Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes

Frank Sinatra is such an iconic figure, so familiar and so often parodied and imitated, that it’s easy to underappreciate his talent. One of the earliest “kings of all media,” Sinatra was among the first popular music superstars, who managed to stay successful over the decades by successfully reinventing himself as a big band singer, a recording artist, dramatic actor, a producer-director, a song-and-dance man, and finally as the iconic “Chairman of the Board.”

While Sinatra and the Rat Pack have enjoyed a resurgence in the last decade—perhaps sometimes as much for kitch value as for their talents—my appreciation for Sinatra goes back to my parents and, particularly, listening to WNEW-AM in New York City during the late 1960s and ‘70s, which still focused on Sinatra and his fellow crooners. WNEW helped pioneer the idea of the disc jockey and the use of records on the air, and featured DJs like William B. Williams, Ted Brown, and Julius LaRosa. I grew up with that sound in my household and as a result developed an appreciation for these tunes. Of course, by adolescence and high school, I also discovered rock ‘n roll. By college, I found I still was able to enjoy rock while also indulging in Sinatra without guilt or shame. By the time, I hit early adulthood and, subsequently, middle age, I have found that my admiration for Sinatra’s gifts and talent has only grown with time.

Sinatra’s voice changed significantly as he got older, so some of his work that many people are mainly familiar with—such as “New York, New York”—do not show off his skills best. Like Bing Crosby, Sinatra deftly knew how to use his voice and a mic, and weaved his voice with the melody and the instrumental.

A good example of what I'm talking below is Sinatra's version below of "Night and Day," probably one of my all-time favorite of Sinatra's tracks. Unfortunately, the video isn't the most stimulating—you're stuck having to watch a turntable go round and round as you listen—but it was the only version of this song I could find online. In any case, it was the version of this song that made me appreciate how amazing Sinatra could be (though there certainly are many to choose from!)

Thought I'd also throw in this clip from the film High Society, starring Sinatra, Crosby and Grace Kelly. This was a favorite of my brother and me when we were growing up—frankly, seeing Sinatra and Crosby together in a movie was as thrilling as a Superman-Spiderman crossover!

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