From the Archives: Frank Sinatra, Premier Vocalist of His Time, Dies at 82
Frank Sinatra, the talented and temperamental balladeer who dominated popular music longer than any entertainer before him, had clung to his legendary life as tenaciously as he had stuck with the audiences he loved.
Three years after he took his final concert bow, Sinatra died at 10:50 p.m. Thursday in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s emergency room after a heart attack. His wife, Barbara, was at his side.
The self-styled “saloon singer,” 82, had not been seen in public since suffering a heart attack in January 1997. Rumors of his imminent death proliferated throughout that period as he made frequent trips to the hospital only to return home.
Susan Reynolds, Sinatra’s publicist who told the world of his death, said his funeral will be private.
Sinatra’s masterful interpretation and flawless execution of some of America’s most beloved songs earned his reputation as the most influential popular singer of the 20th century. His accomplishments broadened to include film, with such roles as his Academy Award-winning performance in “From Here to Eternity.”
A Fiery Personality
For more than three generations, his name was synonymous with talent and taste. In the late 1930s, his fragile frame and painfully shy expressions made swooning, shrieking fools of the normally normal teenage girls standing by the bandstands where he first earned his living at $75 a week. In the 1960s he gathered in millions as both partner and star in the clubs of Las Vegas.
In recent years, the once-irascible boy baritone and multiple Grammy winner had mellowed some, abandoning the omnipresent bottle of Jack Daniels atop the piano and the perennially lighted cigarette. Yet he retained the fiery personality that led him into stormy, sometimes unfulfilled romances and scuffles that often produced more headlines than his performances.
In March 1994, when he collapsed while singing “My Way,” his traditional paean to life at a concert in Richmond, Va., attendants rushed to the stage. As a piece of emergency equipment was thrust toward him, he responded by snarling, “Get that damned thing out of my face.”
Such was the stuff of his legend.
Toward the end, a life dedicated to the excesses of “his way” had taken a toll on his faculties, and he frequently forgot the lyrics to songs he had been warbling for 50 years, unable to follow even the giant TelePrompTers that became a part of the performance.
He held his last live performance in Palm Desert, on Feb. 25, 1995.
But fans applauded him to the end and remembered him as he was, the pristine vocalist with the keen ear who could hold or emphasize a note at what others would find an inappropriate moment or mischievously shrug a shoulder to suggest the hidden meaning of a phrase.
When he sang “I Get a Kick Out of You,” he tossed a playful leg to punctuate the lyric. He wagged a mischievous finger at his audiences, as if to warn them of the unspoken, hidden mysteries of his lyrics. He drastically changed tempo, making ballads of jump tunes or finding the verse of “Stardust” so enchanting that he once recorded it by itself without singing the fabled chorus.
Words held sacred by scores of other vocalists singing old standards would be changed to suit his mood or need. But always he stayed true to the basic intent of the composer and seldom performed a song without telling his audience not only who had written the tune and lyrics but also who were the musicians behind him helping him as he sang it.
In later years, the sound might have ebbed but it still took $500 and a sizable tip to the table captain to get a decent seat at his Vegas shows. People in their 80s who normally went to bed at 9 stayed up until 2 for a glimpse of their old friend, who had lived to become an icon.
Where once he stormed at his fans, he now had begun patiently signing autographs for the multitudes that had pursued him throughout a long and rewarding life in which his bad boy image cast a larger shadow than the countless and various charities he quietly supported.
The last of his four marriages (to Barbara Marx, the former wife of Marx brother and superagent Zeppo) brought a sophistication and gentility to his late years that overshadowed the Rat Pack of Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford and other ribald characters who had formed his earlier social circle.
He had cut back on the bourbon and nicotine, was eating sensibly and seemed to find in his last relationship a tranquillity that had eluded him earlier.
But until illness forced it upon him three years ago, he didn’t want to settle for the comforts of home. Instead, he continued adding to his estimated $30-million net worth by continuing to earn up to $250,000 a week back on his saloon circuit.
Singer Paul Anka (who wrote the lyrics to “My Way”) said it was the ultimate high, “the strongest drug in the world, the needle in the arm called show business.”
When Time magazine asked Sinatra in March 1994, shortly after his collapse in Richmond, why he kept up the pace, he replied (by fax rather than in person, of course): “You write for a magazine. . . . I tour. It’s what I do . . . what I enjoy doing.”
