Tuesday, April 5, 2016


David Lehman's tribute to what would have been Sinatra's 100th birthday last year, is a genuine fan's offering. I was born into Sinatra's world at the beginning of World War Two when he was known as "The Voice" in his first period of mass adulation (by then teenage girls). And growing up not far from where he came from, seeing his ambition and talent transcend his origins, he was a beacon of not just ambition realized (by honing your talent and persevering), but of being true to the people and place you came from despite how far you went.

I was fortunate enough, in an interview years ago on NPR, to have interviewer Michael Silverblatt compare my poetry and life favorably to Sinatra's. Made not just my day but my decade. I didn't like some things about Sinatra, especially his late conversion to rightwing Republicanism (a la Reagan) a move made mostly in reaction to being snubbed by JFK who Sinatra arguably helped get elected. But I still loved the man's musical genius, Jersey authenticity and cool fashion sense.

Lehman's book consists of, as the subtitle says, "One Hundred Notes On The Man And His World." That includes concise but deep analyzes of Sinatra's vocal techniques and the seminal musical innovations he came up with that impacted popular music then and still. As well as biographical insights into his personality and persona.

All I can say is, if you are a fan of Sinatra's singing, like I am, you'll love this book. The hundred notes are mostly no more than a page or two, and in some instances only a paragraph, sometimes a very short one, like note number 52:

"After Sinatra died, I overheard someone say scornfully that he was overrated: 'Without his voice he would have been nothing.' There must be a rhetorical term for such a statement."

[PS: If SINATRA'S CENTURY whets your appetite for more, the second volume of James Kaplan's biography: SINATRA: The Chairman (the first was FRANK: The Voice) also came out last year and is twice or more as thick a tome as SINATRA'S CENTURY, with much more minute detail on the events in Sinatra's life, but not as insightful about Sinatra's talent and the ways he cultivated it and expressed it throughout the many phases of his life and career.]


tpw said...

Dear M: Thanks for this. I loved David's book---I even stretched out the reading of it to prolong the pleasure---and I'm not an especially big fan of Ol' Blue Eyes. But the writing is so good, the stories so enticing, that it felt like a complete biography to me.

BTW: I am not a robot.

Lally said...

wait, you're not a robot?