Basking in Sinatra's World
DEAN MARTIN once said, "It's Frank's world, we just live in it." Ten years after his death, the tributes are still coming in. Last week, the Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.
DEAN MARTIN once said, "It's Frank's world, we just live in it."
Ten years after his death, the tributes are still coming in. Last week, the Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.
Sinatra on a stamp - it's like Madonna on Metamucil.
The stamps, the tributes, all show that Sinatra was more than just a singer. He was a star, one of the most recognized faces of his time. Google "Frank Sinatra" and you get more than 16 million hits, more than you get for "George W. Bush."
Sinatra the citizen was a social activist at a time when people really believed singers should shut up and sing.
Often wrong, but never in doubt, Sinatra believed that he had a right to his opinions and he was going to use the megaphone that fame gave him to tell people what he thought.
Philadelphia has a special connection with Sinatra. He performed here and in Atlantic City hundreds of times.
I was fortunate enough to see him in concert at the Spectrum. For more than an hour, he stood center stage, doing what he did best - sing. Toward the end, he did a song that surprised everyone - "Ol' Man River."
He hadn't sung it in many years, and most people thought he couldn't sing it any longer. The song had special meaning for him since legend has it that Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM, heard him sing it at a Hollywood party and immediately signed him to a movie contract on the theory that if a skinny Italian-American kid from Hoboken, N.J., could sing a song about a robust downtrodden African-American from the South as well as that, he must be a great actor.
Sinatra didn't disappoint Mayer - or the audience on that night at the Spectrum, hitting every note of a difficult song with his usual blend of power and vulnerability.
Absent issuing your own stamp in tribute, I suggest you turn off the cell phone, shut down the laptop, pour yourself a favorite beverage and sit down to listen to one of his albums.
Not some random selection of Sinatra "hits," but a real album, meant to be experienced from beginning to end. One of the "concept" albums from the '50s like "Only the Lonely." You'll hear a man wonder where his Angel Eyes has gotten to, sing the blues in the night and hang his tears out to dry.
You'll enter a world where the time is always 2:45 in the morning, where the music is always easy and sad, where a man could tell you a lot if he didn't have this code he lived by, a man who is a kind of a poet who knows you don't have a lot of time to listen, but who has to tell you his story or explode - yes, that's it - a man who sings like he has to sing you this song, tell you this story, or he'll explode.
Enter the world of Frank Sinatra. *
Armen Pandola is an award-winning playwright who lives in Philadelphia. E-mail him at email@example.com.