There have been a couple of books about Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) published over the years. Well, more than a couple. Type his name into Amazon’s database, and you will come up with an astonishing 4,860 available titles. What more could possibly remain to be said about him? In Frank: The Voice author James Kaplan begins by presenting a side of Sinatra that is too often ignored. Namely, that the man was a musical genius.
He often referred to himself as nothing more than a “saloon singer.” How hilarious. Sinatra was many things, but humble? Please. As a life-long fan, I have often wondered what exactly made Frank Sinatra’s music so special. As it turns out, it was good old-fashioned hard work. He had a fantastic voice, without question. But he would read through the lyrics, word by word, to inhabit them. It was the type of dedication that someone like Horowitz brought to the piano, or Segovia to his guitar. The fact that Frank made it look so effortless was especially impressive, considering just how seriously he took his work.
I found the descriptions of Sinatra’s process fascinating. Despite his recognition as perhaps the greatest singer of the twentieth century, so many other books barely acknowledge it. And when his music is discussed, it is almost always about his collaborations with Nelson Riddle on Capitol or his later Reprise/Warner Bros. recordings. As fantastic as that material is, the fact is that it was all recorded after he had reached the magic age of 40.
In contrast, the narrative of the new 786-page book Frank: The Voice ends in 1954, when he was just 38 years old. The climactic event was his winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Maggio in From Here To Eternity (1953).