WHY I FELL IN LOVE WITH FRANK SINATRA
We all have soundtracks to our lives. At times, music has been so important to me. During my teen years there were hours spent listening to the same record album over and over, sometimes even the same song, convinced that the artist had written the lyrics especially for me. “OHMYGOSH” my friends and I would shriek. That’s EXACTLY how I feel!!!!” Neil Young, Elton John, Supertramp, Queen, Linda Ronstadt… it wasn’t until we got older that we realized – that was exactly how everybody felt. In college, music became the backdrop for parties, the thumping beat at bars and clubs – it was the 80’s, after all, and the Cars and Blondie, the B-52’s and Toto didn’t make the kind of music that made you want to cry from the emotions their songs evoked. We all just wanted to dance.
It was 1984 when I first fell for Sinatra. And when I say fell, I mean really, really fell. There was a period of about two years when he was virtually all I listened to, with a little Bruce Springsteen and old Motown mixed in, plus some Elvis Costello to stay current. But Sinatra was the soundtrack of my early twenties, keeping me company on cassette after cassette as I drove around Los Angeles for my first job out of college. Falling for Sinatra was an enormous undertaking – his catalog of songs is huge, and he recorded over 50 albums in his lifetime. I zeroed in on the albums from the fifties, when his voice was strongest and his phrasing was impeccable, when you could hear the joy and sorrow in his voice as clearly as if he was speaking to you, which is what makes his music so appealing – that and the promise of something – love, romance, I don’t know exactly what – but there was promise in his voice.
Sinatra became a passion for me to share with my mother, my grandmother, and especially my grandfather, who as a young man had been a big band singer with Tommy Dorsey, and had known Sinatra. My grandfather had a voice kind of like Sinatra’s, deep and warm and lovely, and he would sing to me frequently while I was growing up. There was always singing going on in my family…as strange as it may sound, we would often sing song lyrics to each other in lieu of speaking sentences. We were big fans of musical theater, and there was always some soundtrack or another on my mother’s turntable. Those were the years of Bacharach, Barbara Streisand, and Neil Diamond. We listened to “A Chorus Line,” “Promises, Promises,” and “Funny Girl,” among many others. My grandmother liked to play the piano and sing after we’d have dinner at her house. Fortunately, we were all fairly good at carrying a tune.
But Sinatra…he became the voice I chose to hear as often as possible. The first year out of college was not easy for me, adjusting to being on my own, commuting to work every day, trying to prove myself at my job and find myself in the world – but Sinatra was the soothing voice of reassurance for me, as I learned each and every trip and lilt and turn of phrase he used on the songs I loved best. From “Young at Heart” to “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Love and Marriage” to “My Funny Valentine,” there was a song for every mood, every time of day, every event. I, like a million girls before me and a million since, fell in love with Sinatra through his voice, and what a voice it was.
I continued my love affair with Sinatra, and my children were raised on him…there’s nothing quite like a 4 year old girl singing “The Lady is a Tramp,” as my daughter did one evening, delighting us all. I saw him in concert at the very end of his life, but it wasn’t great – he was old, and his voice was wobbly and weak, and the teleprompter had letters that were at least a foot high – but still, it was Sinatra. We even considered naming our son Francis, after my husband Peter’s grandfather…and Sinatra. I think Adam is happy we chose not to, though we would have called him Frank, of course.
On the morning Sinatra died, Peter woke me to tell me the news before I heard it anyplace else. He knew how sad I would be, and I was. But I listened to his music, and of course, that made me feel better – which is, I suppose, what Sinatra was all about – making the world feel better through his music.
Sinatra was fond of saying, at the end of his concerts, “May you live to be a hundred, and may the last voice you hear be mine.” I like that idea!