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


NOTE: Books about Frank Sinatra continued to proliferate throughout the late 1990s, with the tone and subject matter veering wildly from pole to pole - from character assasinations to reverential tributes; from immaculately-researched reference guides to cheap coffee-table books eager to capitalize on Frank's passing.  The sheer amount of material written is staggering - from photo-biographies to audio extracts - and the authorship involved is of all calibers.  Hopefully this guide will lead you to what is worthwhile, and what is not.


Sinatra: A Complete Life
by J. Randy Taraborrelli;
Birch Lane Press, 547 p.
Released November 1, 1997

 
"Frank Sinatra had always been an intensely proud man.  To have to be so reliant on the capricious nature of these two women, to have his very existence shaped by their unpredictable emotions and impulsive decisions, was unbearable to him.
Making matters worse, his career continuned its downward spiral.  If anything, Frank had been a careerist, at all costs.  A driven, directed person, the realization of more than certain show-business goals was important to him: it gave his entire life a sense of purpose.  After having reached the pinnacle of success in a business in which so few thrive, losing it all had laid waste to his ego.
Understandably, after so many disappointments in the last few years and so many rejections by the entertainment industry, he felt he would never again be able to attain the kind of success he had so relished in the early years of his career. Back then, he hungered for it and went after it with almost fanatical detemination, and finally he tasted it. When he did, he loved it - passionately. "Let me tell you one thing," he said. "There ain't nothin' like success, baby."
[pg. 135]

REVIEW:  Originally published under the title: Sinatra: Behind The Legend, the title was later changed to the more expansive A Complete Life, but in my view, the previous title is more appropriate, since the author spends most of the time in the dark recesses of his subject's life. A bloated, haphazard biography, this thick tome by author J. Randy Taraborrelli wallows in prose that is grossly over-padded (must've been paid by the word), while the author vascillates between disgorging huge sections of scandalous gossip and giving brief, tepid reviews of Frank's music and films; essentially giving token balance to what is simply another book bent on selling sex and crime, and using Sinatra's name as the sales pitch. The supposed even-handedness has sucked in many buyers, but beware: the author's lust for sensationalism far outweighs any hope of a clear-eyed, harmonious account. What's new about this particular title is how much time the author spends attacking Sinatra's last wife, Barbara. Several chapters of the book are devoted to tales of her supposedly ambushing Sinatra's house and heart, and he paints a sad, lurid picture of Sinatra simply being too old and beaten-down to resist. These 'startling revelations' come after the usual dense litany of hearsay concerning Ava Gardner, Marilyn Monroe, JFK, the Mafia, The Rat Pack, and what amounts to literally pages of strong profanity which abundantly litters the text. For corroboration, the author relates literally dozens of re-created conversations, and spends nearly fifteen pages at the end detailing his sources, which come from such dubious leads as magazine interviews, newspaper articles, personal interviews with hangers-on and disaffected employees, and "hundreds of FBI documents." That this thunderously pathetic biography is what passes for competent journalism today reveals how far and fast the art of biographical writing has decayed.  Yet another dreary, sensationalistic mine-field of innuendo and garbage, unredeemed by any competent examination of the artist.


The Way You Wear Your Hat: Frank Sinatra And The Lost Art Of Livin'
by Bill Zehme;
HarperCollins, 256 p.
Released November 26, 1997

 

"The Leader had a battle cry, which was this: "Fun with everything and I mean FUN!"  For him, drinking meant fun and vice versa.  It was not about habit or disease or delirium tremens; it was solely abou the act of ring-a-ding-ding, about having the perfect gasser, about living large and lubricated.  Then, too, it was about knowing when to knock it off.  But, as with every pursuit, his drinking was always done with precision and artful measurement.  He perfeccted the form, then taught those around him, whether they wished the education or not.  "That's how I learned to drink," says Don Rickles, "hanging out with him is Vegas and Miami.  This was not amateur hour stuff.  I still hurt." [pg. 87]


