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Sinatra, Frank (12th December 1915-14th May 1998)

He was a singer and actor born in a hospital in Paterson, New Jersey and raised in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was the only child of Italian parents with his father being a fireman from Sicily, and his mother being a Democratic party ward boss, midwife and abortionist known as “Hatpin Dolly” from Liguria.

He began his career with the trio The Three Flashes as a black face minstrel and waiter in promotional films. He then became part of the Hoboken Four who won a talent contest on an Amateur Hour in 1935 and went on a national tour as a result.

He became a singing waiter and after having been heard on the radio by the wife of the bandleader Harry James, he was hired by him and given a recording contract in 1939.

He joined the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and gained fame as a balladeer after having achieved a No. 1 hit, which was the first on the new Billboard Magazine’s American chart, with “I’ll Never Smile Again”. He recorded 29 singles with Tommy Dorsey and in 1941 was named “Male Vocalist of the Year” by Billboard.

As of 1943 he became a solo artist and was considered America’s second-most popular singer behind Bing Crosby. He became known as “The Voice” and after having 23 Top 10 hits between 1940 and 1943 “Sinatra-mania” was declared.

Turning to acting, although having previously appeared as a Tommy Dorsey singer on three movies, he started his film career with Step Lightly . He was noticed by Louis B. Mayer who bought his contract from RKO and gave him a salary of $1.5 million per film. His fans were so excited to see him in 1944 when he was appearing at a venue that what is described as “The Columbus Day Riot” occurred. By 1946 he was performing up to 45 shows a week and he had his own radio show called The Voice of Frank Sinatra . Although he stopped performing live from 1948 to 1950 his voice suffered through hemhorraging of his vocal chords.

His career hit an all time low in popularity in the early 1950s and it has been said that his decline was due to his lack of attraction to the teenage audiences, his marriage to his then-wife Ava Gardner who was just becoming a major success, his involvement in a fixed boxing-match and even though the film On The Town was a huge success, he was dropped by MGM. He became a dramatic actor from 1953 and won Academy Awards for his appearances in From Here to Eternity and The Man With the Golden Arm . His other noted films included High Society, Guys and DollsPal Joey and Some Came Running . He was named “The Chairman of the Board” by Humphrey Bogart and he started to sing again.

His comeback spawned hit albums such as Songs for Swingin’ Lovers and Come Fly With Me and he spent 450 weeks on the Billboard album charts between 1955 and 1959. He was part of the Rat Pack which comprised Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and occasionally Shirley MacLaine, and with this association he played an important role in ridding the segregation in Nevada hotels and casinos by not frequenting ones that would not allow Sammy Davis Jr access. He was a close friend of the Kennedy family but this did not last and after Robert F. Kennedy becoming worried about his association with them and warning the family to stay away from him, he lost his casino license, became a Republican and supporter of Richard Nixon.

His own record label, Reprise Records, brought him further success and by the end of the 1960s he had spent 1311 weeks on the album chart.

He initially announced his retirement in 1971 but returned and toured within two years. He continued to perform and record throughout the rest of his tumultuous career and returned to acting and producing movies. In 1983 he received a Kennedy Center Honor and in 1984 he became a fund-raising ambassador for Ronald Reagan in his campaign for the US presidential election. In 1990 he toured to celebrate his 75th birthday, performed for the final time with Ella Fitzgerald and told Sinead O’Connor the he promised to “kick her ass” at her disrespect shown for the American national anthem. In 1992 his album Duets became very successful and he reached No. 2 on the Billboard Charts with Bono singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”. In 1994 he suffered a bad fall on stage while singing “My Way” and in 1995 he gave his last ever concert to a party of selected guests. His 80th birthday was celebrated by the Empire State being made to glow blue.

After a series of heart attacks in the following few years he died on 14th May 1991, aged 82, after spending seven decades in show business. His final words were “I’m losing”. Bill Clinton led his tributes and his tombstone says “The Best Is Yet to Come”.

Frank Sinatra Recordings
Let’s Get Away From It All (Thomas Montgomery Adair)
That’s What God Looks Like to Me (Stan Irvin/ Lan O’Kun)
Theme from New York, New York (Fred Ebb/John Kander)