The fans enjoyed it, too. Billboard chart researcher Joel Whitburn says that since the magazine began tabulating weekly statistics in 1940, Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley have led the pack.
Periodic lulls notwithstanding, records released by the Chairman of the Board were big sellers every decade of his career. After 73 hits during the 1940s, Sinatra’s No. 1 album, “Only the Lonely,” in 1958 nestled on the charts for more than 120 weeks. His “Duets” albums, recorded with other famous and far younger performers, topped the 3-million mark in the 1990s.
The singer’s popularity had waned in the early 1950s. But a 1953 move from Columbia Records to the Capitol label and a legendary alliance with conductor-arranger Nelson Riddle propelled him into the spotlight again. Tapping Sinatra’s latent feeling for jazz, Riddle provided snappy arrangements highlighting the singer’s relaxed but swinging style. Before long, the duo turned out hit albums such as “In the Wee Small Hours” in 1955 and “Songs for Swingin’ Lovers” in 1956 in which the performer’s artistry was honed.
Influences of Jazz
Because Sinatra reemerged when the long-playing album was invented in the early 1950s, he became a “novelist” instead of a “short story writer,” says veteran disc jockey Jonathan Schwartz, whose long-running radio show on New York’s WQEW focuses extensively on the artist. When it came to expressing emotion, breathing control and phrasing, he says, Sinatra was a breed apart. That his hero, Bing Crosby, once commented that Sinatra was the better singer was probably because more singing was involved.
“If Crosby was a casualist, Sinatra was an antagonist, a sensualist, an aggressivist, someone whose candid yet dignified renditions revolutionized confessional singing without being saccharine,” Schwartz said.
When Sinatra died, the world lost the last major representative of the American Songbook tradition to which Cole Porter and George Gershwin belonged, said Will Friedwald, author of “Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer’s Art,” published by Scribner in 1995. As an artist, Sinatra combined the best of two vocal traditions, the writer said.
“Singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan focused on melody and harmony rather than on words,” he said, “while others such as Julie Wilson and Mabel Mercer were concerned more with story.”
Friedwald said: “What made Sinatra so special was that he did both.”
Sinatra’s two major influences were Crosby and Billie Holiday, maintains archivist Ric Ross, who co-produced Reprise’s 1995 20-disc box set of the singer’s work. “It was the way they put a song together, the way they dramatized the lyrics,” he said. “But it was Tommy Dorsey who taught him breath control.” The legendary trombonist “could play eight bars of music without taking a breath, twice as much as the norm.”
In “The Way I Look at Race,” a watershed article Sinatra wrote for Ebony in 1958, the singer conceded his debt to Mercer, Louis Armstrong and other black veterans like Holiday, Fitzgerald and Count Basie, and contemporaries such as Miles Davis and Max Roach. Citing his friendship with Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr. and Sugar Ray Robinson, the singer made an impassioned plea for tolerance.
“Throughout large areas of the land, the word ‘equality’ is considered dangerous and unfashionable,” Sinatra wrote. “That it shouldn’t be so doesn’t alter the fact that inequality exists all over the place. . . . You can’t hate and live a wholesome life. Prejudice and good citizenship just don’t go together. Bigotry is un-American.”
Sinatra was also a trailblazer on the musical front, as artists like Bruce Springsteen, Hootie and the Blowfish and Bob Dylan noted at his 80th birthday celebration in 1995. Sinatra was not only the first pop singer to provoke mass hysteria but also a precursor to a generation of rock ‘n’ rollers with his irreverent, anti-establishment style.
Onstage and off, Sinatra was antisocial, almost hostile, Friedwald noted.
“U2’s Bono told me that Sinatra has what he wants—swagger and attitude,” Friedwald said. “Like Marlon Brando and James Dean in the ‘50s, he had a natural element of the rebel in him. In the 1940s, when macho heroes like John Wayne and Clark Gable were in vogue, Sinatra was openly vulnerable and tender. In the 1950s, when the family unit was sacred, he dared to be a loner, a high-living, skirt-chasing, high-rolling individual.”
Sinatra’s relationship with Capitol deteriorated in the late 1950s, and the company freed him from his long-term contract.
“I helped build that,” the singer told a friend, pointing to the landmark Capitol tower in Hollywood. “Now let’s build one of my own.”
