title
BOOKS II
I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VIII


NOTE: Books about Sinatra in the late seventies and early eighties were mostly sad affairs, with trashy paperbacks and coffee-table books proliferating, but usually without a thought in their heads to share.  A couple of notable exceptions appeared, however, in the form of Sinatra's 'own words' being compiled, as well as a wonderfully literate book by John Rockwell, courtesy of Rolling Stone Press.  There were also disappointments, especially from Sinatra's daughter, Nancy, who tried for the first time to set the record straight. 


Frank Sinatra: Is This Man Mafia?
by George Carpozi Jr.;  Manor Books, Inc., 376 p.
Released June, 1979

 

"The sedate but sometimes sensational Wall Street Journal caught up in breathless fashion with the news of an era past about Frank Sinatra's indissoluble camraderie with the Mafia. That wasn't a singing group by any stretch of the musical scale - unless one's imagery of rhythm encompasses the notion that fortissimo bursts of a tommy gun constitute some form of lyrical instrumentation. In a lead story on page one of its August 19, 1968 edition, the Journal raked Sinatra in the unkindest terms. To wit: "Ordinarily a man's friendships are nobody's business but his own. But Mr. Sinatra once again is back in public affairs - in politics, and Presidential politics at that." ...The Jouranl [sp] rehased [sp] much of the accounts we've narrated in this text about Sinatra's connections with Willie Moretti, Charles (Lucky) Luciano, the Fischetti brothers, and Momo Giancana. ...The most revealing thing about the story was mobster Willie Moretti's alleged attempt to intervene in Frankie's divorce from Nancy."  [pg 275]


REVIEW:  Before Kitty Kelly got her claws into Sinatra, George Carpozi Jr. beat her to the punch with this sleazy, desperately-conceived hatchet job so filled with stilted prose, dumbbell metaphors and hearsay that it almost self-destructs under the weight of its own pretensions.  Tying together every single printed allegation of mob ties with Sinatra, this book isn't simply content to examine Frank's relationships with known mafia henchmen, but also feels the need to psychoanalize his affairs and marriages, his outbursts against the media, and even dismisses his initial success as having been 'bought' by the mafia. Without a shred of first-hand information to back him up, the author simply steals the information from second-hand sources, quoting magazines and newspapers en masse; and yet, despite the full-out raping of other's works, he still manages to amass an author's credit with his error-ridden, mis-spelt, and over-heated prose. Mr. Carpozi tries desperately to sound street-wise in his writing, but only ends up penning inane lines like: "The bad days had dawned..." and "The cast comprised just Frankie and Mia. The scene involved no supporting roles and no selected short subjects. It didn't need them..." (What is it with the '...'s? They're everywhere!) The book has the audacity to question the legitimacy of Frank Sinatra Jr's kidnapping, suggesting it was all faked, spends countless chapters hounding Sinatra and Ava Gardner's affair and marriage, and in the end, leaves the reader as confused as when they began. An almost cultishly bad exercise in writing, Is This Man Mafia? at least had the ability to make me laugh with its amaturish posturing.


Sinatra
by Alan G. Frank; Leon Amiel Publisher, 176 p.
Released August 1, 1979

 

"In order to succeed, it would appear that talent is helpful, as is luck.  But in many cases the seeds of failure are sown when the performer is unable to meet the (minimal) requirements of the cliche's of this profession.  Even after success has been achieved, entertainers are still seen - and publicised - in terms of cliche'.  The 'rising star' becomes the 'star' and, when that over-used word loses its potency, he or she achieves the status of the 'superstar'.  As each new superlative is brought into use, a fresher and more powerful one has to be found, and the ultimate weapon in a publicist's armoury is the phrase 'a legend in his/her own lifetime', one of the most abused tags around." [from the introduction, pg. 7]


