frank Sinatra, Jr., King sat weeping in the audience at one of his father's concerts in 1963 as Sinatra sang Ol' Man River, a song from the musical Show Boat that is sung by an African-American stevedore. His well-known support for African-Americans was the subject of a piece in the Chicago Tribune by Laura S. Washington. On September 11 and 12, 1961, Sinatra recorded his final songs for Capitol.
In 1962, Sinatra and Count Basie collaborated for the album Sinatra-Basie. This popular and successful release prompted them to rejoin two years later for the follow-up It Might as Well Be Swing, which was arranged by Quincy Jones. One of Sinatra's more ambitious albums from the mid-1960s, The Concert Sinatra, with a 73-piece symphony orchestra led by Nelson Riddle, was recorded on a motion picture scoring stage with the use of multiple synchronized recording machines that employed 35 mm magnetic film (multi-track tape mastering machines were then limited to 4 tracks, although 3 tracks was more common; an 8 track machine, "The Octopus", had been made as a "one-off" for Les Paulearlier).
Martin with Sinatra
In June 1965, Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin played live in St. Louis to benefit Dismas House, a prisoner rehabilitation and training center with nationwide programs that in particular helped serve African Americans. The Rat Pack concert was broadcast live via satellite to numerous movie theaters across America. Released in August 1965 was the Grammy Award–winning album of the year, September of My Years, containing the single "It Was a Very Good Year", which won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1966. A career anthology, A Man and His Music, followed in November, winning Album of the Year at the Grammys in 1966. The TV special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, garnered both an Emmy award and a Peabody Award.
In spring, That's Life appeared, with both the single and album becoming Top Ten hits in the US on Billboard's pop charts. Strangers in the Night went on to top the Billboard and UK pop singles charts, winning the award for Record of the Year at the Grammys. The album of the same name also topped the Billboard chart and reached number 4 in the UK.
Sinatra's first live album, Sinatra at the Sands, was recorded during January and February 1966 at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Sinatra was backed by the Count Basie Orchestra, with Quincy Jones conducting. Sinatra pulled out from the Sands the following year, when he was driven out by its new owner Howard Hughes, who still resented Sinatra for marrying Ava Gardner. Hughes plotted to rid of Sinatra from the Sands for good, and asked Robert Maheu to draw up a plan shortly after the new hotel opened in 1967. The hotel imposed restrictions on what Sinatra could gamble in the casino, to just $3000 a night.[c]Fuming, Sinatra began what The Los Angeles Times describes as a "weekend-long tirade" against the "hotel's management, employees and security forces". It culminated when Sinatra reportedly drove a golf cart through the window of the coffee shop where casino manager Carl Cohen was seated and began "screaming obscenities and anti-Semitic remarks" at Cohen.[d] Sinatra reportedly punched Cohen, a heavily built man, who responded with a smack in the mouth, bloodying Sinatra's nose and knocking two of his teeth out. As a result, Sinatra never performed at the Sands again while Hughes owned it, and began performing at Caesar's Palace. A number of the staff were not disappointed to see Sinatra leave the Sands. Numerous employees had been humiliated or intimidated by the Rat Pack over the years, including a busboy that Sinatra tripped up while he was carrying a tray with dishes. After Sinatra left, the mobsters pulled out of Sands and gradually left Vegas in the 1970s.
During the late 1960s, press agent Lee Solters would invite columnists and their spouses into Sinatra's dressing room just before he was about to go on stage. The New Yorker recounted that "the first columnist they tried this on was Larry Fields of the Philadelphia Daily News, whose wife fainted when Sinatra kissed her cheek. 'Take care of it, Lee,' Sinatra said, and he was off." The professional relationship Sinatra shared with Solters focused on projects on the west coast while those focused on the east coast were handled by Solters' partner, Sheldon Roskin of Solters/Roskin/Friedman, a well-known firm at the time.