REVIEW:  After having read The Way You Wear Your Hat, I still was unsure whether or not the author intended it to be a huge joke.  I mean, a guide for patterning your life after Frank Sinatra?  Why not just open a church and call it "The Gospel According To Frank"?  Bill Zehme takes the approach that Sinatra was the perfect man - in style, in manners, in habits, in family and fatherhood, in work and in play.  So, let's see, how many of you agree with that sentence?  Granted, Frank was a supremely hard worker, he had an inimitable ego which did not allow him to fail (at least not for long), and he knew what he wanted and went after it - but would you really want to pattern your marriage and family life after his?  I guess it depends on how much alimony and child support you want to owe.  That, and emulating Frank's other attitudes towards holding a grudge, treating whom he considered lessers with contempt and the occasional fisticuffs - if this attitude were taken up by the population en masse, it would undoubtedly lead to the utter destruction of civilization.  There was one, and can be only one, Sinatra.  That being said, this is actually a pretty fun book, with Frank's opinions about everything from what colors to wear ("orange is the happiest color") to what kind of martini to mix ("if you want it so special, mix it yourself!") to how to treat your children: (Nancy: "I remember his hands holding me while I learned to swim, firm but gentle hands keeping me safe.")  For all of Sinatra's faults, (and his were legion) he was also unstintingly loyal, generous, funny, caring, and above all, a perfectionist.  So while I tremble at the thought of anyone taking this book completely seriously, I whole-heartedly believe that there are elements of Frank which are worthy of emulation - just not on the whole-scale mantra that Mr. Zehme seems to espouse.  Written in an easy, carefree, if occasionally fawning style, this book is an interesting addition to Sinatra bibliography.


Sinatra: The Artist and the Man
by John Lahr;
Random House, 156 p.
Released December 8, 1997

 

"Getting free of Dorsey proved harder than Sinatra had fondly imagined.  For about a year after his departure, Dorsey continued to collect an extortionate 43 percent of Sinatra's earnings.  Inevitably, Sinatra bridled.  He began mocking Dorsey as "Boss Tweed" in public, and turned their quarrel into a running radio gag.  In one sketch for the 1943 Broadway Bandbox, Sinatra and the pint-sized burlesque comic Bert Wheeler are waiting for a hunting call; what they get instead is an out-of-tune trombone playing Dorsey's theme song "Sentimental Over You."  "It's Dorsey coming to collect his commission!" Wheeler yells.  Sinatra shoots back, "Again?"  Even Edgar Bergen and his dummy Charlie McCarthy were scoring Sinatra-Dorsey jokes as late as 1945.  Charley McCarthy asks Sinatra if he could become his manager, and Sinatra replies, "Why shouldn't you be?  Everybody else is!"  [pg 27]


REVIEW:  A good, if stark, book which has a curious format: it begins as a normal biography with pictures sprinkled thorughout the text, and halfway through, changes into a photo book with text sprinkled amidst the pictures!  The first half, entitled "The King Of Ring-A-Ding-Ding!" is a well-written biographical sketch, which stretches on for about 85 pages.  Thorough, concise, and penned with a fine eye towards condensation, the author manages to squeeze the essence of Sinatra's life into a few pages with excellent wordplay and carefully chosen scenes which distill the essence of several years into a few paragraphs.  The author, who is the son of fabulous funnyman Bert Lahr, seems to have inherited his father's whimsy, which is all for the good, making the text bounce along without being dragged down by scandalous episodes or rapturous escpades.  The second half of the book is just as good, with Weegee's, Bob Willoughby's, William Read Woodfield's and other's personal photographs of Sinatra gracing every page in vivid black and white, whether it be in the recording studio, in his office, at the airport with his family, on stage with the Rat Pack, or relaxing in a sauna, these photographers were obviously given priviliged status to be able to shutter these fine, off-the-cuff photos of Frank.  In that sense, this book becomes a duet of sorts, with Lahr's text and the photographer's pictures each taking their turn in the spotlight, but also dancing around each other on the pages.  As it is, the book feels just right - not too ponderous or overcooked, but nicely balanced, and a wonderful tribute in words and pictures to Mr. S.


