Throwback: Frank Sinatra
Early Life: Francis Sinatra, better known by his machismo stage presence as Frank, was born on December 12th, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Born to hard working Italian immigrants, little would have suggested he would grow up to be one of the biggest cultural icons of the 20th century, if not of all time. Despite being low-income immigrants, his parents worked hard to give Sinatra a good upbringing. Even in his youth, his good looks and charms helped him develop tools that would later make him into one the most renown stage presences of all time. Growing up, he showed little interest in school and traditional work. He dropped out of high school in his first year, later attending Drake Business School at his mother’s request. After less than a year, he dropped out of there as well before taking on various jobs here and there.
One of things he did take an interest to early on was music. At a young age he begun a fascination with jazz, taking a particular idolization to Bing Crosby. Throughout his youth he would form bands here and there, often performing at high school dances. After school, he found himself singing nightly at comedy clubs or even radio stations, but didn’t receive his first real gig until 1935, when a local group, the 3 Flashes let him in their band. When he joined, they became the Hoboken Four. Initially, the group only let him in at his mother’s request and for the simple fact he had a car, but after the group secured a 6-month contract to perform on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, he quickly moved to a more prominent role as their lead singer. Sinatra would spend the next 3 years bouncing around doing local gigs, spending time performing at restaurants and more clubs. In 1939, Sinatra both his first single track and signed his first contract, paying out only $75 a week. While his initial success was meager, it would set him on the path to becoming one of the most successful solo acts ever.
Rise to Prominence: Before he became an independent star, he continued to do group work. Sinatra’s first charting success came in 1940 with the Tommy Dorsey Band, with their single ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeams.’ Over the next two years, the group would repeatedly hit the top of the charts with Sinatra at the helm. In 1942, he secured studio time to record solo, marking a turning point in the budding star’s career. After hearing himself for the first time, he believed he needed to go solo, despite being locked in a contract with Tommy Dorsey. After a legal dispute that took up the better part of 1942, Sinatra left the band and pursued his career full time. By the end of the year, Sinatra was a nation wide phenomena. With his look savvy and charming voice, he quickly won over the hearts of the female youth and America as a whole. His shows quickly sold out and would send fans into a frenzy. By 1943, he had gone from signing cash-by-week deals to a legitimate record label contract with Columbia Records. His first record charted 7 singles on Billboard’s Best Selling list. His appeal marked a new era for popular music, as he could appeal to the youth as well as the upper class, ‘high’ society. He was soon even more popular than his boyhood idol Bing Crosby, who was still very relevant at the time.
His first official album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, came in 1946, and immediately shot up to #1 on Billboard. Sinatra would go on to sell on average 10 million records a year.
The Voice of Frank Sinatra (1946): As mentioned above, this was Sinatra’s first studio album ever, also marking his first in a long line for Columbia. The album was released March 4th, of 1946, when it quickly shot up to #1 on Billboard’s list. It would spend the following 7 weeks on top, and another 18 weeks on the chart in general. The backing to Sinatra’s legendary vocals was a mostly string and wind orchestra. This album is also one of the pioneers in conceptualizing ‘concept albums’, albums dedicated to a specific mood.
Songs for Swingin’ Lovers (1956): Fast-forward ten years, Sinatra was releasing his tenth studio album with Songs for Swingin’ Lovers; this time, a release with his then new label Capitol Records. While also one of his more commercially successful releases, this album is widely considered Sinatra’s best work. The album was mostly covers of pop songs, taking a swinging jazz vibe to each. The album also broke records as the first album to chart #1 on the then-new UK Album Charts. In the US, it peaked at #2, but would spend an abnormally impressive 66 weeks on the charts. It would go on to be certified gold.
Come Fly With Me (1958): This album marked the first time Sinatra would work with Billy May, who helped arrange and produce a long line of successful Sinatra albums with this release, Come Dance With Me, and Come Swing With Me. After it’s release in January of the 1958, it shot up to #1 in it’s second week, where it would stay for another 5 weeks. It would go to top Swinger’s with 71 weeks spent hovering around the charts, on its way to Gold certification.
Most Popular Singles
Strangers In The Night
Three Coins in A Fountain
Come Fly With Me
Awards & Honors: As is the case with most of our Throwback artists, Frank Sinatra is considered one of the greatest artists to ever live. To go along with that, he is widely considered the greatest male singer of all time, while his popularity reached equally high in merit. He birthed stage presence as we know it today and will go down in history as perhaps the best show man to have ever lived. There simply isn’t enough quotes using ‘ever’ or ‘of all time’ to describe the man, so we can simply look at his numerous accolades. For both his roles in film and on the music stage, he has three different stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Sinatra has reached the aura of presidential proportions as well with numerous libraries, streets, state parks, and buildings named after him. He was donned with three honorary degrees in his time, despite having never finished above the high school level. Sinatra had a successful career as an actor as well, where he received 3 Academy Awards, 3 Golden Globes, 3 Laurel Awards, and a Grammy nomination.
Current Status & Impact on Music: In 1997, Frank Sinatra’s health began to diminish, with frequent heart and respiratory problems. In 1998, he succumbed to those health woes, as he died from a heart attack in May of that year. This marked the end of not only one of the most illustrious careers of all time, but one of the most fascinating people to ever live. Frank Sinatra embodied the quintessential America man in the 20th century. Growing up to immigrant parents, he truly was able to accomplish the American Dream as it were in America’s golden era. He never forgot his roots, and while he was mired in some controversy, he maintained a level of popularity and icon that would go unmatched. He paved the way for all other artists, in how to live, handle themselves and transcend their status from simply a performer. Music acts come and go, but Frank Sinatra was much more. He forever play a role in our hearts and dreams as his legend lives on forever.