With Sinatra in mind, singer-songwriter Paul Anka wrote the song "My Way", inspired by the French "Comme d'habitude" ("As Usual"), composed by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. "My Way" became more closely identified with Sinatra than any other song over his seven decades as a singer, even though he reputedly did not care for it.
Watertown (1970) was one of Sinatra's most acclaimed concept albums with music by Bob Gaudio (of the Four Seasons) and lyrics by Jake Holmes, but it was all but ignored by the public. Selling a mere 30,000 copies in 1970 and reaching a peak chart position of 101, its failure put an end to plans for a television special based on the album. Watertown was one of the only recording sessions having Sinatra sing against pre-recorded tracks instead of a live orchestra.
On November 2, 1970, Sinatra recorded the last songs for Reprise Records before his self-imposed retirement. The final song recorded at the session was written by John Denver and titled "The Game is Over". However, this song was not released officially until The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings suitcase box-set, which went on sale in 1995 to commemorate his 80th birthday.
On June 13, 1971, at a concert in Hollywood to raise money for the Motion Picture and TV Relief Fund, at the age of 55, Sinatra announced that he was retiring, presumably bringing to an end his 36-year career in show business.
While he was in retirement, President Richard Nixon asked him to perform at a Young Voters Rally in anticipation of the upcoming campaign. Sinatra obliged and chose to sing "My Kind of Town" for the rally held in Chicago on October 20, 1972. It is the only known public performance he gave during his "retirement" period.
In 1973, Sinatra came out of his short-lived retirement with a television special and album, both entitled Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. The album, arranged by Gordon Jenkins and Don Costa, was a great success, reaching number 13 on Billboard and number 12 in the UK. The TV special was highlighted by a dramatic reading of "Send in the Clowns" and a song-and-dance sequence with former co-star Gene Kelly.
In January 1974, Sinatra returned to Las Vegas, performing at Caesars Palace despite vowing in 1970 never to play there again after the manager of the resort, Sanford Waterman, pulled a gun on him during a heated argument. In Australia, he caused an uproar by describing journalists there – who were aggressively pursuing his every move and pushing for a press conference – as "fags", "pimps", and "whores". Australian unions representing transport workers, waiters, and journalists went on strike, demanding that Sinatra apologize for his remarks. Sinatra instead insisted that the journalists apologize for "fifteen years of abuse I have taken from the world press". The future Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, then the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) leader, also insisted that Sinatra apologize, and a settlement was eventually reached to the apparent satisfaction of both parties.Sinatra's final show of his Australian tour was televised.
In October 1974, Sinatra appeared at New York City's Madison Square Garden in a televised concert that was later released as an album under the title The Main Event – Live. Backing him was bandleader Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd, who accompanied Sinatra on a European tour later that month. The TV special garnered mostly positive reviews while the album – actually culled from various shows during his comeback tour – was only a moderate success, peaking at No.37 on Billboard and No.30 in the UK.
In August 1975, Sinatra held several consecutive concerts together with the newly-risen singer John Denver. Soon they became friends. John Denver later appeared as a guest in theSinatra and Friends TV Special, singing "September Song" together with Sinatra. Sinatra covered the John Denver hits "My Sweet Lady" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane". And, according to Denver, his song "A Baby Just Like You" was written at Sinatra's request.
During Labor Day weekend 1976 Sinatra was responsible for reuniting old friends and comedy partners Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for the first time in nearly twenty years. Sinatra performed for the "Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon" that afternoon and before he performed he brought Martin out on stage.
In 1980, Sinatra's first album in six years was released, Trilogy: Past Present Future, a highly ambitious triple album that found Sinatra recording songs from the past (pre-rock era) and present (rock era and contemporary) that he had overlooked during his career, while 'The Future' was a free-form suite of new songs linked à la musical theater by a theme, in this case, Sinatra pondering over the future. The album garnered six Grammy nominations – winning for best liner notes – and peaked at number 17 on Billboard's album chart, while spawning yet another song that would become a signature tune, "Theme from New York, New York", as well as Sinatra's much lauded (second) recording of George Harrison's "Something" (the first was not officially released on an album until 1972's Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2).