Sinatra: A Life In Pictures
By Tim Frew;
Elan Press, 96 p.
Released 1998
 

 

"In a career that touched seven decades, Frank Sinatra proved himself to be the greatest pop singer of all time.  At his best, he sang with an emotion so strong that it seemed as if each song was a personal statement made directly to the listener.  He was the prototypical pop singer, yet he phrased his songs like a jazz improviser.  Jazz legend Miles Davis stated that many of his solos were played the way he would have imagined Frank Sinatra singing them.  Once Frank sang a song, it became his and his alone - no matter how many other artists put their version to tape.  "They Can't Take That Away From Me," "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "Fly Me To The Moon," "Night And Day," "My Funny Valentine," these are all standards of American popular music, recorded countless numbers of times, yet they are all inextricably linked with the legend of Frank Sinatra."  [pg 15]


REVIEW:  This book, which has been released by several different publishing houses over the years, stands as one of the better photo-biographies of Frank Sinatra out there. Concentrating on presenting a photo history of his entire life-span, it succeeds as a modest introduction to Sinatra that should please most novice fans.  The book is preceded by a lengthy introduction where the author waxes eloquent about Sinatra is terms that occasionally veer into adulation, but the reader doesn't have to endure the gushing too long - the main thrust of this book is the photographs and the succinct, informative captions which accompany them. The photos aren't anything to shout about - rarities and familiar shots are intermingled freely, with most of the shots taken from screen captures of television and film roles, public appearances, and publicity shots. What's nice about the book is that the accompanying captions often give more information about Frank than just telling what the portrait is showing: a photo of Frank posing with Rosemary Clooney, for instance, includes a quote from Clooney about Frank: "I think that he's been true to himself, no matter if that's good, bad or indifferent. What you get is whatever his history is at that moment" [pg. 50]. So although the text is fragmented, it's still enjoyable and informative, without being all-pervasive. Not the best photobio out there, but a nice, positive starter, and a nice gift for beginning fans.


Songs By Sinatra: A Unique Frank Sinatra Songography
by Tom Rednour;
Wordcrafters Publishing, 282 p.
Released 1998

Is this the definitive work on the recording career of Frank Sinatra?  No.  We can look forward to quite a few "new" releases in our crystal ball.  There are unreleased takes still in the tape vaults at Capitol and Reprise.  Like the longer version of What Is This Thing Called Love, with a beautiful clarinet solo by Mahlon Clark.  Perhaps a CD that shows the artist in his workshop - what went on during a recording session.  There are numerous concert tapes that will be released.  Reprise had planned a "live" box set to follow the studio set.  The Retirement Concert (6/13/71) and the Carnegie Hall concert (4/8/74) were mastered for that project.  Will they finally release them? ...Even though The Voice was stilled... we will enjoy his creative talents for many years to come.  And if nothing "new" comes out, we still have all this marvelous music to listen to again and again.  [pg. 9]


REVIEW:  A marvellous home-grown publication, Songs By Sinatra is an intuitive reference work that can be cherished and used by Sinatra fans who are looking for an inexpensive alternative to some of the more pricey discographies out there.  The author has created an alphabetical datatbase of every song which Frank recorded, and listed the composers, when, and for what occasion the song was written for, the various dates the song was recorded, the arranger, studio, original issues and CD issues.  Here's a sample of a typical entry:

Every Man Should Marry
           m-Abner Silver, w-Benny Davis
           Pop Song:          Frank Sinatra (1949)
7/14/49 Studio (NY) (3:05) 40970-1
   Arranger: Hugo Winterhalter
          Orig Issue: Columbia Years: 1943-1952 (Col/Legacy CD) 1993
          CD Issues: as above
7/21/49          Studio (Hollywood)     (3:03)     3854-1
    Arranger:      Morris Stoloff
    Features:      Mark McIntyre-p
          Orig Issue: 38572 (Columbia 78)
          CD Issues: Columbia Years 1943-1952


Following the "songography" is an index of arrangers and what songs they worked on for Sinatra, everyone from Jeff Alexander to Torrie Ziff; then comes a Composer Index, an index on song sources, a soloist and guest index, and multiple appendixes covering Sinatra's singles, LPs, CDs and a handy "suitcase conversion tables" for those who went and purchased the mammoth box sets and would like to break things up a bit.  Prefacing this impressive material is a brief guide to the material, a couple of pages concerning the "Lost" albums of Frank Sinatra, a few notes on the songs, including some questions which could not be answered, and a few short paragraphs on "looking ahead" to possible future releases (most of which have not come to pass, sad to say.)  The entire book is homemade, with cardstock cover and a tight spiral binding (which I hate - but for the price, who am I to argue?) and a neat little bonus booklet is included which lists which songs Frank recorded on which date ("Pennies From Heaven" was recorded on my birthday!)  This is a great resource for fans, which although is several years out of date, contains bunches of valuable information for collectors, and can be purchased online from www.blue-eyes.com


Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes Remembered
by David Hanna;
Random House/Gramercy Books, 66 p.
Released January 12, 1998
 

 

"And so it went throughout his business career.  Sinatra was always able to retreat succesfully when the questioning became too uncomfortable.  It cost him money and associations.  A suppporter of John Kennedy, he was quietly banished from Camelot when Attorney-General Bobby Kennedy warned the president about the Sinatra-Giancana connection.  Hence Frank's support of Humphrey in '68, when the Democratic primaries pitted Humphrey against Bobby Kennedy.  The latter's assassination, of course, led to Humphrey's nomination, but in the final campaign, Sinatra's work was muted.
Later, less was written about Sinatra's so called Mafia ties.  Sinatra always lived by an image.  We saw a number of them, the bobby soxers' idol, the serious actor, the philanthropist, etc.  Later we had Sinatra, the senior citizen, eminently respectable and eager to avoid confrontations with his past."
  [pg. 23]


REVIEW:  This book, which by it's cover would lead you to believe that it's a fond remebrance of Sinatra, is nothing more than a distillation of Kitty Kelly's venemous book, whittled down to a mere 66 pages, the author, David Hanna, simply reiterates previous author's trash-talking about Sinatra, pulling out the same old moth-eaten rumors of Frank's mob ties, affairs, temper tantrums, and diva-like attitudes.  He quotes from newspaper articles which he later grudgingly admit were dismissed, steals quotes directly from Kitty Kelly's book, and rehashes old disaffected friends' hate talk, but brings nothing new to the tale.  The layout is also a mess, with confusing captions and the small text winding in and out of the numerous pictures, few of which have any direct bearing on the text which accompanies them.  I'm not sure who this book was aimed for, since it's size seems to make it idea for grade-school children, but its tiny text and foul agenda makes it unsuitable for anyone but the curious ambulance-chasers.  The book begins with a two-page layout taking using back-handed compliments (and sometimes outright diatribes) by former lovers, (Ava Gardner), columnists, directors, bosses (Tommy Dorsey) and fellow actors, (Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland) whose quotes, chosen for their slanted bias, immediately tip off the reader that this book has only one agenda - to sell its trash talk to unsuspecting buyers.  A narrow-minded and poorly laid out book, somewhat redeemed by several excellent photographs.  


The Complete Guide To The Music Of Frank Sinatra
by John Collis;
Omnibus Press, 143 p.
Released March 1, 1998

 

"Sinatra's recording career falls into four broadly distinct chapters - his early days as a dance-band singer, the first years as a solo artist that took him to stardom and back again, his marvellous Fifties work on the Capitol label, and the decades on his own label, Reprise.  There is a brief Nineties coda back on Capitol.  All are fully represented on CD, and the purpose of this book is to provide a critical and chronological commentary on his recorded work, attempting to cut a logical path thorugh the longest of all singing careers.  As such, this is not a discography. . . but every track should be in here somewhere. [from the introduction, pg. 10]


REVIEW:  This CD-sized book was part of a long series of publications which Omnibus Press undertook in the mid-to-late 1990s to create a sort of running critical analysis of certain pop stars music catalogues, and like this one devoted to Frank Sinatra's recorded works, they provided an extant set of liner notes to artist's albums (sort of like this site!)  But a major problem for collectors on this side of the pond is that the author wrote from a British point-of-view, meaning several of the CD's listed within never appeared in America, especially the rarer 'collectable' CD's, of which Mr. Collis devotes several pages.  The tone is also a little dry for my tastes, as the author devotes his very Anglicized views on the Hoboken Kid with all the humor of an Oxford Dean.  That being said, it's still a good read, with Collis dividing the book into the different 'chapters' which he discusses in the quotes above - "The Dance Band Years" covering the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey years, unfortunately now out of date with RCA's release of the complete Dorsey/Sinatra sessions - here, the author reviews some single disc compilations which have been replaced by the more comprehensive box set.  "The Columbia Years" takes much the same tack I do, in reviewing the massive box set Columbia released in the early 90s.  He goes disc by disc, providing track listings for each disc and a few paragraphs of commentary.  "The Capitol Years" takes an album by album approach; and for "The Reprise Years" he does a short review of the box set, but also goes album by album.  Appended to each section are various bootleg and single disc reviews, most of which will be unfamilar to U.S. audiences, as they only recieved release in the U.K.  Tagged onto the end of the book is a very brief, two-page look at the final Duets albums and Sinatra 80th Live In Concert CD.  Scattered around the book are various black and white photos, with a section of full color shots, none of which seem to be relevant to the time periods the author is covering - but still, an interesting read, and fun to compare your own opinions with.


