Obit of the Day (Historical): Frank Sinatra (1998)
On May 14, 1998, Frank Sinatra, who was named by BBC Radio as the “Greatest Voice of the Twentieth Century,” died at the age of 82. “Ol’ Blue Eyes” was one of the greatest performers in history earning three separate stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording, film, and television.
The 13-time Grammy Award-winner, Mr. Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on December 12, 1915. As a teenager he dropped out of school to become a singer after seeing a performance by Bing Crosby. He would get his big break in 1940 when Tommy Dorsey hired him as the lead singer for his big band.
Sinatra hit his peak after leaving Dorsey’s band charting 17 top-10 hits between 1943 and 1946.
His career began to falter in the 1950s but he earned renewed respect with his Academy Award-winning performance in From Here to Eternity as Private Angela Maggio. He would earn another Oscar nod in 1955 for his performance in The Man with the Golden Arm.
Back on top again in the 1960s and known as much for his association with “The Rat Pack” (Sammy Davis, Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop), Sinatra would receive critical praise to accompany his decades of popularity
In 1966 he would win Grammys for Album of the Year (September of My Years) and Best Male Vocal Performance (“It Was a Very Good Year”) as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. The next year he would win three more for Record of the Year (“Strangers in the Night”), Best Male Vocal Performance (Strangers in the Night), and Album of the Year (The Man and His Music).
Sinatra had taken a strong interest in politics campaigning for John F. Kennedy in 1960. JFK’s campaign song, “High Hopes” was even sung by Mr. Sinatra. Their relationship ended after President Kennedy would not visit while Frank was hosting Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana.
In 1985, Sinatra was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan. Twelve years later he was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal.
A couple of other random facts:
* Mr. Sinatra was married fourth times. His third marriage took place in 1966 when he married Mia Farrow - she was 21 and he was 51. His final marriage was to Barbara Blakely Marx, who was the widow of Zeppo Marx of the Marx Brothers.
* There is an asteroid named for him: 7934 Sinatra
* The character on Johnny Fontane in The Godfather was modeled on Sinatra.
* Of Sinatra’s 13 Grammys nine of them were won after he turned 50. He won his last in 1996 at the age of 81 for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance on Duets II.
* Sinatra had three children: Nancy, Frank, Jr., and Tina. Frank and Nancy became the first father and daughter to each have a number one single. In 1966 Nancy hit #1 with “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” and a few months later Frank topped the charts with “Strangers in the Night.” The next year they recorded the only father-daughter duet to reach number one, “Somethin’ Stupid.”*.
* His was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 1998, released to mark the 10th anniversary of his death. The post office in Hoboken, NJ is named for him.
* His last words after his wife kept encouraging him to fight for his life were “Im losing.”
* He is buried in Desert Memorial Park next to his parents. He was their only child.
(“My Way” and Nothing But the Best are copyright of Frank Sinatra Enterprises, 2008)
* The 1991 version of “Unforgettable” with Natalie Cole and Nat King Cole may be the second but because of its unusual format - Mr. Cole was dead - it may be a special case