I never had the opportunity of meeting Frank Sinatra, variously referred to as Chairman of the Board or Ol’ Blue Eyes. Nor was I ever part of his Rat Pack – after all I was born 18 years after he was and in another part of the world. But, even if his music didn’t get to our household after the lapse of many moons, the films he acted in did. So I knew about those young blue eyes long before I really appreciated his once-in-a-lifetime voice.
It was when I settled with my family in America that I came into contact with those singers, who were at one time or another a part of a duo performing and recording with him. Indeed, I actively sought them out as soloists in their own rights to participate in the pop concerts I ran as an orchestra manager in Rochester, NY, and Miami, FL starting 40 years ago (1975-81.)
I now have the excuse, in celebrating Sinatra’s birth centenary on December the 12th, to recall some of those who partnered with him to leave to posterity some memorable songs of the 20th century. But before I cut to the chase, here are some facts that I need to lay out:
First, The Voice – Sinatra’s first album for Capitol, Songs for Young Lovers, was released on January 4, 1954, and included (my favorite) “A Foggy Day”, followed by “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “My Funny Valentine”, “Violets for Your Furs” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”: all those songs became staples of his later concerts.
In 1975, Sinatra performed in concerts in New York with Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald, and at the London Palladium with Basie and Sarah Vaughan, giving 140 performances in 105 days.
Ella and Sarah (“The Divine One” pictured alongside whom Ella called the world’s “greatest singing talent”) are the two I was able to sign up for the following two summer pops concert series at beautiful Canandaigua in upstate New York: Here’s the inimitable Sarah singing Misty
After rehearsals in Rochester I was thrilled to drive each of them in my gleaming Buick sedan (nicknamed Black Beauty) to her appointed outdoor site with the weather on each occasion cooperating for a fine voice on the line in front of large numbers of out-of-towners out for a rollicking good time.
Each diva was happy to share with me her separate experience with Sinatra in New York and London respectively. [This was not unlike my separate hosting of the world-famous operatic soprano Jessye Norman on the local WXXI in Rochester and on her concert tour of Northern New York cities, but that is another story I’ll be relating in a blog in early 2016.] Even by hindsight I am in no position to prefer Ella over Sarah: Ella (pictured alongside) and Sinatra were superb, feeding off each other in such hits as “The Lady is a Tramp
Each star was scintillating in her professional performance with my stripped-down, 55-member pop-orchestra – which did ’em proud! I wish Sinatra had been there to enjoy the show – as a bystander, not part of a duo!!
Now, The Actor – My young Delhi cohorts and I saw Here to Eternity in 1954 some months after its release worldwide in August 1953. It marked the beginning of a remarkable career revival for Sinatra. He began to bury himself in his work, with an “unparalleled frenetic schedule of recordings, movies and concerts”, in what authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan describe as “a new and brilliant phase”. Some of my friends saw it a second time, they found it so rivetingly romantic.
Sinatra was an aficionado of classical music, and would often request classical strains in his music, inspired by composers and Puccini and other Impressionist masters. His personal favorite was Ralph Vaughan Williams. Little known was the fact that he began singing professionally as a teenager, but he learned music by ear and never learned to read music.
References: Wikipedia, My Diary
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