Ol' Blue Eyes: A Frank Sinatra Encyclopedia
by Leonard Mustazza;
Greenwood-Heinemann Publishing; Praeger Paperback, 437 p.
Released April 1, 1998, Reissued June 30, 1999

 

"If You Could Read My Mind" (Gordon Lightfoot): Sinatra attempted to record Lightfoot's 1969 folk-rock hit on May 21, 1974, using a Don Costa arrangement.  At the same time, he was recording a number of such songs for the album Some Nice Things I've Missed (Reprise 1974).  In the middle of the first take, he stopped and decided not to use the song.

"If You Please" (Jimmy Van Heusen & Johnny Burke): A song from Bing Crosby's 1943 film Dixie, it was recorded for Columbia during the musicians' strike.  Arranged by Alec Wilder and with the Bobby Tucker Singers providing backup, it was cut on June 22, 1943.  [pg. 61]


REVIEW:  An awesome undertaking, even though it limits itself to Sinatra's art only, and not his associates or other aspects of his life as well.  Broken into three major sections, the author covers all of Sinatra's works; song by song, album by album, film by film - as well as noting all television, radio, video, and internet appearances.  The author also delves in-depth on major concert and benefit appearances, and awards and honors bestowed upon Frank.  In "Part I: The Voice - The Music of Frank Sinatra" the book goes song by song covering all of them, noting when it was recorded, whether there were multiple takes, the composers and lyricists, arrangers and which album the song may be found on.  They're all here, from "Accidents Will Happen" to "Zing! Went The Strings Of My Heart" you'll find an amazing reference to the nearly fifteen hundred songs Sinatra recorded during his lifetime.  The second chapter covers every single U.S. album released, including compilations, soundtracks, theme albums and live shows, listing catalog numbers, song listings, producers, arrangers, a brief description of the album and recording dates.  Part II delves into Sinatra's cinematic career, with a complete listing of Frank's films, both vocal and personal appearances from Revele with Beverly to Cannonball Run 2; then it moves on to Television appearances, both in his own series and guest shots on other shows; Radio shows are chronicled in minute detail, which is invaluable for collectors, and finally a list of internet sites devoted to Sinatra, which is now out of date, but still valuable.  Finally, in Part III, major concert appearances and awards/special recognitions are documented in year-by-year order.  A massive undertaking, and indispensable for those who wish a handy reference to Sinatra's recorded works.


Remembering Sinatra: A Life in Pictures
By Robert Sullivan;
Time Inc. Home Entertainment, 128 p.
Released May 1, 1998

 

"At Ciros in L.A., the Mexican joint at 705 North Evergreen, you can get a pretty fair enchilada.  in 1947, you wouldn't get into Ciro's in Los Angeles, on Sunset Bouldevard (of course), unless you were a big enchilada, a very big one indeed.  Ciro's was swank.  It was the place to be.  On a nightly basis, it was where things were happening.  They were happening big-time on April 8 that year.  In this corner of the club was Lee Mortimer, a Hearst enchilada whose beat was gossip.  In that corner was Frank Sinatra, still an enchilada supremo in the world of entertainment, but was who was starting to slide.  The columnists... had been bugging Sinatra lately with the rumor and innuendo... insulting Sinatra's fans: "imbecilic, moronic, screemie-meemie autograph kids."  [pg. 47-48]


