Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sinatra: The Life, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

Sinatra: The Life, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

The last two books I’ve read both had Sinatra as a character. The first depicted Frank as so connected to the mob he could order a hit on a high school student for simply implying Sinatra donated money to Julliard. (Did I mention this was a pretty stupid book?) The second referred to Frank as The Voice; the author’s father was a disc jockey and when he abandoned his family the kid used Sinatra as a surrogate voice on the radio. In any case, after reading about Old Blue Eyes in two books in a row I decided to do a bit more research on him.

I read the Kitty Kelley book back in high school but don’t really remember much about it so I hit the library to see what they had. Not surprisingly there were a bunch of choices, so I picked the latest one. It was really interesting, concentrating on Sinatra’s various relationships with friends and lovers and his mafia connections. With the benefit of more recent memoirs (and legal testimony) and the fact that many of the then-players are deceased, more and more facts are coming to light about what has long been only rumored. The old adage says where there is smoke there is fire, and it appears that it is true here: Sinatra was as mobbed-up as his detractors have always maintained. Sam Giancana and Lucky Luciano are two of the best known mafiosos, but far from the only ones with whom he was friendly. His addiction to Ava Gardner is also well documented, but I’d always heard that Sinatra and George C. Scott had a feud of sorts over Ava (I believe Scott abused her and Sinatra tried to stop him) but there was nothing of that here.

Of course, you can’t talk about Sinatra without discussing music. The Frank revealed here is a man with a passion for crafting beautiful harmonies. I love his work with Riddle but it was hard to just read about it and get any real appreciation for his talent. (I found myself listening to a lot of Frank while reading this—A Swingin’ Affair! is by far my favorite album, every track is a solid winner.) Some of the stories around the songs were interesting, though; for instance New York, New York and My Way are two of his signature songs, but he didn’t actually like either one. Luckily for us, he decided to record them anyway!

First Sentence:
March 18, 1939. In a studio on West 46th Street in New York City, a band was playing Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

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