My favorite sound in the world is a baritone in song & my favorite baritone voice of all time belongs to Francis Albert Sinatra, who was born on this very day, 97 years ago.
I understand that he was a lout & a bit of a thug, but no matter what he was like as a human being, I find his pitch, cadence, phrasing & musicality to be the best of all time.
I stand by my choice of his 1967 collaborative album- FRANCIS ALBERT SINATRA & ANTONIO CARLOS JOBIM to be a perfect album, in a league with DUSTY IN MEMPHIS, REVOLVER & REMAIN IN LIGHT. I am willing to put his Columbia “concept” albums with the Nelson Riddle arrangements: IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS, SONGS FOR SWINGIN’ LOVERS, COME FLY WITH ME, ONLY THE LONELY, & NICE N’ EASY close the same category.
I found Sinatra to be a talented & a nimble dancer, even holding his own with Gene Kelly. He was an underestimated actor & screen presence, winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here To Eternity, a nomination for Best Actor for The Man With The Golden Arm, & critical acclaim for his work in The Manchurian Candidate. I still find his work to be engaging in the musicals as High Society, Pal Joey, Guys & Dolls, & On The Town.
I was living in LA in the early 1970s & I was fortunate enough to be an acquaintance of actress/singer Betty Garrett. She once told me that because of their past brief affiliations with the Communist Party, thanks to her husband’s involvement with people from the Group Theatre, Garrett & her husband, Larry Parks, became embroiled with the House Un-American Activities Committee, although only Parks was forced to testify. While Parks willingly admitted he had been a member of the party, he had refused to name others, although it was widely assumed that he had, & he found himself on the Hollywood blacklist.
Garrett also had trouble finding work, although as the mother of 2 young sons, she did not mind being unemployed as much as Parks did. Garrett related to me that the only person that would see them socially in Hollywood was Frank Sinatra, who defied Hollywood convention & was open in his support of the couple with friendship & money.
He was a favorite of my parental units, & after listening to his recordings for the past 50+ years, I am still moved when I listen to that wondrous voice. I consider about how well he treated The Parks & his outrage at the racism faced by Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr. & other black entertainers. When I think about his difficult personality, I frame my feelings with Sinatra’s own words: "Being an 18-karat manic-depressive, & having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation.”
He recorded & toured well into his 70s, after a series of announcements of his retirement & farewell concerts. Sinatra died at 82 years old in 1998.
Sinatra's last words: “I’m losing…”. Not a phrase he needed much while he was working in show biz.