REVIEW:  With photography, the now-defunct Life Magazine could always be depended upon to come through, capturing rare, intimate, and unrehearsed moments which often won them awards.  And this book, released "in commemoration" of Sinatra's death, again doesn't dissapoint on the visual level, with candid, exclusive photographs of Frank in several different arenas, from early nightclub appearances as "Swoonatra" to exuberant shots of he and Nelson Riddle in the studio at the cusp of his great comeback, to scarfing down a quick meal with a young Tony Bennett, (who also provides the warm and knowing foreword), to a rear-view of Frank goosing Dean at a latter-day Rat Pack reunion concert.  The text, by Robert Sullivan, is also well-written, with a nice, slangy style which is often more entertaining than the photographs which they accompany.  Despite the combination of these two fine elements, this book didn't capture my heart the way some other photo-bios have; and I think I can trace this to a couple of reasons: first, since these photos were taken by newspapermen, they often don't capture Frank at his best; we have photos of him on trial for slugging slimeball Lee Mortimer; a stilted pose of Frank on the phone while wife Nancy butters a roll; an intense photo of Otto Preminger directing Frank during The Man With The Golden Arm; a blurry photo of Frank lighting JFK's cigarette at a formal dinner... the list goes on, but few of the photos truly capture the lighting of his personality as the cover photo does - and the slant of getting the photos which would be newsworthy give everything a dry, distant haze which feels distant, and doesn't feel intimate - which makes sense, since most of these photos were shot without Sinatra's consent, or approval. These are intrusive photos, the ones which he learned to hate, and the text misses his artistry, and lingers too long on the public Sinatra - the marriages, the fights, etc. But that's not always the case... there are several tender photographs of him with Mia Farrow, his daughter Nancy, and assorted friends where he's at ease and warm and smiling. Overall, a good photo album, but there are others which capture Sinatra better.


Sinatra: A Tribute [Audiobook]
by Geoffrey Giuliano;
Random House Audio, 120 min.
Released May 29, 1998

 
Sinatra: A Tribute is an all-encompassing aural portrait of Francis Albert Sinatra's life, from the beginning of his career to his death. A performer of international renown, Frank Sinatra was one of the most potent figures of popular culture, changing the face of music history and defining style for years to come.

Sinatra: A Tribute includes:

  • Portions of actual interviews with Sinatra over the years about his life, his career, his family and his beloved charity work
  • Conversations with his friends and acquaintances such as Mia Farrow and Martin Scorsese
  • Extracts from media coverage of the milestones of his life and career

    Written and Narrated by Geoffrey Giuliano.


  • REVIEW:  A unique entry in the Sinatra canon of literature, Sinatra: A Tribute, by Geoffrey Giuliano captures Sinatra's voice, and the voices of many of his family members and associates, in a collage of interviews taken from numerous sources and time periods to create an interesting, highly-personal account of his life and legacy.  Beginning with a highly abridged biographical account of Frank's life, Giuliano doesn't take up too much time himself before getting to the meat of the program, as he pulls in several interviewees to say their peace about Frank, and to let Frank also tell his own story.  Frank's cousin tells about his early life in Hoboken, then it switches to Frank himself relating the horrific details of his birth to an appreciative audience.  Early interview segments reveal his gratefulness at winning the best supporting actor Oscar, and fielding questions from reporters in his later years.  While author Giuliano (currently known as Jagannatha Dasa Puripada and once famed for working for, then testifying against fast-food giant McDonald's) isn't the most astute author I'd turn to for information on Sinatra, but he thankfully is mostly invisible on this project, allowing Sinatra to say his peace at various press conferences, public events, and scattered interviews.  The reporters mostly toss Sinatra soft-ball questions, asking him how he feels about his legacy, as well as leading him to talk hesitantly about the many charitable groups he's helped, but thankfully it could've gone the other way entirely - so I'm generally very happy with this hodge-podge of audio clips.  Readily available on cassette, rare on CD. 


    Frank Sinatra: An American Legend
    by Nancy Sinatra;
    General Publishing Group, Inc., 383 p.
    Released June 1, 1998

     

    "June 20, 1948: Running every traffic light enroute, Dad drove Mom to Hollywood's Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for the early arrival of their daughter Christina, his Father's Day present.  I remember sitting with Dad on our grassy hill by the lake, listening to the radio.  The announcer said: "Frank Sinatra got a terrific Father's Day present today - a brand-new baby girl."  We said, "yippee!"  And I'll never forget the day Dad brought Mom and Christina home.  There she was, this tiny stranger, my baby sister, all wrapped up in a yellow blanket.  Mom and Dad had a new little girl, Frankie and I had a new partner in crime.  Oh boy!  But Tina didn't get to know life the way I had known it.  She didn't get to know Daddy as I knew him.  She got a bad deal.  [pg. 85]