The following year, Sinatra built on the success of Trilogy with She Shot Me Down, an album that revisited the dark tone of his Capitol years, and was praised by critics as a vintage late-period Sinatra. Sinatra would comment that it was "A complete saloon album ... tear-jerkers and cry-in-your-beer kind of things".
Also in 1981, Sinatra was embroiled in controversy when he worked a ten-day engagement for $2 million in Sun City, in the internationally unrecognized "independent" bantustanBotswana, breaking a cultural boycott against apartheid-era South Africa. Botswana's president, Lucas Mangope, awarded Sinatra with Botswana's highest honor, the Order of the Leopard, and made him an honorary tribal chief.
In 1984, Sinatra worked with Quincy Jones for the first time in nearly two decades on the album, L.A. Is My Lady, which was well received critically. The album was a substitute for another Jones project, an album of duets with Lena Horne, which had to be abandoned. (Horne developed vocal problems and Sinatra, committed to other engagements, could not wait to record.)
From the late 1980s, one of Sinatra's favorite haunts in Los Angeles was Nicky Blair's, an Italian restaurant on the Sunset Strip, where Sinatra and the Rat Pack would play poker in the kitchen to escape fans and the press.
In 1990 Sinatra was awarded the second "Ella Award" by the Los Angeles-based Society of Singers, and performed for a final time with Ella Fitzgerald at the award ceremony. Sinatra maintained an active touring schedule in the early 1990s, performing 65 concerts in 1990, 73 in 1991 and 84 in 1992 in seventeen different countries. In 1993, Sinatra returned to Capitol Records and the recording studio for Duets. The album and its sequel, Duets II, would see Sinatra remake his classic recordings with popular contemporary performers, who added their vocals to a pre-recorded tape.
Still touring despite various health problems, Sinatra remained a top concert attraction on a global scale during the first half of the 1990s. At times during concerts his memory failed him and a fall onstage in Richmond, Virginia, in March 1994, signaled further problems. Sinatra's final public concerts were held in Japan's Fukuoka Dome in December 1994. The following year, on February 25, 1995, at a private party for 1200 select guests on the closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, Sinatra sang before a live audience for the very last time. Esquire reported of the show that Sinatra was "clear, tough, on theMONEY" and "in absolute control". His closing song was "The Best is Yet to Come".
Sinatra was awarded the Legend Award at the 1994 Grammy Awards, where he was introduced by Bono, who said of him, "Frank's the chairman of the bad attitude ... Rock 'n roll plays at being tough, but this guy is the boss – the chairman of boss ... I'm not going to mess with him, are you?" Sinatra called it "the best welcome ... I ever had", but his acceptance speech ran too long and was abruptly cut off, leaving him looking confused and talking into a dead microphone.
In 1995, to mark Sinatra's 80thBIRTHDAY, the Empire State Building glowed blue. A star-studded birthday tribute, Sinatra: 80 Years My Way, was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. At the end of the program Sinatra graced the stage for the last time to sing the final notes of "New York, New York" with an ensemble. It was Sinatra's last televised appearance.
In recognition of his many years of association with Las Vegas, Frank Sinatra was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.
In 1946, Sinatra returned to MGM to make Till the Clouds Roll By, a Technicolor musical biopic of Jerome Kern, directed Richard Whorf, with an ensemble cast which included Robert Walker, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, June Allyson and Van Heflin. Santopietro considered the film to be the "dodo bird of MGM musicals—it moves but never flies", but noted that Sinatra had a cameo in the climax of the film, singing "Ol' Man River". The following year, he featured in another musical directed by Whorf of MGM, It Happened in Brooklyn, co-starring Peter Lawford, Kathryn Grayson and Jimmy Durante. The film contains six songs written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, including "The Song's Gotta Come From the Heart", in which Sinatra performed a duet with Durante. Variety noted: "Much of the lure will result from Frank Sinatra's presence in the cast. Guy's acquired the Bing Crosby knack of nonchalance, throwing away his gag lines with fine aplomb. He kids himself in a couple of hilarious sequences and does a takeoff on Jimmy Durante, with Durante aiding him, that's sockeroo."
