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As we inch towards the year 2000, we look back to the pre-dominant individuals of the 20th century. Time magazine voted Frank Sinatra as the world s most influential vocalist of the 20th century. Frank Sinatra not only excelled but transcended music and became a true personality of our time. Whether you re talking about recorded music, live performances, movies or simply living large, Frank Sinatra has done that all. He has become an international figure, having the reputation as a celebrity, icon, bad boy and the greatest singer of American popular songs. He is known as being America s first teen idol and also as a true American Legend. You may all know the name “Frank Sinatra” but you may all not know why Frank Sinatra is a cultural icon. After reading the book “Sinatra:Behind the Legend” by Randy Tarabelli, I learned a lot about this American legend.
Francis Albert Sinatra was born on Dec.12th,1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. His parents were Italian immigrants and he grew up poor in the streets of Hoboken. Those tough early years made him all the more determined to work hard and make something of his life. He was a very ambitious person. Since he was a little boy he loved to sing. In his teen years he attended a Bing Crosby concert and that is when he decided that he too would become a singer. At the age of 19 the first break of his musical career came on when he sang with a band called the Hoboken Four. After that taste of success he knew he had to be a solo singer and make it on his own.
During the late 30 s he played poorly paid gigs in musty, little dives having the title as the world s greatest saloon singer. When he was working in a little nightclub in New Jersey he was discovered by the well known trumpeter Harry James. James loved Sinatra s voice and told him he needed a boy singer for his band and Sinatra jumped at the chance. Sinatra s success with Harry James made him become noticed by the Tommy Dorsey band who were a very popular swing band of the 30 s. This led him to quit performing with Harry James and join the Tommy Dorsey band. While he was working with Tommy Dorsey Sinatra learned his phrasing and intonation from listening to Dorsey play.
In 1942 he decided to go solo and found the fame as the king of the bobbysoxers, which were the young women and girls who were his fans. He became America s first teen idol. He was the only singer that sang the most smooth, straightforward ballads. And he credited jazz singer Billie Holliday as a major influence on his vocal style.
He had a lot of charisma which attracted all the famous movie actresses to him. He had love affairs with every movie actress during that time. In the 50 s he had affairs with movie stars such as Judy Garland, Marylin Monroe, and Ava Gardner. He and Ava Gardner were married for a few years but it later ended in divorce. Ava was the love of his life and after she left him he had lost his voice and tried to commit suicide which made his career go downhill.
He then decided that he should try to star in movies. His film career was going well and even though he was never trained to be an actor he was best at playing parts that mirrored his own personality. In the early 50 s the first movie he played in was “From Here to Eternity”. He won an Oscar for the role he played and his career was assured from then on. He then played in more films such as “The Man with the Golden Arm”, “Suddenly” and the “Manchurian Candidate”. While he was acting in movies he always felt that he wasn t born to be an actor. He was born to be a singer.
In the 60 s he became the leader of a group called the Rat Pack. This included other famous vocalists like Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. Together they would go everywhere and perform in casinos all around Las Vegas. Each show they performed at would automatically sell out.
In the mid 60 s Sinatra started his own record label called Reprise records and then began singing on that. He then recorded the songs that the world loved the most which were “Strangers in the Night”, “It was a Very Good Year” and “New York, New York.” This is when he was making the most money and was at the prime of his career. He played in more movies and won more awards for them. He then married actress Mia Farrow which ended in divorce a year and a half later.
In the early 70 s at the age of 55, he felt that he was becoming too old and decided to retire from his singing career. He then sang at the White House for President Richard Nixon and Nixon told him he should continue with his singing career because he had such an excellent voice. So Sinatra began singing again.
He kept on singing into his late 70 s, well after the point that his voice had lost its luster. He retired in 1995 after experiencing memory lapses during his performances. In the last years of his life, he settled into a quiet, comfortable role as a living legend, a forbidding king who lived in his palace and that only occasionally descended below to mingle among his subjects, usually to accept some award or tribute. Unfortunately his career as a performer was over.
His career totalled around 1,800 recordings, 61 film credits, 2 Oscars and 9 Grammy awards. Even at the age of 80, Frank Sinatra was still considered as “The Voice” he was still “The Man”. Last year on May 14, he died of a heart attack. But he will always be considered as a truly larger than life figure. He is a true American legend.
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