    REVIEW:  Frank I think would have been proud of this tribute compiled by his daughter, Nancy.  Essentially a timeline of events chronicling Sinatra's life and career, it's a valuable, and enlightening look at the chain of events that forged Sinatra's character and timeless appeal.  Stuffed with photographs appropriate to the events discussed, and written in a style that is full of love and empathy, Nancy lifts generous amounts of the text from her earlier bio of her father, and enhances the experience with a beautiful layout, and as a bonus, a forty-minute CD filled with interviews, appearances, commentary by Frank, and odds and ends which make for a fun listening experience.  The book itself begins with Frank's parents, telling a little of their backgrounds and experiences, but then begins in earnest on December 12, 1915 - the day Frank was born.  It recounts how he almost didn't survive the breach birth, and was given lasting facial scars by the doctor's forseps.  Using numerous interviews and eyewitness accounts, his childhood is recalled, pictures of his one and only diploma, from David E. Rue Junior High School, recollections from Nancy Sinatra Sr. on the decision Frank made to become a singer; and his break on Major Bowe's Original Amateur Hour (a rare recording of which is found on the CD).  The book gives month-by-month, or even day-by-day accounts of Frank's activities, noting radio shows he hosted, concerts that were notable, successes and failures, loves and losses; the book does an excellent job of laying it all out - giving the best overall picture of Sinatra that I've yet seen.  And the pictures are the frosting on the cake, with full color spreads of Frank posing with the stars of MGM, or behind the scenes shots of Frank on the set of Tony Rome, or posing with his parents at their anniversary dinner - they all throw light on the public, and private Sinatra.  Nancy doesn't shy away from the more sordid events in Frank's life, but she is forgiving throughout, glossing everything with a layer of understanding and compassion, and often setting the record straight about some mis-reported event.  Nancy gives a literate, human spin to her father's life, and it allows the reader to get closer than ever to what it meant to know Frank Sinatra.  Indespensible.


    All The Way: A Biography Of Frank Sinatra 1915-1998
    by Michael Freedland;
    St. Martin's Press, 438 p.
    Released June 1, 1998
     

     

    "To understand the significance of what Harry James was offering is to go back in time nearly sixty years, when the bands were the real stars and the vocalists 'additional' musicians who played the larynx rather than the drums.  Nobody took much notice of them, but a band leader needed to have someone singing the chorus of a song as much as he needed a trombone.
    How he came across Frank Sinatra as his choice is now lost in a fog of legend and confused stories.  Did he hear him on the radio?  Or did he come to the Rustic Cabin?  Frank himself on various occasions has told both stories - possibly because both things did happen.  A 1930s band leader in search of new talent goes out to find it.  He listens to the radio because that is where things happen.  He travels to New Jersey because that is where...there is a young fellow singing with a small-time band in a roadhouse who could be what he is looking for."
      [pg. 45]


    REVIEW:  Released the same day as Nancy Sinatra's fine timeline above, this dull, hopelessly inept biography pales in comparison to that book, and stands as one of the worst biographies of Frank Sinatra on the marketplace.  Filled with cliches, stale recountings of the known facts, and sweeping generalizations, All The Way does nothing for the reader except trot out the worn-out recitations of infidelities, mob connections, political chumminess, and paints Sinatra as a relentless bully whose passion for fame and power take him to the top, yet taints his success.  Weighing in at a hefty 400-plus pages, Mr. Freedland manages to touch all the bases in Frank's life, from his parents marriage and settlement in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the kick-him-while-he's-down attacks of the press of his final years, but the bais of the author, although less foul than Kitty Kelly's trash-talking, still gleams through on every noted event, with a sour, repellent tone throughout which would be hard to swallow if the author wrote with panache; but the prose is strictly high-school english, without an ounce of cleverness or insight to lighten the dull, repetitive prose, or cast new light on the rehashed, moth-eaten rumors and unending crush of innuendo.  If the author doesn't have a fact to corroborate his insinuations, no matter - he breezes by without bothering to quote a source for the statement.  The book reads as if the author was given the subject and the bias behind it as an assignment, not having much interest in either, but dutifully carrying out his job.  Less than worthless, this book may actually have the effect of killing brain cells while reading - consider this the warning label.    