In 1948 Sinatra appeared with Grayson in The Kissing Bandit, playing a shy, Boston-bred son of a robber, who falls for the daughter of the Spanish Governor of California. The film was a financial disaster, with the studio losing over $2.5 million, making it one of the least successful musicals in MGM history. The film was also poorly received critically, and is often cited as the worst film of Sinatra's career. Also in 1948, Sinatra played a priest, one of his most unlikely roles according to Knight, opposite Fred MacMurray and Alida Valli in Irving Pichel's The Miracle of the Bells. It fared poorly upon release, with Time Magazine declaring in their review that "The Archangel Michael, familiarly picture, ought to sue". In 1949, Sinatra co-starred with Gene Kelly in the Technicolor musical Take Me Out to the Ball Game, a film set in 1908, in which Sinatra and Kelly play baseball players who are part-time vaudevillians. It was well received critically and became a commercial success. That same year, Sinatra teamed up with Kelly for a third time in On the Town, playing a sailor on leave in New York City. Today the film is rated very highly by critics, and in 2006 it ranked No. 19 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.
In 1951, Sinatra featured opposite Jane Russell and Groucho Marx in the Irving Cummings comedy, Double Dynamite for RKO. The picture involves an innocent bank teller (Sinatra) suspected of embezzling who turns to a sardonic waiter (Groucho Marx) for advice. Although Sinatra has by far the most screen time, he took third billing behind Jane Russell and Groucho Marx.[e] Both Sinatra and Jane Russell play against type as a shy, timid pair, while Marx portrays a sarcastic waiter who breezily mentors the frightened young couple. Jane Russell and Groucho Marx each sing a duet with Frank Sinatra written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn. Marx and Sinatra sing "It's Only Money", and Russell and Sinatra deliver the romantic "Kisses and Tears. The following year he appeared in Joseph Pevney's Meet Danny Wilson withShelley Winters, in a role which Knight thought at times was overacted. For Santopietro, the film marked the end of the first period of Sinatra's film career, at a time when his career had slumped.
In 1954, Sinatra starred opposite Doris Day in the musical film Young at Heart. They released an album together, of the same name which peaked at #11 on Billboard, while the single reached #2 and was considered as Sinatra's comeback single after several years away from the top of the pop singles chart.[f] So popular was the song "Young at Heart" that the film was also titled Young at Heart, having had no title until the song's success. The Young at Heart album released by Day and Sinatra did not include the title song, which Sinatra recorded prior to his film work.[g] Later in 1954, Sinatra starred opposite Sterling Hayden in the film noirSuddenly, playing a psychopathic killer posing as an FBI agent who takes over a familial residence during a stakeout. Sinatra's performance was lauded by critics, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times declaring that "Mr. Sinatra deserves a special chunk of praise for playing the leading gunman with an easy, cold, vicious sort of gleam" and that the film demonstrated a turn in direction in a career in playing such a "repulsive role", in comparison to his earlier career.
Sinatra and Grace Kelly on the set of High Society
Sinatra was cast in the lead role in Henry King's Carousel (1956), a 20th Century Foxproduction. However, when Sinatra learned that the film was to be shot in two formats, Cinemascope and a new 55-millmeter process, he refused to make "two pictures for the price of one", and walked off the set and didn't return. Fox sued Sinatra for a million dollars for breach of contract and replaced him with Gordon MacRae. Instead, he featured alongside Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in High Society. The public rushed to the cinemas to see Sinatra and Crosby together onscreen, and it ended up earning over $13 million at the box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing pictures of 1956. Later that year he appeared at the titular character in Johnny Concho, a Western, in which he played an "skinny, scared, evil runt, living of his brother's fearsome reputation, even hiding behind the skirts of his woman in the ultimate showdown". He also had cameo roles in Around the World in 80 Days and Meet Me in Las Vegas.