On Reprise, the label he founded in 1961, the singer made an effort to modernize his sound. Hooking up with record producer Jimmy Bowen, he released the ballads “Softly as I Leave You” in 1964 and “Strangers in the Night” in 1966. “That’s Life” in 1966 and “My Way” in 1969 displayed some R&B bite, and Sinatra went on to play in arenas—such as Madison Square Garden and the Forum in Los Angeles—where rock bands often played.
“Sinatra’s storytelling resources increased as his vocal talent declined,” Friedwald said, “but I never really heard him in bad voice. Never content to be a living legend, he continued to find new shading and nuance.”
‘He Was a Master Interpreter of Songs’
Critically, Sinatra is probably regarded as the greatest popular singer of the 20th century, Billboard’s Whitburn maintains--an assessment with which WQEW’s Schwartz agrees.
“Though Sinatra wasn’t a songwriter, he was a master interpreter of songs,” Schwartz said. “He created a technique of singing beyond anything thought of before.”
Francis Albert Sinatra, the boy with the troubled voice who grew up to be the man with the smoky, velvet tones, began life as a tough, undersized kid from Hoboken, N.J.
It was there he supposedly first came into contact with the Mafia connections that rightly or wrongly dogged his success.
If his pals in later life sometimes included people frowned upon by the Nevada Gaming Commission, they also included President Reagan, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and—until he backed away when he learned who some of Sinatra’s other friends were—President John F. Kennedy.
Sinatra decided as a young boy that he wanted to sing and emerged a decade later as a youth sporting a bow tie first with the Harry James and then the Tommy Dorsey orchestras.
His recordings of “I’ll Never Smile Again” and “There Are Such Things” placed him early and permanently in the national firmament.
As recounted by John Howlett in a 1980 biography, Sinatra had good cause to be angry from the moment he entered the world Dec. 12, 1915. He was a 13-pound baby, and birth was difficult. He was to bear on his neck the rest of his life the scars of the doctor’s forceps.
The doctor concluded that the baby was lost and concentrated on saving the mother, Natalie “Dolly” Sinatra, a nurse and midwife. But the grandmother, Rosa Garavanti, picked up the newborn child and held him under a cold water tap until he began to choke and cry--and breathe.
Sinatra’s father, Martin, had been a prizefighter. The future singer’s mother became active in Democratic politics in Hoboken and then got her husband a job as a fireman.
Martin Sinatra taught his son to take care of himself with his fists. The young man was to admit later in life, “I got my hot Sicilian temper and temperament from my Dad.”
Theirs supposedly was a very tempestuous relationship.
Sinatra worked on a newspaper delivery truck for a time and went with a local plasterer’s daughter, Nancy Barbato, who fell in love with him.
He spent much of his time learning songs he heard on the radio. Once he took Nancy to hear Bing Crosby at a Jersey City theater and then told her, “I’m going to be a singer.”
In 1935, he and three other young men went to a “Major Bowes Amateur Hour” audition and won a job with a touring unit, but Sinatra quit after several weeks so he could remain close to New York City.
Eventually, Sinatra got a job singing at the Rustic Cabin, an Englewood, N.J., roadhouse where he earned $15 a week--and where he was heard on a local radio station.
By then he and Nancy were married. The 1939 union was to produce a son, Frank Jr., a future bandleader and singer who would one day conduct for his father, and two daughters, Nancy--a vocalist in her own right--and Christiana, known as Tina, who would produce a successful TV miniseries about her famous father.
Someone had heard Sinatra singing on the radio from the Rustic Cabin, all right. It was trumpeter James, who had left the Benny Goodman orchestra to form his own band. James hired the 24-year-old singer and had him on stage at New York’s Paramount Theater the next day.
Now Sinatra was earning $75 a week.
With the James ensemble, which was struggling through its formative days, Sinatra recorded “All or Nothing at All.” It was not to sell well until re-released four years later, when it became a big hit.
By that time Sinatra was with the Dorsey band. Dorsey had been looking for a singer to replace Jack Leonard. He saw his chance to hire Sinatra away from James for $100 a week.
James let Sinatra out of his contract with a handshake, saying later, “Nancy was expecting a baby, and Frank needed the money. I wasn’t going to stand in his way.”
With the highly successful Dorsey band, Sinatra’s first big hit was “I’ll Never Smile Again,” which he recorded with the Pied Pipers and singer Connie Haines. In no time, Sinatra was drawing crowds of idolizing listeners to the stage rim every time he sang.
