Biography for Frank Sinatra
Known in the 1940s as the "Voice," Frank Sinatra projected such intimacy as he sang that he had adolescent girls swooning at his feet. The mass hysteria he inspired in his early fans and his later personal notoriety did nothing to overshadow his gifts as a dramatic actor and the warmth and effortless style of his singing. Later known as the "chairman of the board," Sinatra was the consummate entertainer. The child of an Italian immigrant family, Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Inspired by the music of Bing Crosby, although unable to read music and without vocal training, he nonetheless dropped out of school when he was 16 to sing. From 1937 to 1939, Sinatra sang with the Hoboken Four at the Rustic Cabin, a roadhouse near Englewood, New Jersey, where he was also headwaiter. Trumpeter Harry James, having heard Sinatra on radio, hired him as a vocalist in mid-1939. James had just left Benny Goodman's orchestra to found his own big band. A Metronome magazine review, Sinatra's first notice, remarked on the singer's "easy phrasing." A Columbia Records executive advised bandleader Tommy Dorsey to "go listen to the skinny kid who's singing with Harry's band." Dorsey did and in 1940, hired Sinatra. Sinatra became a celebrity. By mid-1941, a Billboard survey of colleges rated him outstanding male band vocalist. Later that year, a Down Beat poll had Sinatra outranking Crosby. Songs like "I'll Never Smile Again" and "There Are Such Things" were hit recordings in the 1940s. Adolescent "bobby-soxer" girls swooned to his crooning and emaciated good-looks. Sinatra and his fans wreaked havoc wherever he performed, and Sinatra became pop music's first teen idol. When Sinatra left Dorsey in 1942, he was in constant demand as a soloist, and his voice, now overworked, began to falter. In 1943, without acting lessons, Sinatra was in his first film, Higher and Higher. By 1947, his popularity waned, although he continued to record with Columbia, where he was backed by Alex Stordahl's rich arrangements that complemented the pleasant intimacy of his baritone voice. During the 1940s, Sinatra created work that was less than memorable. Continually plagued by vocal problems and tabloid rumors linking the married Sinatra in a tempestuous affair with Ava Gardner (bandleader Artie Shaw's wife and Sinatra's future wife), he was without a manager by 1952 and had no contracts for either records or films. In 1953, Sinatra's career turned around, and with the support and connections of Gardner, he landed a small but highly coveted dramatic role in From Here to Eternity. Sinatra won an Academy Award for his supporting role as Pvt. Angelo Maggio and soon signed a contract with Capitol Records, then a fledgling, innovative record company. At Capitol, Sinatra developed what would become his "midnight crooner" image and acquired some of his biggest hits—which led him to create his own record label, Reprise. At Capitol, Sinatra created the "concept" album, where instead of the album being the final destination for unrelated singles, the songs would be combined to create a theme or setting like that on Songs for Lovers. Sinatra regained his popularity and at last was recognized for the excellence of his performance rather than for his ability to draw a frenzied audience response. Sinatra continued to make films like the musical Guys and Dolls (1955) and the controversial The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), in which he convincingly played a heroin addict. In 1960, Sinatra campaigned heavily for Democrat John F. Kennedy's presidency and maintained close ties to the Kennedy clan until rumors about his having ties to organized crime removed him from their circle. In 1962, Sinatra starred in the cold war thriller The Manchurian Candidate, which dealt, in part, with the assassination of a president. After the real life assassination of John F. Kennedy, Sinatra bought the rights to the film, and subsequently, it was shelved until the late 1980s. As a result of his being snubbed by the Kennedys, Sinatra became a staunch Republican and campaigned for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Sinatra also purchased a Las Vegas hotel and casino named The Sands, which boasted performances by himself and his pals—known as the Rat Pack—Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Peter Lawford (a Kennedy cousin). With lounge shows backed by the Count Basie orchestra (conducted by Quincy Jones), the popularity of The Sands helped to establish Las Vegas as a popular tourist destination. The late 1960s saw a decline in Sinatra's popularity as rock and roll and youth culture dictated musical taste. In 1966, perhaps in response to this new reality, Sinatra married actress Mia Farrow, who was 30 years younger than him. They were divorced in 1968. Retiring in 1971, the irrepressible Sinatra returned to television, toured and recorded in 1973, and staged serial "comeback" shows. He remarried in 1976 for the fourth and final time to former show girl (and ex-wife of Zeppo from the Marx Brothers) Barbara Marx. He regained some of his former glory in 1979, when he recorded "New York, New York" as part of the "Big Apple" campaign to fuel the economy and hometown pride in the once vibrant New York City. The song was a hit across the United States. In 1993, Sinatra recorded the Duets album, his first studio album in more than 10 years, which paired him with such diverse artists as Gloria Estéfan, Bono of U2, and fellow crooner Barbra Streisand. The following year, he recorded a sequel, Duets II, on which he was accompanied by Chrissie Hynde, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Patti LaBelle. Sinatra was the epitome of the American balladeer. He developed his own personal and much copied style after having learned about phrasing and breathing from Dorsey, picked up pointers about jazz singing from Billie Holiday, and was schooled in creative story telling by singer Mabel Mercer. Like the crooner Crosby, Sinatra turned the microphone into an ally to help him articulate the nuances of shading and volume that made his performances so winning. He died on May 14, 1998.