    Frank Sinatra: 1915-1998
    by Jessica Hodge;
    Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc., 80 p.
    September 1, 1998

     

    "With From Here To Eternity Sinatra was once more on his way, but the climb was a slow one and htere were still hiccups.  Before the Oscar awards confirmed his star status again, he was signed for a year only by Capitol Records, with no advances or expenses.  His first recording session was with Axel Stordahl and was still in the lush romantic vein of his earlier work.  At his second session at the end of April 1953, however, the arranger was Nelson Riddle, who was to become instrumental in the next stage of Sinatra's musical development.  Together they recorded their classic version of 'My One And Only Love,' backed by brass and string, and the gradual evolution from crooning to swinging Sinatra was under way.  [pg. 38]


    REVIEW:  A workman-like enumeration of Sinatra's life and accomplishments, this book, which was originally published in 1992, was recast as a 'memorial edition' soon after Sinatra's death and republished in the hopes of snapping up some of those 'memorial dollars' which were being spent.  Cold and lifeless prose, lots of stock photographs, (both in color and black and white) and a generally bloodless and brief overview of Frank Sinatra means that it's hard to get excited one way or another by this thin (a mere eighty pages) coffee-table book.  The good thing about books like these is that there's no room for bias, one way or the other.  Jessica Hodge, whatever hack writing school she graduated from, writes barely a single original paragraph in the book, instead swiping liberally from other published sources and simply doing the job of stringing it all together to accompany the photographs, which at least have the decency to stay in relatively chronological order.  So there's no mud slinging, no gushy adoration, nope - just the facts, ma'am attitude that serves as a fine introduction to Sinatra, but nothing more.  In fact, it's interesting to note that the reading level for this book is squarely aimed at the high school audience [grades 9-12] - that's rather what it reads like, a textbook.  The photographs are mostly stock shots from his films, or publicity photos from television appearances or newspapers; there's no special access or terribly revealing behind-the-scenes photos.  But again, that's in keeping with the general cookie-cutter attitude this book carries.  Not worth seeking out, unless you absolutely have to have everything, or want the bare minimum.


    Why Sinatra Matters
    by Pete Hamill;
    Little, Brown and Company, 185 p.
    Released October 1, 1998

     

    "Sinatra was not, of course, a jazz singer, but his process resembled the way many jazz musicians worked.  The best of them listened creatively to the tunes of Tin Pan Alley but heard them through the filter of their own experience, which was dominated by being black in segregated America.  They transformed those songs, edited them, reinvented them, found something of value in even the most banal tunes.  The instrument didn't matter... They understood the specific lyrics of what had become known as American standards and the general intentions of the songs; they insisted on making them more interesting as music, more authentic, more personal, finding a subtle core that more closely resembled the blues." [pg 97]


    REVIEW:  A brief, but extraordinarily wise book, Why Sinatra Matters can't be classed as a biography of it's subject, or musicology, or a history book, although it incorporates all of these elements within its pages.  The title really explains the theorem behind the book: "Why, out of all the great artists - singers, instrumentalists, composers, et. al; is Frank Sinatra considered the pinnacle of them all as the premiere interpretive singer of our times?  Mr. Hamill, in delicious prose and thoughtful examination, makes a convincing argument by tying together Sinatra's Italian immigrant heritage, his cloistered, matriarchial upbringing, his early musical influences which sprang out of the great depression, and the flavor of the times he lived in, in creating the timelessness he embodied as a living symbol of the American Dream.  He dives into how Sinatra's success and pride as an Italian-American child of immigrant parents led him to become a fighter in order to overcome the stereotypical nicknames which were flung at him.  He quotes Frank with extraordinairly apt directness in dissecting his own fame, and the reasons he believes he survived when so many others had fallen by the wayside, or into obscurity; he also quotes several others, from friends and associates to outside observers to try and explain Sintatra's enduring appeal.  It's all very compelling and rich and rewarding.  Bookending the narrative are examinations of the impact of Frank's death in relation to his life, and the still-resounding impact he's had on American culture - it fitly brings things full circle in this well-written, literate book.  Highly recommended.

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