Dorsey, not the most humble bandleader around, clearly resented all the attention given the young hollow-faced singer, but he recognized that it wasn’t hurting the band’s popularity.
Sinatra, in the meantime, worked hard to learn his craft, practicing the kind of breath control Dorsey used in playing his smooth, sweet trombone.
Hit followed hit, even while Dorsey’s resentment grew in direct proportion to the crowds of excited teenagers who gathered around the bandstand to get close to the sensuous boy with the forehead spit curl. There was “Night and Day,” “This Love of Mine,” “There Are Such Things” and a string of other records that remained popular for decades.
It was while he was with Dorsey that Sinatra got his first Hollywood exposure in two films, “Ship Ahoy” in 1942 and “Las Vegas Nights.”
Leaving Dorsey, Early Stardom
But the increasing strain between bandleader and singer prompted Sinatra to strike out on his own. Thus began the first of the lurid Sinatra tales that followed the singer to his grave.
Dorsey supposedly would not allow Sinatra to end his contract without being guaranteed a third of all the singer’s future earnings. The rumor was that Willie Moretti, a New Jersey gangster, eventually persuaded Dorsey to forgo that arrangement by putting a revolver barrel where Dorsey’s trombone mouthpiece usually went.
A thinly disguised version of that purported episode in the novel and film “The Godfather” perpetuated the story, but columnist Earl Wilson said years later in his Sinatra biography that he didn’t believe it because the singer at that time was still too young to know the likes of Moretti.
In any event, Sinatra eventually managed to buy himself out of the Dorsey deal for a reported $60,000.
He was not immediately besieged by offers of work. He sang “Night and Day” in a 1943 movie, “Reveille With Beverly,” and got a job singing twice a week on a CBS radio show.
But then he appeared at the Paramount Theater on a bill with the Benny Goodman orchestra. Goodman apparently had never heard of Sinatra, despite the singer’s 2 1/2 years with Dorsey, and was so astonished when a roar from the young audience greeted the singer that he asked, “What the hell was that?”
Suddenly Sinatra was the biggest thing in show business. Girls mobbed him and tore at his suit. The Paramount stayed packed for four weeks from morning to night.
Even then, many nightclubs were reluctant to book a singer they considered an idol only to kids. It wasn’t until he was hired by the struggling Riobamba Club in New York City for $750 a week as an “added extra attraction” with comedian Walter O’Keefe and singer-comedian Sheila Barrett that he proved he could draw adults.
He was a smash. Crowds formed at the door. Stars came to see him. “Within a week,” Wilson recalled, “Frank Sinatra had changed from singer to national hysteria.”
He was on the cover of Life magazine. With his marriage already strained by his life on the road with the Dorsey band and by his meteoric success, there were rumors of romances with actresses Marilyn Maxwell and Lana Turner.
Brawls and Acts of Charity
But as Sinatra’s fame grew through his successful recordings and such films as 1945’s “Anchors Aweigh” with Gene Kelly, his temper seemed to get shorter. He walked out on Nancy, then returned. He began to yell at people and to get into fistfights. Classified 4-F because of a punctured eardrum discovered by Army doctors during World War II, he fought with two Marines in a nightclub who wanted to know why he wasn’t in uniform.
The first of his really celebrated brawls occurred in 1947 at Ciro’s nightclub in Hollywood with columnist Lee Mortimer, who had accused the singer of mob ties and of once flying to Havana to deliver $2 million in small bills to deported gangster Lucky Luciano.
Mortimer claimed that Sinatra clipped him from behind at Ciro’s and that three Sinatra henchmen then jumped on him while he was down. Sinatra, who denied ever having any dealings with Luciano other than to be introduced to him, said Mortimer called him a “dago.” He insisted he did not hit the columnist from behind.
Mortimer swore out a warrant for his arrest and Sinatra settled the matter by admitting in court that he didn’t hear himself called any such thing, by apologizing and by paying Mortimer $9,000 for legal expenses.
Nor did the singer’s view of newspaper columnists mellow after that. In the early 1970s he encountered Washington Post writer Maxine Cheshire at a Washington party and shocked other guests by blurting:
“Get away from me, you scum! Go home and take a bath. I don’t want to talk to you. I’m getting out of here to get rid of the stench of Mrs. Cheshire. You know Mrs. Cheshire, don’t you? That stench you smell is from her. You’re nothing but a $2 broad, baby. Here’s your $2. That’s what you’re used to.”
