Frank Sinatra

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Sinatra, Frank

Sinatra, Frank (Francis Albert Sinatra), 1915–98, American singer and actor, b. Hoboken, N.J. During the late 1930s and early 40s he sang with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey bands, causing teenage girls to shriek and swoon over his romantic, seemingly casual renditions of such songs as “I'll Never Smile Again” and “This Love of Mine.” During his long career he became one of the most successful pop music figures of the century, widely respected as a “singer's singer” for his richly detailed readings of lyrics and his versatile and nuanced musical style. Sinatra's sophisticated musicianship was evident in his many recordings. He had a long-lived and successful movie career, appearing in 58 films including On the Town (1949), From Here to Eternity (1953, Academy Award), Guys and Dolls (1955), Pal Joey (1957), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and The Detective (1968). He also directed and produced several films. Sinatra retired from show business in 1971 but returned in several concert tours.


See A. I. Lonstein and V. R. Marino, The Revised Compleat Sinatra (1980) and R. Peters, The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook (1982); K. Kelley, His Way (1986) and J. Kaplan, Frank: The Voice (2010) and Sinatra: The Chairman (2015); W. Friedwald, Sinatra! The Song Is You (1995), S. Petkov and L. Mustazza, ed., The Frank Sinatra Reader (1995), P. Hamill, Why Sinatra Matters (1998), and T. Santopietro, Sinatra in Hollywood (2008).

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Sinatra, (Francis Albert) Frank

(1915–  ) singer, movie actor; born in Hoboken, N.J. As a teenager, he organized a singing group, the Hoboken Four, which won first prize on the Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. Following graduation from the Drake Institute, he spent several years singing in New Jersey roadhouses before finding work in the late 1930s as a radio studio singer in New York City. In 1939, while performing at a club in New Jersey, he was heard by Harry James, who signed him to appear with his new swing band. After touring with James in 1939, he rose to prominence with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra (1940–42). Breaking away from Dorsey, in 1943 he began working as a single and serving as emcee on the popular radio program, Lucky Strike Hit Parade. He quickly emerged as one of the earliest and most adulated teen idols—the hysteria he engendered in his "bobby-soxer" fans culminated in rioting at the Paramount Theatre in New York on Columbus Day, 1944. He remained a popular radio star throughout the 1940s and recorded numerous hits for Columbia Records between 1943 and 1952, but becoming unhappy with conditions there he moved to Capitol Records (1953–62). His recordings during this period came to epitomize American popular singing at its finest, with a style that maintained fidelity to a song's lyric and mood while imbuing it with subtle elements of jazz beat and phrasing. In 1960 he was a cofounder of Reprise Records, which he recorded for exclusively after 1963. He also had a successful career as a movie actor, beginning as a straight actor in Higher and Higher (1943); throughout the 1950s and 1960s he played dramatic roles that brought him considerable acclaim, including From Here to Eternity (1953), for which he received an Academy Award as best supporting actor. This work brought him into the Hollywood community, where he became a member of the "Rat Pack," a group that included his occasional concert partners, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. During these years he also had highly publicized marriages to movie stars Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow. Regular appearances at Las Vegas and such locales, the lifestyle that inevitably went with such a celebrity (bodyguards, hangers-on), a temperament that involved him in occasional fights, fabulous wealth, and various business ventures—all this added up in some people's minds to alleged involvement with the underworld, but nothing beyond personal acquaintances was ever proven. In practice he was most generous in his gifts to both individuals and organizations, and his overall status in the entertainment industry earned him the title "Chairman of the Board." He announced his retirement in 1971 but he returned for various concerts and tours in the next two decades. Among the many testaments to his special status as a pop superstar was his 1980 recording of "New York, New York," which made him the only singer in history to have hit records in five consecutive decades.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.