Frank Sinatra was the most influential popular singer of the 20th century – not just because of a six-decade career of big hit records, but because his taste in music and the longevity of his success helped shape and expand the American Songbook. Not all icons survive death: I think of Leonard Bernstein or Bob Fosse, both at their passing the most celebrated practitioners in their respective fields, or Bing Crosby, the biggest selling recording artist of all time at the time he left us, and these days little more than a guy who gets played on the holiday channels in the month before Christmas. Either because of inept stewardship of the legacy, or a reputation that depended on live presence to maintain the conceit, or a combination of both, even the most dominant pop culture celebrity can dwindle away to the point where a decade later on no-one can quite recall what all the fuss was about. With Frank Sinatra, the opposite seems to have happened. When the gravelly old bruiser of the global stadium tours finally expired in 1998, it made it easier for a younger generation to see the man in his prime: the best singer of the best songs by the best writers in the best arrangements. Just about everything short of his morning mouthwash gargles has been excavated, digitally remastered and released on CD. And, if that’s not enough, younger fellows like Michael Bublé and Robbie Williams can build huge careers on what are essentially karaoke performances of Sinatra staples, relying on the sheer power of his charts for “Come Fly With Me”, “For Once In My Life”, “One For My Baby” to deflect just enough retro-cool their way.
Pundette has the Sinatra Centenary blog.
I’m a sometimes-fan of Sinatra. Not all songs, not all the time, mostly because I still remember “the gravelly old bruiser of the global stadium tours” all to well. It is, however, wonderful to read Stein’s articles and listen to Pundette’s selections of decades of Sinatra at his best.
This morning this YouTube popped up on my Facebook feed. Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim performing a bossa nova medley, 1967: Quiet Night of Quiet Stars (also known as Corcovado), Change Partners, I Concentrate on You, and the Girl From Ipanema.
Thousands of swimsuit clad, tall, long haired brunettes in every beach town in the world sauntered to that song in 1967, myself included. Unfortunately, the song was so successful that it became elevator music. If Jobim’s estate (he died in 1994) still gets royalties, his heirs are doing very well indeed just from that song alone.
That aside, look at the video: Two manly men of the world in tuxedos and black tie, poised, at ease, doing what they did best, in synchrony, singing in the same key, interpreting the old and the new: two songs for which Jobim wrote the music bracket an Irving Berlin and a Cole Porter song.
Exciting and relaxing at the same time.
Smooth, perfectly executed.
An exquisitely civilizing moment.
Visit Steyn and Pundette for more Sinatra (UPDATE: and The Camp of the Saints). For more Jobim, I recommend Ella Abraca Jobim, and the excellent film Black Orpheus, for which Jobim wrote the soundtrack.
Linked to by Pundette. Thank you!
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.