Two years later, when he had a run-in with women reporters in Australia, he claimed he had overpaid Cheshire.
For all his public displays of temper and battles with the press, Sinatra was a quiet philanthropist who rarely allowed publicity about his good deeds.
Earl Wilson wrote that the singer, as honorary mayor of Cathedral City near Palm Springs, once got a letter from an impoverished Indian child asking for a toy for her baby brother. Sinatra visited the family’s shack and discovered “the place wasn’t fit for pigs.”
Wilson said Sinatra never told the girl and her mother who he was, but “a few days later, the shack was filled with new furniture and toys, clothing and canned goods such as its occupants hadn’t imagined possible.”
Other stories of his unpublicized deeds include one that he flew a broke Joe Louis from Las Vegas to Texas and paid for a heart operation to save the former heavyweight boxing champion’s life; another that he saw actor Lee J. Cobb through a period of ill health and economic troubles.
“Looking away from the brawling,” Wilson said, “one finds an incredible doer of good. He has given away a fortune in secret assistance to people in trouble and another fortune in public charities, always requesting that no publicity be given his individual contributions.”
That, Wilson observed, “is part of a tenderness and helpfulness and sympathy in the Sinatra personality that he tries to hide as though it were a weakness.”
Wilson noted in his book that the singer--winner of the motion picture academy’s 1970 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award--once took a black prostitute into a New York City nightclub to keep a policeman from arresting her, bought her a drink, gave her $100 and told her, “I don’t want you to work any more tonight.”
Notwithstanding such comments in the unauthorized biography, Sinatra filed a $3-million suit against the columnist for writing it.
He also struggled unsuccessfully to keep out of print a very derisive, equally unauthorized 1986 biography by Kitty Kelley.
A Rocky Marriage With Gardner
Much of Sinatra’s troubles with the press stemmed from the intense interest of reporters in his turbulent romances, particularly with Ava Gardner, his second wife.
His affair with Gardner came during the early 1950s, when his career had gone into a steep nose dive. His movies were dying at the box office, and he could not seem to find the right songs to record or to get top club bookings.
He was drinking and smoking too much. The big singers of the day were Johnnie Ray and Frankie Laine. The federal government was after Sinatra for more tax money. “Your Hit Parade,” the popular radio show on which he had been singing weekly, dropped him for operatic baritone Lawrence Tibbett.
While singing at the Copacabana in New York, Sinatra suddenly lost his voice.
He turned up in Spain with Gardner, leaving her in a reported huff because she was also being romanced by a bullfighter. While reporters followed every moment, Nancy Sinatra finally agreed to give her husband a divorce.
After several more battles with Gardner, Sinatra and the actress were wed. But that marriage ran into hard times almost at once as Sinatra tried desperately to climb back to the top of the entertainment world.
Gardner was independent and tended to go off on her own when they were fighting (Kelley claimed she had undergone an abortion just to spite him). He was jealous and possessive. When she went to Africa to make “Mogambo” with Gable and Grace Kelly, Sinatra went along. He was all but jobless and virtually broke.
He read and was anxious to play the part of Maggio, the doomed soldier in the film version of “From Here to Eternity.” He offered to play it for $1,000 a week. Columbia Studios boss Harry Cohn let Sinatra dangle for a long time before finally hiring him.
It was to turn the singer’s career around.
He worked on the picture for eight weeks, earning a mere $8,000. At the time, the federal government said he owed $100,000 in back taxes. He was a smash success in the movie, winning an Oscar as best supporting actor. Film companies began offering him big parts.
But he and Gardner were still fighting. In October 1953, it was announced that they were divorcing. “Now that he’s successful again,” the actress said, “he’s become his old arrogant self. We were happier when we were on the skids.”
Conductor Riddle once said it was Sinatra’s loss of Gardner that “taught him how to sing a torch song. . . . She was the greatest love of his life, and he had lost her.”
Sinatra soon had another hit record, “Young at Heart,” and acquired a small interest in the Las Vegas Sands Hotel. But he apparently resumed the swinger life and got himself involved in the infamous “Wrong Door Raid,” staged by former baseball star Joe DiMaggio and a couple of private detectives looking for DiMaggio’s then-wife, Marilyn Monroe, in a Hollywood apartment.
By then, after his career troubles and what Howlett called “the ravages of the Ava Gardner affair,” Sinatra no longer looked like a frail, vulnerable young boy.