In 1957, Sinatra starred opposite Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in George Sidney's Pal Joey, for which he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Santopietro considers the scene in which Sinatra sings "The Lady Is a Tramp" to Hayworth to have been the finest moment of his film career. He next portrayed comedian Joe E. Lewis in The Joker Is Wild, a romanticized biopic of his life. Sinatra earned $125,000 for the role through his new company Bristol Productions, which had a 25% share in the film and box-office gross. The song "All the Way" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Later that year he spent time on location in Spain shooting The Pride and the Passion with Cary Grant, in which he played a Spanish guerrilla leader during the Peninsular War of 1810. Director Kramer agreed to give Sinatra another chance, and later regretted it, finding him uncooperative and arrogant, as he was unwilling to shoot his scenes twice. He only accepted the role as he wanted to be closer to Ava Gardner while she was filming The Sun Also Rises in Europe, due to marriage problems. Kramer said of the production: "[Sinatra] didn't want to wait around.... He wanted his work all done together.... Eventually for the sake of harmony, we shot all his scenes together and he left early. The rest of the cast acquiesced because of the tension, which was horrific".
In 1960 Sinatra starred in Can-Can. He personally financed Ocean's Eleven, the first film to feature the Rat Pack together, and paid Martin and Davis Jr. fees of $150,000 and $125,000, exorbitant for the period. The following year he appeared in The Devil at 4 O'Clock.
In 1970, Sinatra starred opposite George Kennedy in the western Dirty Dingus Magee. According to biographer Tom Santopietro, Sinatra only agreed to the film, an "abysmal" affair which was clearly the "wrong vehicle" for him as he put, because he needed something to cheer him up following the death of his father in January 1969. The film was panned by the critics. In a scathing review, Roger Ebert referred to the film as "as shabby a piece of goods as has masqueraded as a Western", and stated: "I lean toward blaming Frank Sinatra, who in recent years has become notorious for not really caring about his movies. If a shot doesn't work, he doesn't like to try it again; he might be late getting back to Vegas".
Sinatra's last major role was opposite Faye Dunaway in Brian G. Hutton's The First Deadly Sin (1980), in which he plays a troubled New York City homicide cop, Captain Edward X. Delaney. In a small role, Dunaway is the detective's ailing wife, hospitalized during the entire story with a rare kidney affliction. The musical score was by composer and arranger Gordon Jenkins, who had first worked with Sinatra on the 1957 album "Where Are You?". The First Deadly Sin failed to make much of an impression at the box office, but was well-received by a number of critics. Santopietro noted that Sinatra gave an "extraordinarily rich", heavily layered characterization, one which "made for one terrific farewell" to his film career, and Ebert was pleasantly surprised by Sinatra's "quiet, poignant, and very effective performance" as the detective, who "looks and acts very touchingly like a tired old cop on the threshold of retirement".
Sinatra had three children, Nancy (born 1940), Frank Jr. (born 1944), and Tina (born 1948), all with his first wife, Nancy Sinatra (née Barbato) (m. 1939–1951). He was married three more times, to actresses Ava Gardner (m. 1951–1957), Mia Farrow (m. 1966–1968), and finally to Barbara Marx(m. 1976–1998; his death). In a 2013 interview Farrow admitted that Sinatra may be the father of her son, Ronan Farrow (born 1986).
Throughout his life, Sinatra had mood swings and bouts of mild to severe depression. Avoiding solitude and unglamorous surroundings at all cost, he struggled with the conflicting need "to get away from it all, but not too far away." He acknowledged this, telling an interviewer in the 1950s: "Being an 18-karat manic depressive, and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation." In her memoirs My Father's Daughter, his daughter, Tina, wrote about the "eighteen-karat" remark: "As flippant as Dad could be about his mental state, I believe that a Zoloft a day might have kept his demons away. But that kind of medicine was decades off."