REVIEW:  One of a slew of quick-buck books put out over the years, this early coffee-table sized book is a forgettable entry in Sinatra's bibliographical canon.  Filled with innumerable black-and-white photographs of Sinatra, some rare, others common; all surrounded by text which seems to have been patched together from several different sources, offering no insight, poetry, or enlightenment about its subject, but dryly expounding people/places/events with all the class of a paper napkin.  Not that it's a worthless book - the pictures are generally very good; from early portraits of Sinatra as a child and young man, to later shots of him in the studio performing live in front of an audience which includes Sophia Loren; to full-color spreads scattered throughout the book in meager doses, it a great book to look at, although the flat paper doesn't do the photos any justice.  It's the writing where this book really fails - I'm not sure who Alan Frank is, although I've found another star bio he's written of Marlon Brando, but his prose is pretty stale, throwing in random quotes from Frank and others without offering sources, giving lifeless expositions of events as if they're as interesting as a plate of scramble eggs, and cutting vast swaths of generalities like: "As time went by, Sinatra was successfully to experiment with new arrangers and new orchestras, as well [as] adapting his style and material to fit changing public tastes and, more importantly, to allow for the toll that age and use was inevitably taking on his voice" [pg 124].  About as exciting as reading a college textbook, eh?  Buyers should expect this kind of hack work on books like these - quickly written, assembled and sold on bargain tables to unsuspecting, or undiscerning fans.  You can buy Sinatra cheap, but you get what you pay for.


Frank Sinatra
by John Howlett; Simon & Schuster, 176 p.
Released November, 1980

 

"'Nasty, rude, inconsiderate, uncooperative and ungrateful', said Kendis Rocklin in a Los Angeles Mirror News article on Sinatra.  but, unlike cover stories in Time and Look magazines, Rocklin also gave prominence in his article to the Sinatra that could be 'quietly generous and considerate without even expecting thanks'. ...[J. Lee] Cobb had had a heart attack in the summer of 1955 and he recalled later, 'Frank in his typically unsentimental fashion, moved into my life... Frank flooded me with books, flowers, delicacies.  He kept telling me what fine acting I still had ahead of me... He built an insulating wall around me that shielded me from worry, tension and strain.' ...'After I recovered,' said Cobb, 'our relationship tapered off until I hardly saw him at all.  He seemed to disappear as my need for him was over.'"  [pg. 92]


REVIEW:  Another fairly typical photo-biography from the early eighties, this examination of Frank's life and career is distinguished by the uncommonly even-handed and skilled writing of the author, who manages to lay out the prime moments of Sinatra's life without judgement or apparent bias.  Filled with stock black and white photographs thorughout, which have the good grace to match the eras the text is covering, on first glance this book might not appear to be anything special; but for beginners, it's ideal in its brevity, succinctness, and professionalism.  Cutting the chapters into small chronological chunks, the book chronicles "The Early Years 1915-1939," "The Slow Way Up 1939-1942," "Out on the Rainbow 1942-1947," "The Fast Way Down 1947," "Love and Disaster 1948-1952," "From Here To Eternity 1953-1954," "The Second Time Around 1954-1958," "The Tough Monkey 1958-1961," "The Thousand Days 1959-1962," "The Summit 1962-1971" and "The Long Goodbye" which takes the reader up to the (then) present.  Also included are a detailed filmography and discography which is, of course, pretty much out date, but still contains lots of good information, including songwriters, arrangers, track listings for the albums and more.  The author covers in good detail every major event and controversy of Sinatra's life, using lots of quotes to support his narration, and managing to keep an even balance between the more sensational aspects of Sinatra's life and his successes.  Not much to look at, but again, a good, solid introduction to Frank's life and times.  Frank Sinatra is worth picking up if you find it at a used book shop.


Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes
by Norm Goldstein/The Associated Press; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 153 p.
Released 1982
 

 

"...Sinatra agreed to meet the Commission in a private, secret session.  His lawyer claimed he had never been opposed to testifying, he'd only objected to the atmosphere.  Following his appearance, Superior Court Judge Frank J. Kingfield dismissed the contempt citations and the warrant.  SIC chairman William F. Hyland said Siantra had "cooperated fully."
Two years later, it was a House investigation in Washington.  A House Select Committee on Crime, headed by Florida's Claude Pepper, was looking into mob influence in organized sports.  Frank had had an interest in Berkshire Downs, a racetrack in Hancock, Massachusetts, which, at the time of the investigation, was no longer in operation.
It was a drama worthy of the wide screen.  And, once again, Sinatra was the main attraction.
  [pg. 110]