But at the end of 1954, he was named the best singer of the year by Metronome magazine, won the Down Beat magazine poll as most popular male vocalist and had the best record of the year (“Young at Heart”) as well as the best album of the year, according to disc jockeys polled by Billboard.
Sinatra had reestablished himself. He began to build a line of corporations to run his various enterprises. During the next several years he starred in two dozen films--some of which he may have wished to forget--and recorded numerous top-selling albums.
After “Eternity,” he began to get roles that were not strictly musical. He was cast as an assassin in “Suddenly.” He was the heroin-hooked card dealer and would-be jazz drummer of “The Man With the Golden Arm.” Other films were “Johnny Concho,” “The Pride and the Passion,” “The Joker Is Wild,” “Pal Joey,” “Some Came Running,” “Never So Few,” “The Tender Trap,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and the still-popular “The Manchurian Candidate.”
Some were successful, others were not. He appeared in TV specials and a not-too-impressive series, “The Frank Sinatra Show.”
But he was nominated for a handful of Emmys for his work on the small screen, one for a particularly well-received special, “Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music.”
He even had successful videotape sales--a tape made during a recording session with conductor Quincy Jones sold well.
Tragedies and a Quieter Life
Despite his successes, Howlett wrote, Sinatra was a lonely man after his breakup with Gardner. A friend described the singer sitting up far into the night drinking brandy and mooning over pictures of Ava, then telephoning his first wife at 4 a.m. to talk, staying up and pacing until after sunrise.
He was certainly not without women. His romances were well publicized. He was engaged briefly to dancer Juliet Prowse, went for a while with actress Jill St. John and a succession of other women, including Gloria Vanderbilt and Lauren Bacall.
He married for a third time in 1966, this time choosing actress Mia Farrow, 30 years younger than he. But he and Farrow, actress Maureen O’Sullivan’s daughter who later became involved with comedian Woody Allen, did not last long together. He wanted her to appear with him in the film “The Detective.” Her agent wanted her to star in “Rosemary’s Baby,” which she did to her great advantage. They broke up and were divorced in 1968.
Sinatra did not marry again until 1976, when Barbara Marx became Mrs. Sinatra in a Palm Springs ceremony attended by the singer’s old pals Agnew and Reagan.
One of the sensational events of Sinatra’s life was the kidnapping of his son, Frank Jr., from a room at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, where the younger singer was performing.
That occurred Dec. 8, 1963. On telephone instructions from the kidnappers, the elder Sinatra left $240,000 in an attache case at a deserted gas station on Sepulveda Boulevard in Los Angeles. Frank Jr. was released on a Bel-Air street.
Three men were arrested when one of them gave himself up. Eventually, all three were found guilty of kidnapping. Despite that, there were those who were certain it was a publicity stunt.
One of the tragedies experienced by Sinatra was the death of his mother in the crash of a small plane in the San Bernardino Mountains just after takeoff from Palm Springs early in 1977 as she left to see her son perform in Las Vegas.
She had been a strong force in his life and it was traditional that any woman Frank was serious about had to pass Dolly’s inspection.
According to Howlett, the sudden death of his mother changed Sinatra, leaving him “sobered, less impetuous, more reflective.”
By then he was in his 60s, married to Barbara and living in his Palm Springs retreat, from which he emerged occasionally to stage another show or make another tour after yet another retirement.
He toured successfully with old friends (Davis and Martin) and new (Liza Minnelli).
He had survived the death of the big bands, a sound called bebop, the revival of the blues, the advent of rock ‘n’ roll and the emergence of rap. From nearly all of them he had learned and produced something.
Perhaps writer-director Ray Connolly’s profile of Sinatra in the London Evening Standard said it best:
“He sings as he moves, gently fox-trotting from side to side, snapping his white cuffs to add interpretation, briskness and style, then slooping down his shoulders into that thin man look of lost love and instant vulnerability. . . .
“Behind him he leaves decades of beautifully sung songs . . . decades of nostalgia and buckets full of maidenly tears. While Sinatra records are still being played around the world, we’ll all be romantics from time to time.”
In addition to his wife Barbara, he is survived by children Frank Jr., Tina and Nancy.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to Catholic Charities or to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, which specializes in treatment and prevention of child abuse, in Rancho Mirage.
Times staff writer Elaine Dutka contributed to this story.
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