Monday, March 9, 2009

Frank Sinatra: An American Legend

Frank Sinatra: An American Legend
© Nancy Sinatra 1995
368 pages

Those who know me well know my fondness for Frank Sinatra -- not only his music, but his life. He was to me an inspiration when I was very much in need of being inspired. His sheer willfullness and self-confidence -- created out of nothing, but creating an icon -- helped me then, and I enjoy reading Sinatra biographies. This is not a biography in the usual sense: there is no connected narrative. His daughter Nancy simply begins with his grandparents' arrival in the United States and moves through the course of his life in a series of short entries. She refers to him variously as "Frank Sinatra", "Dad", and "FS". I assume this is to avoid potential motony. For instance:

December 2, 1948: Dad staged a return engagment on Spotlight Review.
December 1948: FS confided in Manie Sacks, his friend and mentor at Columbia Records, that so many things were going wrong that he flet like he was all washed up. Sacks replied that life is cylical, and that he was too talented not to b ounce back. 'In a few years', he said, 'You'll be on top again.'
January 1949: The Downbeat poll listed Frank Sinatra as number five among male singers -- his first rating below the top three spots since the thirties.

The entries are framed by pictures on each page, and they are presented well. Sometimes she sets off a page or a paragraph in a box to write about a particular issue, such as his changing politics and so on. Given how many biographies I've read of Sinatra, the information here was not that new to me, but the pictures were quite enjoyable and I was able to extract a few quotations. One in particular comes from an essay he submitted:


Why do innocent children still grow up to be despised? Why do haters' jokes still get big laughs when passed in whispers from scum to scum? You know the ones I mean -- the 'Some of my best friends are Jewish' crowd. As for the others, those cross-burning bigots to whom mental slavery is alive and well, I don't envy their trials in the next life. *[...]
I do claim enough street smarts to know that hatred is a disease -- a disease in the body of freedom, eating its way from the inside out, infecting those who come in contact with it, killing the dreams and hopes of millions of innocent with words, as surely as if they were bullets.
Take a minute. Consider what we are doing to each other as we rob friends and strangers of dignity as well as equality. For if we don't come to grips with the killer disease of hatred, of bigotry and racism, pretty soon we will destroy from within this blessed Nation."


Having grown up in a region with neighborhoods divided by religiosity and ethnicity, Sinatra was especially passionate about tolerance and equality. There's really not all that much to say about the book: it does provide a wealth of pictures and would give a first-timer an impression of Sinatra's life, but the information was not new to me.

2 comments:

  1. I like family bios--no one can tell things the same way a family member can. Anyway, I can see where your admiration for him comes from.

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  2. His second daughter Tina wrote a biography of him, which I read a few years ago. I think it's "My Father's Daughter". It's more of a narrative, and it's MUCH more personal...she used the book as a way to air her aggressions against Barbara Marx, Frank's last wife.

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