In a 1963 interview with Playboy magazine, Sinatra described his religious views, stating
I think I can sum up my religious feelings in a couple of paragraphs. First: I believe in you and me. I'm like Albert Schweitzer and Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein in that I have a respect for life – in any form. I believe in nature, in the birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or that there is real evidence for. If these things are what you mean by God, then I believe in God. But I don't believe in a personal God to whom I look for comfort or for a natural on the next roll of the dice.
Though turned off by organized religion at times, however, Sinatra had a deep faith that became public when he turned to the Catholic Church for healing after his mother died in a plane crash late in his career. He died as a practicing Catholic and had a Catholic burial.
Sinatra became the stereotype of the "tough working-class Italian American", something which he embraced. Sinatra commented that if it hadn't been for his interest in music he'd "probably have ended in a life of crime". However, he frequently denied personal and professional links with organized-crime figures such as Bugsy Siegel, Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano, and Joseph Fischetti, vehemently declaring that "any report that I fraternised with goons or racketeers is a vicious lie".
In Sinatra's early days, mafia boss Willie Moretti helped him for kickbacks and released Sinatra from his contract with Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra was present at the MafiaHavana Conference in 1946. When the press learned of Sinatra being in Havana with Lucky Luciano, one newspaper published the headline, "Shame, Sinatra". When asked about his Mafia contacts in 1965 he stated that it was "due to a legitimate reason. We built a hotel together in Las Vegas". In January 1967 Sinatra stood before a Las Vegas grand jury investigating mobster influence in theCASINOS, and denied any financial exploits with Giancana. In his memoir, Dean & Me, Sinatra's associate Jerry Lewis said of the subject: "In the 1940s and '50s, before the Mob lost its hold on nightclubs and Vegas, it was literally impossible for an entertainer, any entertainer, not toDEAL with them."
For a year Hoover investigated Sinatra's alleged CommunistAFFILIATIONS, but found no evidence. The files include his rendezvous with prostitutes, and his extramarital affair with Ava Gardner, which preceded their marriage. Celebrities mentioned in the files are Dean Martin,Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, and Giancana's girlfriend, singer Phyllis McGuire.
The FBI's secret dossier on Sinatra was released in 1998 in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The released FBI files reveal some tantalizing insights into Sinatra's lifetime consistency in pursuing and embracing seemingly conflicting affiliations. But Sinatra's alliances had a practical aspect. They were adaptive mechanisms for behavior motivated by self-interest and inner anxieties. In September 1950 Sinatra felt particularly vulnerable. Sinatra "was scared, his career had sprung a leak." In a letter dated September 17, 1950, to Clyde Tolson, Deputy FBI Director, in response to government investigations of Mafia intrusions into some parts of the entertainment industry, Sinatra offered to be of service to the FBI as an informer. An excerpted passage from a memo in FBI files states that Sinatra "feels he can be of help as a result of going anywhere the Bureau desires and contacting any people from whom he might be able to obtain information. Sinatra feels as a result of his publicity he can operate without suspicion ... he is willing to go the whole way." The FBI declined his assistance but mentioned their gratitude for his willingness to assist inCLEANING UP organized crime in the industry.
Sinatra's parents had immigrated to the United States in 1895 and 1897, respectively. His mother, Dolly Sinatra (1896–1977), was a Democratic Party ward leader.
Sinatra remained a supporter of the Democratic Party until the early 1970s when he switched his allegiance to the Republican Party as the Democratic Party under George McGovern took a sharp turn to the left that was in conflict with his more traditional values.
Of all the U.S. Presidents he associated with during hisCAREER, he was closest to John F. Kennedy. In 1960 Sinatra and his friends - Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. - actively campaigned for Kennedy throughout the United States; A specially recorded version of "High Hopes" with lyrics praising Kennedy, frequently was played during the 1960 presidential election.
