“I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family – and I don’t think I could ask for anything more than that, actually.” ~Frank Sinatra
Music has the power to transport us to an ethereal universe. The sound of a familiar melody can either move us to tears or put a smile on our face. A song can cast a hypnotic spell over us after the first few chords. The power of music is palpable.
There is one musician who for my money, stands head and shoulders above the rest. He is the one who’s always cast a spell on me: Ol’ Blue Eyes. There’s a certain something that comes over me whenever I hear him sing. Perhaps it’s the tone of his unmistakable voice, or the impeccable phrasing he uses with every note. He produced timeless classics for 60 years, and I constantly find myself listening to my favorites over and over again.
“Throughout my career, if I have done anything, I have paid attention to every note and every word I sing…” ~Frank Sinatra
By now you know who I’m talking about. The one – the only – Francis Albert Sinatra. When I hear his voice I feel like the Bobbysoxers felt, and I swoon. Embarrassing, eh? I offer no apologies.
I grew up firmly planted in the Baby Boomer generation. I listened to many vocal groups such as The Beatles and The Who, and to singers like Carole King and Cat Stevens. I delighted in the lyrical voices of Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Judy Collins. I adored jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Paul Desmond, lost myself in the velvety voice of Mel Torme, and was wild about the greatest scat singer to ever live – the impeccable Ella Fitzgerald.
My mother brought me to my first Broadway musical when I was eight years old where my love affair with the songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe and (of course) George and Ira Gershwin was born.
My father made sure I was equally exposed to classical music. Every Sunday he tuned his stereo to WQXR and listened to classical music and opera. He would often take me to operas and ballets at Lincoln Center. My favorite was the ballet, “Who Cares,” choreographed by the great George Balanchine with songs by George Gershwin.
But Frank – well, Frank is in a class of his own. Yet sometimes I wonder if it’s only his voice that makes me weak at the knees, or if it’s something beyond that. Perhaps it’s his Hoboken-ese I identify with (my father grew up there). Or his “ring-a-ding-ding” style of living life on his own terms. It could be the quiet generosity he bestowed on loved ones, while donating generously to hundreds of charities. I deeply respected him for the active support he showed against racism in the short film The House I Live In.
“Frank Sinatra’s voice is pop music history. [...] Like Presley and Dylan – the only other white male American singers since 1940 whose popularity, influence, and mythic force have been comparable – Sinatra will last indefinitely.” ~Stephen Holden, 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide
I love the fact that each new generation rediscovers Frank. Young people are finding out what I, and the generation before me, have known all along: Frank Sinatra is cool. He personifies what, and how, we all want to be. That is, to live on our own terms.
“Elton John stated that Sinatra, ‘was simply the best – no one else even comes close.’” ~Wikipedia, Frank Sinatra
He was born with many gifts, never abusing or neglecting them. He quietly paid it forward, never announcing his generosity. He believed in love of family, friends and country. He railed against discrimination and all forms of abuse. Through it all, his voice – oh, his magical voice – remained a constant in our lives.
I guess, in a way, he was one of my mentors. In my Second Chapter I hope I can be as cool as he was while living life on his own terms. The Chairman of the Board taught me a lot about life, and I didn’t even know it.
On this Valentine’s Day, I want to thank you with love, Mr. Sinatra, for sharing your extraordinary gifts with us. I’m sure you’re lighting up the heavens by collaborating with the Gershwins, dancing with Gene, and singing with Dean and Sammy. The Angels surely are a lucky audience.
P.S. As an added bonus, the greatest blessing in my life – my son – shares Frank’s birthday, December 12. As my brother exclaimed when he walked into my hospital room, “I just saw the Little Chairman of the Board.” A double blessing, indeed.
Cathy Chester blogs at www.anempoweredspirit.com