REVIEW:  Yet another unremittingly dull, cheaply-produced 'tribute' book to Frank Sinatra which, put out soon after Sinatra's return from retirement, Ol' Blue Eyes manages to somehow take a remarkably fascinating public figure and say absolutely nothing of interest about him.  Norm Goldstein, in association with The Associated Press, put together this thin biography which does nothing but recount Frank's career highs and lows with a sprinkling of tabloid gossip, tied together with vast quanities of undocumented news clippings used as corroboration.  It's the worst kind of yellow journalism, with the author barely making an appearance in the text, instead allowing his numerous cribbed notes and unremarkable stock photographs do the talking for him.  We have paragraph after paragraph of Frank's films being reeled out like string cheese, with no commentary save brief snippets of what critics said at the time of release; facts and figures of how much money Frank made for appearances and films; cold recitations of what songs Frank sang at a certain event; awards and accolades he received from various U.S. Presidents, and, like above, bare-bones recounting of the government's prying into Frank's purported mob ties.  Accompanying these dry-as-dust facts are several flat black and white photos from the associated press files: stock studio pictures promoting various films, quickie-photo shots from various banquets and ceremonies Sinatra attended, early 'Swoonatra'-era shots taken by paparazzi - nothing special, and certainly nothing worth searching out, this shamefully mis-labelled book is nothing more than a cheap attempt to cash in on Sinatra's fame.


Frank Sinatra: A Personal Portrait
by John Frayn Turner; Midas Books (UK) / Hippocrene Books Inc. (US); Seven Hills Books [reissue], 160 p.
Released 1983, Reissued 1998

 

"The remarkable aspect of these sessions was his blend of ruthless concentration and gay self-mockery.  Apparently the range of one song was causing him some profound thought.  Halfway through the first take, he broke off while actually on the climactic line and emerged from the voice box waving his arms for the orchestra to stop.  To the studio in general he announced: 'I can't even talk in that key!'  Then as the clock pointed to 9.25 p.m., Frank drank a cup of coffee and exchanged a few friendly words with the Canadian conductor Robert Franon.  Then back to work.  This time he did a perfect take, and emerged from the box beaming and commenting: 'See what you get when you keep good hours and live a clean life?''  [pg. 114]


REVIEW:  At first, I wasn't sure if A Personal Portrait was simply an earlier incarnation of Mr. Turner's later Sinatra bio, but upon comparison, I was suprised: the author has written two completely separate and distinct biographies of Sinatra.  Unfortunately, for this first, early effort, the author fails to bring any fresh perspective on Frank as a person or performer, falling back onto stale adjectives which never seem to get beyond 'great' or 'exciting,' and his overly-enthusiastic pro-Sinatra bias leaks out at every event, turning the narrative into little more than overt worship at the Shrine of Sinatra.  In the prologue, the author recounts how simply walking down the street one day, he heard a Sinatra song being played out of a New York record store, and relates: "I stood there on the sidewalk utterly transfixed.  It marked one of those moments when a rare conjunction occurs of time, space and sound."  It may have been a transporting moment for the author, but having to read his blinder-on approach to Sinatra's life is about as much fun as drowning in molasses.  Taking a year-by-year approach to Frank's life, the book plunges forward with barely a glance at Frank's very human failings, instead painting a picture of saintly benevolence, god-like talent, and unfailing wisdom.  There are some nice moments when the author steers clear of the treacly prose and clearly relates a personal moment with Frank, as above, but these instances are far too few.  Near the end of the book, the author begs the reader's forgiveness for the indulgence of a personal concert review, and asks us to 'bear with him for just a page," but by that point, I'd lugged about as much gushy, one-sided praise as I could bear - this book is only for those who choose to see only the good in Sinatra; but by doing so, the audience blinds themselves to the very conflicts which made Frank such a great interpreter of music, and in many regards, ignores his very human weaknesses which make him all the more compelling as a whole man.


The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook: His Life and Times in Words and Pictures
by Richard Peters; St. Martin's Press, 158 p.
Released August 1, 1983

 

"Rhythmically, Sinatra had improved exceptionally - previously, he had hinted, but only hinted, at what was to come, with recordings such as 'The Birth of the Blues', 'Bim Bam Baby', and 'Sweet Lorraine'.  Now, on the non-ballad numbers that had become as essential part of his in-person and recording repertoire, he really swung.  Or put another way, his singing had become unquestionably jazz-orientated.  The vocal metamophosis was more easily discernable during his live performances.  Apart from the maturity and all-round improvement in his singing, the shy nice-boy-next-door entertainer of the 1940s had changed to one of a sharp, finger-snapping extrovert - sometimes arrogant, more overtly sexual, more instantly communicative to concert and club audiences of all types and ages."  [pg. 87]


REVIEW:  This oversize paperback book is a good, occasionally surprising look at Sinatra's chronology, most notable for the inclusion of the original "Sinatra Sessions" by Ed O'Brien and Scott P. Sayers, which later was expanded into The Revised Compleat Sinatra (reviewed earlier on this site).  The author is an unabashed fan of Frank's, as the over-the-top gushing introduction alerts the reader.  The core of the book is a year-by-year accounting of Frank's greatest achievements and milestones, from his birth through January of 1982, glossing over the more sordid events of Sinatra's life and highlighting his triumphs; nothing new here.  Following this is a reproduction of a 1946 article by E.J. Kahn entitled "The Slaves Of Sinatra" originally printed in The New Yorker (and later included in his book, "The Voice") chronicling Frank's early stardom.  Next is a one page examination of the bobbysoxer phenomenon; a page documenting Frank's many psuedonyms given him by the fans and the media ("The Lean Lark" and "The Swing Shift Caruso"); two pages on the Rat Pack (with quotes taken from Richard Gehman's book); a slang dictionary similar to the one found on this site; a selection of quotations from Sinatra on several different subjects; a 1980 fan poll listing the top 25 Sinatra songs ("I've Got You Under My Skin" is number one); an lengthy article by Stan Britt on Sinatra's "Great Concerts;" a section of quotations from Sinatra's film co-stars on his talent; a filmography listing basic information for each film; and finally, the reproduced "Sinatra Sessions" takes the final quarter of the book's length.  So this book really is a scrapbook, with odds and ends from several different quarters, and the tone is overall very respectable.  Sprinkled throughout are numerous black and white photos, nothing remarkable.  Overall The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook a good, solid retrospective with some nice historic articles thrown in, and the original, hard to find "Sinatra Sessions" booklet.


Sinatra: The Entertainer
by Arnold Shaw; Delilah Press, 157 p.
Released February 1, 1984

 

"Francis Albert Sinatra long ago left Hoboken, New Jersey, where he spent the trying, formative years of his life.  But Hoboken has never completely left him.  Underneath the surface of the rich, literate, world-famous man he has become, there linger feelings generated in him as a lonely, sensitive kid, trying to cope with the coarse, cobblestone cosmos of the tough, riverside city.  In Hoboken he grew up as an only child, hungering for the affection and camaraderie of two busy parents; fighting with tough kids for whom his taste in natty clothes was a challenge and his spindly frame an easy mark; being beaten up by police who accused him of stealing a new outfit he wore; and enduring the gives of an uncle and a father who were trying to teach him the manly art of defense.  [pg. 111]


REVIEW:  Whereas Arnold Shaw's previous Frank bio 20th Century Romantic was a pleasure to read, The Entertainer, a later bio, reads as if it was quickly thrown together, with none of the thoughtfulness his previous portrait contained, and often sliding into clumsy metaphors ("coarse cobblestone cosmos?") and rote recitation of fact in place of insight.  Beginning with a description of Sinatra's 40th anniversary celebration as an entertainer on December 8, 1979, the author gives a quick run-down of Sinatra's life and accomplishments in the chapters which follow.  "The Singer" and "The Actor" divisions of Sinatra's career are breezed through, and then, strangely, the author devotes the next few chapters to specific instances from the 1970s: the 1971 "Retirement Concert" which marked Frank's brief moment out of the spotlight; an examination of his 1973 "Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back" return to public performing, and Ronald Reagan's Presidential Inaguaral on January 19, 1981.  In that sense, this book becomes a magnifying glass to a latter-day decade of Frank's career, which probably deserves greater investigation than this book provides - but it's a solid look at this phase of Sinatra's life, just workmanlike and uninspired.  Perhaps the author doesn't find this time period worthwhile when compared to his more fruitful Columbia, Capitol and early Reprise years; he visibly stuggles with finding appropriate adjectives - or perhaps his composing powers had faded in the twenty years between the two books; whatever the reason, Sinatra: The Entertainer is only a pale shadow of his earlier writing.  The book is filled with photographs, mostly black and white with a color section in the middle, and the pictures are mostly stock photos seen in numerous other publications.  Generally solid, but unremarkable.


Sinatra: In His Own Words
Compiled by Guy Yarwood; Omnibus Press, 128 p.
Released Feburary 1, 1984

 

"You know, I adore making records.  I'd rather do that than almost anything else.  You can never do anything in life quite on your own, you don't live on your own little island.  I suppose you might be able to write a poem or paint a picture entirely on your own, but I doubt it.  I don't think you can ever sing a song that way, anyway.  Yet, in a sort of a paradoxical way, making a record is as near as  you can get to it - although , of course, the arranger and the orchestra play an enormous part.  But once you're on the record singing, it's you and you alone.  If it's bad and gets criticised, it's you who's to blame - no one else.  If it's good, it's also you.  With a film it's never like that; there are producers and script-writers and hundreds of men in offices and the thing is taken right out of your hands.  With a record, you're IT.  But I must admit something - I'd never argue with someone like Nelson on a record date.  It's his date, he's the leader." [pg 51]


REVIEW:  In the absense of a true autobiography from Frank, this book must be counted as the next best thing, although it's not a true portrait of his life.  In His Own Words is part of a whole series of British books which have been released for all kinds of different artists, from the Beatles to Elton John to the Beach Boys, and the format for all of them is very much alike: taking quotes from interviews, articles, and appearances, the editor groups them into sympathetic 'chapters' and simply lets each celebrity speak for themselves.  It's refreshing to read - since so much of what the public hears about Sinatra is from second-or third-hand sources.  There's not much rhyme nor reason to the layout, the book begins with a section entitled "Sinatra on Sinatra" where he discusses himself as he sees it; his thought processes, his passions, his gifts - little snippets of sound-bites are given where he ruminates on himself and his habits.  Then the book has a short section where he talks about his begininnings: his parents, his upbringing, his influences, followed by quotes of Frank discussing his art - his singing, being with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey Orchestras, and his breaking away to forge a solo career.  There are ruminations on the 'bobbysoxers' phenomenon, advice on singing ("It's like lifting weights.  You're conditioning yourself"), his main influences, including Bing Crosby and Billie Holliday, he discusses his friendships with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., how much he likes women ("I'm very fond of women; I admire them.  But, like all men, I don't understand them."), and much more.  The major failing of this series is it's reluctance to name sources; each quote is given straight, with no notation of where or when it was said, which, obviously, can have a great import into why that particular opinion was given at the time.  So this book cannot be considered a valuable reference tool, but it serves its purpose as an interesting, enlightening look into Sinatra's soul.


Frank Sinatra: My Father
by Nancy Sinatra; Doubleday (Limited Edition), Paperback Reissue: Hodder & Stoughton General Division, 388 p.
Released October 1, 1985, Reissued December 1, 1986

 

"At various times, because of his loyalty to others or declining to dignify his attackers, he had sometimes lashed back, but most often he had subdued his feelings.  I had learned, as he had long since, that to most columnists it's not news that my father can be a nice guy or that my brother is a decent kid.  The many benefactions didn't start to come out until late in life.  Without a newspaper or a TV station at his command, the only forum open to him, he thought, was his microphone.  So he used it to vent some of his anger, sometimes humorously, sometimes viciously.  He reached only a few thousand people, whereas the liars reached millions through their media.  But it was a healthy outlet for him.  And for those of us who shared and understood his plight, each little jab he struck was significant and understandable.  [pg. 267]


REVIEW:  Daughter Nancy's first stab at authoring a book about her father, My Father swings wide of the mark of trying to 'set the record straight' and instead shifts the weight of blame to the other foot, placing all of the blame on the media, which puts her on the defensive for most of the book's length - not the most arresting tack for three-hundred-plus pages.  More interesting are the bits of advice her father would constantly give her, or the small, private viginettes between her and Frank, which she passes along to the reader, and which becomes a small window into the soul of Sinatra.  But the majority of the book is really just her impressions of life in the shadow of her father, seeing from the inside, but curiously on the outside as well.  So if you're hoping to get an insider's glimpse into Sinatra the man, the father, the entertainer - you'll be disappointed; this book, while shying away from being a chronological biography of Frank, is mostly the musings and observations of Nancy, She discusses Mia Farrow, Ava Gardner, and her parent's divorce. She writes about all the celebrities she's met, the kind words spoken to her by friends of Frank's, and she writes extensively about her own show-biz career and marriages, particularly about how the expectations of others was difficult to live up to; everything she does stays in the gravitational pull of her father, as her life and successes orbit Frank's unquenchable career.  In that sense, the book reads often like a concession - Nancy's career is obviously never going to be the flaming meteor that her father's is, so she simply gives up and climbs onto Frank's coattails here and goes along for the ride.  A good look at Nancy's life, but only a fragmented look at her father's.


Frank Sinatra: A Celebration
by Derek Jewell, with a film commentary by George Perry; Little, Brown & Company, 192. p.
Released January, 1986

 

"It was incontrovertibly those hordes of chemically desperate bobbysoxers (as they were then called, even though many painted their legs to simulate stockings) who first uplifted Sinatra.  Notice was given at once of the way things would go.  The theatre was sold out from first show to last for the month Benny Goodman stayed.  Sinatra was retained for another month after that, and newspapers and magazines were awash with stories attempting to explain the hysterical effect he had.  It was put down to everything from religious fanaticism to the mothering instinct.  He was frail; he also had a curl on his forehead.  'Not since the days of Rudolph Valentino has American womanhood made such unabashed public love to an entertainer,' said Time magazine, making a similar point to E.J. Kahn, who would however go back further to Listz and Struass for his parallels.  [pg. 51]


REVIEW:  A Celebration is a good, literate look at Frank Sinatra, written by British music critic Derek Jewell, who wrote for the London Sunday Times. Although he has no firsthand interviews to draw from, his careful observation of Sinatra, which he claims began in the 1940s, is smart; he draws information from the best sources, including Arnold Shaw and the aforementioned E.J. Kahn; and his writing style is impreccable. The first chapter of the book, entitled "Overture," is all about the 'effect' of Sinatra, and touches on his wide-ranging successes and the media's continuing fascination with him, even as he was entering his seventies. The author recounts his own 'conversion' to Sinatra when he was seventeen years old in 1945, and was entranced by "The Voice" as he was then known. He remembers watching the news reels of the swooning 'bobbysoxers' and the effect which Sinatra's singing had on women, and became interested. Then the author deftly begins, in chapter two, to relay the well-known story of Sinatra's birth and subsequent career, but writing in a completely fresh, original voice, unlike many of the other numerous coffee-table books, which are thrown together by writers with little or no interest in the subject. Jewell is interested, and is a fine writer, and it makes all the difference in this photo-biography. Unfortunately for readers, the format of the book is unfriendly, and even unattractive by modern standards, with two-column text and photographs making things disjointed, and the pictures, all in flat black and white, are unappealing on the whole. In addition to Derek Jewell's contributions to the book, there is also an extended appendixes containing a separate section devoted to Sinatra's films, written by George Perry, and which is a straightforward chronolgy with brief commentary included and lots of photographs.


Sinatra: An American Classic
By John Rockwell; Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 255 p.
Released August 24, 1986

 

"Riddle was the key to Sinatra's Capitol sound, the model against which all his other arrangers then and since must be measured.  What Riddle offered was a sure sense of the swing-jazz sound from which Sinatra had emerged, a subtly masterful command of symphonic scoring, an understated ability to capture a song's dramatic essence with intrumental touches, and beyond all that, an irreducible individuality.  His "swinging" records with Sinatra offer jazzish drive without untoward brassy vulgarity.  But where Riddle comes into his own is with ballads, the lush moodiness rarely overstated or sentimentalized (as with Stordahl before him and Jenkins after him) yet all the more moving for its very spareness.  And he was able magically to blend fast and slow, underpinning a ballad with insinuating rhythmic impetus, thereby combining Sinatra's two main interpretive inclinations, sexual insouciance and emotional vulnerability."  [pg. 142]


REVIEW:  Leave it to Rolling Stone to lead the rock 'n' roll revolution which in part put Sinatra on the back burner in the public's eye, and then produce one of the finest books about him written during the 1980s.  This oversize coffee-table book, filled with pictures and with a smart, literate text by John Rockwell (who has a Ph.D. in cultural history), is a great read, if sometimes a wee bit too smart for its own good.  Mingling rare photographs in both color and black and white from all eras of Sinatra's career up 'til then, An American Classic looks great, despite the nauseating purple and pink glittery cover its saddled with - with several pictures you just won't find anywhere else, along with large color reproductions of several of his movie and concert posters, behind the scenes shots, and lots of publicity photos.  The text by John Rockwell is excellent, with a swiftly-flowing narrative which is never dull, although the author occasionally gets bogged down in side roads, such as the lengthy treatise he dives into on Italian Bel Canto singing, or a later paragraph on narrative songs as American tradition.  As in the case with most Ph.D.'s, I occasionally get the feeling that he likes using big words just because they make him sound smart, whereas if Frank Sinatra caught him talking that way about him, he'd probably label him a gold-plated windbag.  But it's still a great read, with lots of examinations of the musical structures of certain songs, examinations of political interplay which Sinatra loved to dally with, and nods to everything from his romantic entanglements to his film roles, all written with a depth of understanding which is all too rare in Sinatra biographies. A surprisingly reverential and well-written photo-biography which is well worth picking up if you run across it.

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