In January 1961 Sinatra and Peter Lawford organized the Inaugural Gala in Washington, DC, held on the evening before President Kennedy was sworn into office. The event, featuring many notable entertainment figures, was an enormous success, raising a large amount ofMONEY for the Democratic Party.
Sinatra's move toward the Republican party seems to have begun when he was snubbed by President Kennedy in favor of Bing Crosby, a fellow singer and a Republican, for Kennedy's visit to Palm Springs, in 1962. Kennedy had planned to stay at Sinatra's home over the Easter holiday weekend, but decided against doing so because of Sinatra's alleged connections to organized crime. Kennedy stayed at Crosby's house instead. Sinatra hadINVESTED a lot of his own money in upgrading the facilities at his home in anticipation of the President's visit. At the time, President Kennedy's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was intensifying his own investigations into organized crime figures such as Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, who had earlier stayed at Sinatra's home. Despite his break with Kennedy, however, he still mourned when Kennedy was assassinated. According to his daughter Nancy, Sinatra learned of Kennedy's assassination while filming a scene of Robin and the 7 Hoods in Burbank. Sinatra quickly finished filming the scene, returned to his Palm Springs home, and sobbed in his bedroom for three days.
The first sign of Sinatra's break from the Democratic Party came in 1970 when he endorsed Ronald Reagan for a second term as Governor of California; Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat and encouraged Reagan to become more moderate. In July 1972, after a lifetime of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, Sinatra announced he could not support the left-ward turn of the party and its candidate, George McGovern, and would therefore support Republican U.S. President Richard Nixon for re-election in the 1972 presidential election. His switch to the Republican Party was now official; he even told his daughter, Tina, who had actively campaigned for Nixon's Democratic opponent George McGovern, "the older you get, the more conservative you get." Sinatra said he agreed with the Republican Party on most positions. During Nixon's Presidency, Sinatra visited the White House on several occasions.
In the 1980 presidential election, Sinatra supported Ronald Reagan and donated $4 million to Reagan's campaign. Sinatra said he supported Reagan as he was "the proper man to be the President of the United States ... it's so screwed up now, we need someone to straighten it out." Reagan's victory gave Sinatra his closest relationship with the White House since the early 1960s. Sinatra arranged Reagan's Presidential gala, as he had done for Kennedy 20 years previously. In 1984, Sinatra returned to his birthplace in Hoboken, bringing with him President Reagan, who was in the midst of campaigning for the 1984 presidential election. Reagan had made Sinatra a fund-raising ambassador as part of the Republican National Committee's "Victory '84 Get-Out-The-Vote" (GOTV) drive.
Sinatra died on May 14, 1998, aged 82, after suffering a severe heart attack. Sinatra had suffered from ill health for the last few years of his life, and had been frequently hospitalized for heart and breathing problems, high blood pressure, pneumonia and bladder cancer, as well as suffering from dementia. He had made no public appearances following a heart attack in February 1997. Sinatra died at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with his wife, Barbara, by his side. She had encouraged him to "fight" while attempts were made to stabilize him, and his final words were, "I'm losing." Sinatra's daughter, Tina, later wrote that she and her sister, Nancy, had not been notified of their father's final hospitalization, and it was her belief that "the omission was deliberate. Barbara would be the grieving widowalone at her husband's side." The night after Sinatra's death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue. Also right after Sinatra's death, the lights on theLas Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor.
Sinatra received three honorary degrees during his lifetime. In May 1976, Frank Sinatra was invited to speak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) graduation commencement held at Sam Boyd Stadium. It was at this commencement that he was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate litterarum humanarum by the university. During his speech, Sinatra noted that his education had come from "the school of hard knocks" and was suitably touched by the award. He went on to describe that "this is the first educational degree I have ever held in my hand. I will never forget what you have done for me today". A few years later in 1984 and 1985, Sinatra also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology.