Frank Sinatra began his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. He later became a successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, as a bobby-soxer idol. By the 1950s, his professional career had stalled. It was rejuvenated in 1954 after Sinatra won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his role in From Here To Eternity.
He signed with Capitol Records and released several critically lauded albums (such as In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers, Come Fly with Me, Only the Lonely and Nice ‘n’ Easy). Sinatra left Capitol to found his own record label, Reprise Records (finding success with albums such as Ring-A-Ding-Ding, Sinatra at the Sands and Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim), toured internationally, was a founding member of the Rat Pack and fraternized with celebrities and presidents, including President John F. Kennedy. Sinatra turned 50 in 1965, recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and scored hits with “Strangers in the Night” and “My Way”.
Sinatra attempted to weather the changing tastes in popular music, but with sales of his music dwindling, and after appearing in several poorly received films, he retired in 1971. Coming out of retirement in 1973, he recorded several albums; scored a Top 40 hit with “(Theme From) New York, New York” in 1980; and toured both within the United States and internationally until a few years before his death in 1998.
Sinatra also forged a career as an actor, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in From Here to Eternity, and he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for The Man with the Golden Arm. He also starred in such musicals as High Society, Pal Joey, Guys and Dolls and On the Town. Sinatra was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey as the only child of Italian immigrants Natalie Della (née Garaventa) and Antonio Martino Sinatra. He left high school without graduating, having attended only 47 days before being expelled because of his rowdy conduct. His mother, known as Dolly, was influential in the neighborhood and in local Democratic Party circles, but also ran an illegal abortion business from her home; she was arrested several times and convicted twice for this offense. Frank was arrested for carrying on with a married woman, a criminal offense at the time. Frank’s father Tony served with the Hoboken Fire Department. During the tough years of the 1930s, when the Great Depression hit North America, Dolly nevertheless provided ready pocket money to Frank for outings with friends and fancy clothes. Frank then worked for some time as a delivery boy at the Jersey Observer newspaper, and as a riveter at the Tietjan and Lang shipyard. It was in the early 1930s that Sinatra began singing in public.
1935–40: Start of career, work with James and Dorsey
Sinatra got his first break in 1935 when his mother persuaded a local singing group, The Three Flashes, to let him join. With Sinatra, the group became known as the Hoboken Four, and they sufficiently impressed Edward Bowes. After appearing on his show, Major Bowes Amateur Hour, they attracted 40,000 votes and won the first prize — a six month contract to perform on stage and radio across the United States.
Sinatra left the Hoboken 4 and returned home in late 1935. His mother secured him a job as a singing waiter and MC at the Rustic Cabin in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, for which he was paid $15 a week.
On March 18, 1939, Sinatra made a demo recording of a song called “Our Love”, with the Frank Mane band. The record has “Frank Sinatra” signed on the front. The bandleader kept the original record in a safe for nearly 60 years. In June, Harry James hired Sinatra on a one year contract of $75 a week. It was with the James band that Sinatra released his first commercial record “From the Bottom of My Heart” in July, 1939 – US Brunswick #8443 and UK Columbia #DB2150.
Fewer than 8,000 copies of “From the Bottom of My Heart” (Brunswick #8443) were sold, making the record a very rare find that is sought after by record collectors worldwide. Sinatra released ten commercial tracks with James through 1939, including “All or Nothing At All” which had weak sales on its initial release but then sold millions of copies when re-released by Columbia at the height of Sinatra’s popularity a few years later.
In November 1939, in a meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago, Sinatra was asked by bandleader Tommy Dorsey to join his band as a replacement for Jack Leonard, who had recently left to launch a solo career. This meeting was a turning point in Sinatra’s career, since by signing with Dorsey’s band, one of the hottest bands at the time, he got greatly increased visibility with the American public. Though Sinatra was still under contract with James, James recognized the opportunity Dorsey offered and graciously released Sinatra from his contract. Sinatra recognized his debt to James throughout his life and upon hearing of James’s death in 1983, stated: “he [James] is the one that made it all possible.”
On January 26, 1940, Sinatra made his first public appearance with the Dorsey band at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, IL. In his first year with Dorsey, Sinatra released more than forty songs, with “I’ll Never Smile Again” topping the charts for twelve weeks beginning in mid-July.
Sinatra’s relationship with Tommy Dorsey was troubled, because of their contract, which awarded Dorsey ⅓ of Sinatra’s lifetime earnings in the entertainment industry. In January 1942, Sinatra recorded his first solo sessions without the Dorsey band (but with Dorsey’s arranger Axel Stordahl and with Dorsey’s approval). These sessions were released commercially on the Bluebird label. Sinatra left the Dorsey band late in 1942 in an incident that started rumors of Sinatra’s involvement with the Mafia. A story appeared in the Hearst newspapers that mobster Sam Giancana coerced Dorsey to let Sinatra out of his contract for a few thousand dollars. This story was famously fictionalized in the movie The Godfather. According to Nancy Sinatra’s biography, the Hearst rumors were started because of Frank’s Democratic politics. In fact, the contract was bought out by MCA founder Jules Stein for $75,000.
1940–50: and decline of career
In May 1941, Sinatra was at the top of the male singer polls in the Billboard and Down Beat magazines.
His appeal to bobby soxers, as teenage girls of that time were called, revealed a whole new audience for popular music, which had been recorded mainly for adults up to that time.
On December 31, 1942, Sinatra opened at the Paramount Theater in New York.
Sinatra being interviewed for American Forces Network during World War II.
During the musicians’ strike of 1942–44, Columbia re-released Harry James and Sinatra’s version of “All or Nothing at All” (music by Arthur Altman and lyrics by Jack Lawrence), recorded in August 1939 and released before Sinatra had made a name for himself. The original release didn’t even mention the vocalist’s name. When the recording was re–released in 1943 with Sinatra’s name prominently displayed, the record was on the best–selling list for 18 weeks and reached number 2 on June 2, 1943.
Sinatra signed with Columbia on June 1, 1943 as a solo artist, and he had initially great success, particularly during the 1942-43 musicians’ strike. And while no new records had been issued during the strike, he had been performing on the radio (on Your Hit Parade), and on stage. Columbia wanted to get new recordings of their growing star as fast as possible, so Sinatra convinced them to hire Alec Wilder as arranger and conductor for several sessions with a vocal group called the Bobby Tucker Singers. These first sessions were on June 7, June 22, August 5, and November 10, 1943. Of the nine songs recorded during these sessions, seven charted on the best–selling list.
Sinatra did not serve in the military during World War II. On December 11, 1943, he was classified 4-F (“Registrant not acceptable for military service”) for a perforated eardrum by his draft board. Additionally, an FBI report on Sinatra, released in 1998, showed that the doctors had also written that he was a “neurotic” and “not acceptable material from a psychiatric standpoint.” This was omitted from his record to avoid “undue unpleasantness for both the selectee and the induction service.” Active-duty servicemen, like William Manchester, said of Sinatra, “I think Frank Sinatra was the most hated man of World War II, much more than Hitler,” because Sinatra was back home making all of that money and being shown in photographs surrounded by beautiful women. His deferment would resurface throughout his life and cause him grief when he had to defend himself. There were accusations, including some from noted columnist Walter Winchell, that Sinatra paid $40,000 to avoid the service — but the FBI could find no evidence of this.
When Sinatra returned to the Paramount Theater in October 1944, 35,000 fans caused a near riot outside the venue because they were not allowed in.
In 1945, Sinatra co-starred with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh. That same year, he was loaned out to RKO to star in a short film titled The House I Live In. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, this film on tolerance and racial equality earned a special Academy Award shared among Sinatra and those who brought the film to the screen, along with a special Golden Globe for “Promoting Good Will.” 1946 saw the release of his first album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, and the debut of his own weekly radio show.
By the end of 1948, Sinatra felt that his career was stalling, something that was confirmed when he slipped to No. 4 on Down Beat’s annual poll of most popular singers (following Billy Eckstine, Frankie Laine, and Bing Crosby).
The year 1949 saw an upswing, as Frank co-starred with Gene Kelly in Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It was well received critically and became a major commercial success. That same year, Sinatra teamed up with Kelly for a third time in On the Town.
1950–60: Rebirth of career, Capitol concept albums
After two years’ absence, Sinatra returned to the concert stage on January 12, 1950, in Hartford, Connecticut. His voice suffered and he experienced hemorrhaging of his vocal cords on stage at the Copacabana on April 26, 1950. Sinatra’s career and appeal to new teen audiences declined as he moved into his mid-30s.
In September 1951, Sinatra made his Las Vegas debut at the Desert Inn. A month later, a second series of the Frank Sinatra Show aired on CBS.
Columbia and MCA dropped him in 1952.
The rebirth of Sinatra’s career began with the eve-of-Pearl Harbor drama From Here to Eternity (1953), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This role and performance marked a turnaround in Sinatra’s career: after a critical and commercial decline for several years, he became an Oscar-winning actor and, once again, one of the top recording artists in the world.
Also in 1953, Sinatra starred in the NBC radio program Rocky Fortune. His character, Rocko Fortunato (aka Rocky Fortune) was a private eye who was placed in a variety of odd jobs by the Gridley Employment Agency to solve crimes. The series aired on NBC radio Tuesday nights from October 1953 to March 1954. During the final months of the show, just before the 1954 Oscars, it became a running gag that Sinatra would manage to work the phrase “from here to eternity” into each episode, a reference to his Oscar-nominated performance.
In 1953, Sinatra signed with Capitol Records, where he worked with many of the finest musical arrangers of the era, most notably Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, and Billy May. Sinatra reinvented himself with a series of albums featuring darker emotional material, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955) — Sinatra’s first 12″ LP and his second collaboration with Nelson Riddle — Where Are You? (1957) and Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely (1958). He also incorporated a hipper, “swinging” persona, as heard on Swing Easy! (1954), Songs For Swingin’ Lovers (1956), and Come Fly With Me (1957).
By the end of the year, Billboard named “Young at Heart” Song of the Year, Swing Easy! with Nelson Riddle at the helm, (his second album for Capitol) was named Album of the Year and Sinatra was named “Top Male Vocalist” by Billboard, Down Beat and Metronome.
A third collaboration with Nelson Riddle, Songs For Swingin’ Lovers, was a success, featuring a recording of “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”.
Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, a stark collection of introspective saloon songs and blues-tinged ballads, was a mammoth commercial success, peaking at #1 on Billboard’s album chart during a 120-week stay. Cuts from this LP, such as “Angel Eyes” and “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road),” would remain staples of Sinatra’s concerts throughout his life.
Through the late fifties, Sinatra frequently criticized rock music, much of it being his reaction to rhythms and attitudes he found alien. In 1958 he lambasted it as “sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons. It manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth.”
1960–70: Ring-A-Ding-Ding, Reprise records, Basie, Jobim, “My Way”
Sinatra started the 1960s as he ended the 1950s. His first album of the decade, Nice ‘n’ Easy, topped Billboard’s chart and won critical plaudits. Sinatra grew discontented at Capitol and decided to form his own label, Reprise Records. His first album on the label, Ring-A-Ding-Ding (1961), was a major success peaking at #4 on Billboard and #8 in the UK.
His fourth and final Timex special was broadcast in March 1960 and secured massive viewing figures. Titled It’s Nice to Go Travelling, the show is more commonly known as Welcome Home Elvis. Elvis Presley’s appearance after his army discharge was somewhat ironic; Sinatra had been scathing about him in the mid fifties, saying: “His kind of music is deplorable, a rancid smelling aphrodisiac. It fosters almost totally negative and destructive reactions in young people.” Presley had responded: “… [Sinatra] is a great success and a fine actor, but I think he shouldn’t have said it… [rock and roll] is a trend, just the same as he faced when he started years ago.” Later, in efforts to maintain his commercial viability, Sinatra recorded Presley’s hit “Love Me Tender” as well as works by Paul Simon (“Mrs. Robinson”), The Beatles (“Something,” “Yesterday”), and Joni Mitchell (“Both Sides Now”).
Following on the heels of the film Can Can was Ocean’s 11, the movie that became the definitive on-screen outing for “The Rat Pack”.
On January 27, 1961, Sinatra played a benefit show at Carnegie Hall for Martin Luther King, Jr.. He played a major role in the desegregation of Nevada hotels and casinos in the 1960s. Sinatra led his fellow members of the Rat Pack and label-mates on Reprise in refusing to patronize hotels and casinos that wouldn’t allow black singers to play or wouldn’t allow black patrons entry. He would often speak from the stage on desegregation. He played more benefits for King. According to Frank Sinatra, Jr., at one point during a show in 1963 sat weeping as Sinatra sang Ol’ Man River, the song from the musical Show Boat that, in the show, is sung by an African-American stevedore.
Over September 11 and 12, 1961, Sinatra recorded his final songs for Capitol.
In 1962, along with Janet Leigh and Laurence Harvey, he starred in the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate as Bennett Marco. That same year, Sinatra and Count Basie collaborated for the album Sinatra-Basie. This popular and successful release prompted them to rejoin two years later for a follow-up It Might as Well Be Swing, which was arranged by Quincy Jones. One of Sinatra’s more ambitious albums from the mid-1960s, The Concert Sinatra, was recorded with a 73-piece symphony orchestra on 35mm tape.
Sinatra’s first live album, Sinatra at the Sands, was recorded during January and February 1966 at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
In June 1965, Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr.. and Dean Martin played live in Saint Louis to benefit Dismas House. The concert was broadcast live via satellite to numerous movie theaters across America. Released in August 1965 was the Grammy Award–winning album of the year September of My Years, with a career anthology A Man and His Music followed in November, itself winning Album of the Year at the Grammys in 1966. The TV special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music garnered both an Emmy award and a Peabody Award.
In the spring, That’s Life appeared, with both the single and album becoming Top Ten hits in the US on Billboard’s pop charts. Strangers in the Night went on to top the Billboard and UK pop singles charts, winning the award for Record of the Year at the Grammys. The album of the same name also topped the Billboard chart and reached number 4 in the UK.
Sinatra started 1967 with a series of recording sessions with Antônio Carlos Jobim. Later in the year, a duet with daughter Nancy, “Somethin’ Stupid”, topped the Billboard pop and UK singles charts. In December, Sinatra collaborated with Duke Ellington on the album Francis A. & Edward K..
During the late 1960s, press agent Lee Solters would invite columnists with their spouses into Sinatra’s dressing room just before he was about to go on stage. The New Yorker recounted that “The first columnist they tried this on was Larry Fields of the Philadelphia Daily News, whose wife fainted when Sinatra kissed her cheek. ‘Take care of it, Lee,’ Sinatra said, and he was off.”
Back on the small-screen, Sinatra once again worked with Jobim and Ella Fitzgerald on the TV special A Man and His Music + Ella + Jobim.
Watertown (1970) was one of Sinatra’s most acclaimed concept albums, but was all but ignored by the public. Selling a mere 30,000 copies, and reaching a peak chart position of 101, its failure put an end to plans of a television special based on the album.
With Sinatra in mind, singer-songwriter Paul Anka wrote the song “My Way” inspired from the French “Comme d’habitude” (“As Usual”), composed by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. (The song had been previously commissioned to David Bowie, whose lyrics did not please the involved agents.) “My Way” would, perhaps, become more identified with him than any other over his seven decades as a singer.
1970–80: Retirement and comeback
On June 12, 1971 — at a concert in Hollywood to raise money for the Motion Picture and TV Relief Fund — at the age of 55, Sinatra announced that he was retiring, bringing to an end his 36-year career in show business.
In 1973, Sinatra came out of retirement with a television special and album, both entitled Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back. The album, arranged by Gordon Jenkins and Don Costa, was a great success, reaching number 13 on Billboard and number 12 in the UK. The TV special was highlighted by a dramatic reading of “Send in the Clowns” and a song and dance sequence with former co-star Gene Kelly.
In January 1974, Sinatra returned to Las Vegas, performing at Caesar’s Palace despite vowing in 1970 never to play there again after the manager of the resort, Sanford Waterman, pulled a gun on him during a heated argument. With Waterman recently shot, the door was open for Sinatra to return.
In Australia, he caused an uproar by describing journalists there — who were aggressively pursuing his every move and pushing for a press conference — as “fags”, “pimps”, and “whores.” Australian unions representing transport workers, waiters, and journalists went on strike, demanding that Sinatra apologize for his remarks. Sinatra instead insisted that the journalists apologize for “fifteen years of abuse I have taken from the world press.” The future Prime Minister of Australia, Bob Hawke, then the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) leader, also insisted that Sinatra apologize, and a settlement was eventually reached to the apparent satisfaction of both parties, Sinatra’s final show of his Australian tour was televised to the nation.
In October 1974, Sinatra appeared at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in a televised concert that was later released as an album under the title The Main Event – Live. Backing him was bandleader Woody Herman and the Young Thundering Herd, who accompanied Sinatra on a European tour later that month. The TV special garnered mostly positive reviews whilst the album — actually culled from various shows during his comeback tour — was only a moderate success, peaking at #37 on Billboard and #30 in the UK.
In 1979, in front of the Egyptian pyramids, Sinatra performed for Anwar Sadat. Back in Las Vegas, while celebrating 40 years in show business and his 64th birthday, he was awarded the Grammy Trustees Award during a party at Caesar’s Palace.
1980–90: Trilogy, She Shot Me Down, L.A. Is My Lady
Sinatra sings with then First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House.
In 1980, Sinatra’s first album in six years was released, Trilogy: Past Present Future, a highly ambitious triple album that found Sinatra recording songs from the past (pre-rock era) and present (rock era and contemporary) that he had overlooked during his career, while ‘The Future’ was a free-form suite of new songs linked à la musical theater by a theme, in this case, Sinatra pondering over the future. The album garnered six Grammy nominations — winning for best liner notes — and peaked at number 17 on Billboard’s album chart, while spawning yet another song that would become a signature tune, “Theme from New York, New York” as well as Sinatra’s much lauded (second) recording of George Harrison’s “Something” (The first was not officially released on an album until 1972′s Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits, Vol. 2.)
The following year, Sinatra built on the success of Trilogy with She Shot Me Down, an album that revisited the dark tone of his Capitol years, and was praised by critics as a vintage late-period Sinatra. Sinatra would comment that it was “A complete saloon album… tear-jerkers and cry-in-your-beer kind of things.”
Sinatra was embroiled in controversy in 1981 when he worked a ten-day engagement for $2 million in Sun City, South Africa breaking the cultural blockade on Apartheid South Africa. See Artists United Against Apartheid
Frank Sinatra was selected as one of the five recipients of the 1983 Kennedy Center Honors, alongside Katharine Dunham, James Stewart, Elia Kazan and Virgil Thomson. Quoting Henry James in honoring Sinatra, Reagan said that “art was the shadow of humanity,” and said that Sinatra had “spent his life casting a magnificent and powerful shadow.”
Earlier that year, Sinatra had worked with Quincy Jones for the first time in nearly two decades on the album L.A. Is My Lady, which was well received critically. The album was a substitute for another Jones project, an album of duets with Lena Horne, which had to be abandoned. (Horne developed vocal problems and Sinatra, committed to other engagements, could not wait to record.)
1990s: Duets, final performances
In 1990, Sinatra celebrated his 75th birthday with a national tour, and was awarded the second “Ella Award” by the Los Angeles–based Society of Singers. At the award ceremony, he performed for the final time with Ella Fitzgerald.
In December, as part of Sinatra’s birthday celebrations, Patrick Pasculli, the Mayor of Hoboken, made a proclamation in his honor, declaring that “no other vocalist in history has sung, swung and crooned and serenaded into the hearts of the young and old… as this consummate artist from Hoboken.” The same month Sinatra gave the first show of his Diamond Jubilee Tour at the Meadowlands Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
In 1993 Sinatra made a surprise return to Capitol and the recording studio for Duets, which was released in November.
The other artists who added their vocals to the album worked for free, and a follow-up album (Duets II) was released in 1994, which reached #9 on the Billboard charts.
Still touring, despite various health problems, Sinatra remained a top concert attraction on a global scale during the first half of the 1990s. At times, his memory seemed to fail him, and a fall onstage in Richmond, Virginia in March 1994 signaled further problems.
Sinatra’s final public concerts were held in Japan’s Fukuoka Dome in December 1994. The following year, on February 25, 1995, at a private party for 1,200 select guests on the closing night of the Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament, Sinatra sang before a live audience for the very last time. Esquire reported of the show that Sinatra was “clear, tough, on the money” and “in absolute control.” His closing song was “The Best is Yet to Come.”
Sinatra was awarded the Legend Award at the 1994 Grammy Awards. He was introduced by Bono, who said of Sinatra “Frank’s the chairman of the bad attitude… rock ‘n roll plays at being tough, but this guy is the boss. The chairman of boss… I’m not going to mess with him, are you?” Sinatra called it “the best welcome…I ever had.” However, during his speech, Sinatra apparently ran too long and was curtly cut off by music, then commercials, leaving him looking confused while talking into a dead microphone.
In 1995, to mark Sinatra’s 80th birthday, the Empire State Building glowed blue. A star-studded birthday tribute, Sinatra: 80 Years My Way held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, was his last televised appearance.
Sinatra was elected to the Gaming Hall of Fame in 1997.
Sinatra had three children, Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina, all with his first wife, Nancy Barbato (married 1939-1951). He was married three more times, to actresses Ava Gardner (1951–1957) and Mia Farrow (1966–1968) and finally to Barbara Marx (married 1976), to whom he was still married at his death.
Throughout his life, Sinatra had mood swings and bouts of depression. He acknowledged this, telling an interviewer in the 1950s: “Being an 18-karat manic-depressive, and having lived a life of violent emotional contradictions, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as emotion.” In her memoirs My Father’s Daughter, his daughter Tina wrote about the “eighteen-karat” remark: “As flippant as Dad could be about his mental state, I believe that a Zoloft a day might have kept his demons away. But that kind of medicine was decades off.”
Sinatra suffered from senile dementia in his final years and made no further public appearances after a heart attack in January 1997. After suffering a further heart attack, he died at 10:50 pm on May 14, 1998 at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, with his wife Barbara by his side. He was 82 years old. Sinatra’s final words, spoken as attempts were made to stabilize him, were “I’m losing.” His death was confirmed by the Sinatra family on their website with a statement accompanied by a recording of the singer’s version of “Softly As I Leave You.” The next night the lights on the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. President Bill Clinton led tributes to Sinatra, stating that he had managed “to appreciate on a personal level what millions of people had appreciated from afar.” Elton John stated that Sinatra, “was simply the best – no one else even comes close.”
On May 20, 1998 at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, Sinatra’s funeral was held, with 400 mourners in attendance and hundreds of fans outside. Gregory Peck, Tony Bennett, and Frank Jr. addressed the mourners, among whom were Jill St. John, Tom Selleck, Joey Bishop, Faye Dunaway, Tony Curtis, Liza Minnelli, Kirk Douglas, Robert Wagner, Don Rickles, Nancy Reagan, Angie Dickinson, Sophia Loren, Bob Newhart, Mia Farrow, and Jack Nicholson. A private ceremony was held later that day at St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Palm Springs. Sinatra was buried following the ceremony next to his parents in section B-8 of Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, a quiet cemetery on Ramon Road at the border of Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage, near his famous Rancho Mirage compound, located on tree-lined Frank Sinatra Drive. His close friends Jilly Rizzo and Jimmy Van Heusen are buried nearby in the same cemetery.
The words “The Best Is Yet to Come” are imprinted on Sinatra’s grave marker.
Awards and Recognitions
Sinatra’s music star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sidewalk star in front of Sinatra’s birthplace.
Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Frank Sinatra
The U.S. Postal Service issued a 42-cent postage stamp in honor of Sinatra on May 13, 2008. The design of the stamp was unveiled Wednesday, December 12, 2007 — on the anniversary of what would have been his 92nd birthday — in Beverly Hills, CA, with Sinatra family members on hand. The design shows an 1950s-vintage image of Sinatra, wearing a hat. The design also includes his signature, with his last name alone. The Hoboken Post Office was renamed in his honor in 2002. The Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Long Island City and the Frank Sinatra Park in Hoboken were named in his honor.
The U.S. Congress passed a resolution on May 20, 2008 designating May 13 as Frank Sinatra Day to honor his contribution to American culture. The resolution was introduced by Representative Mary Bono Mack.
To commemorate the anniversary of Sinatra’s death, Patsy’s Restaurant in New York City, which Sinatra was very fond of and a regular at, exhibited in May 2009 15 never before released photos of Sinatra that were taken by Bobby Bank. The photos are of his recording “Everybody Ought to Be in Love” at a nearby recording studio.
Stephen Holden wrote for the 1983 Rolling Stone Record Guide:
Frank Sinatra’s voice is pop music history. […] Like Presley and Dylan — the only other white male American singers since 1940 whose popularity, influence, and mythic force have been comparable — Sinatra will last indefinitely. He virtually invented modern pop song phrasing.
Wynn Resorts dedicated a signature restaurant to Sinatra inside Encore Las Vegas on December 22, 2008. Memorabilia in the restaurant includes his Oscar for “From Here to Eternity”, his Emmy for “Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music”, his Grammy for “Strangers in the Night”, photographs and a gold album he received for “Classic Sinatra”.
In 1992, CBS aired a TV mini-series about the entertainer’s life called Sinatra, directed by James Steven Sadwith and starred Philip Casnoff as Sinatra. Opening with his childhood in Hoboken, New Jersey, the film follows Sinatra’s rise to the top in the 1940s, through the dark days of the early 1950s and his triumphant re-emergence in the mid-1950s, to his status as pop culture icon in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. In between, the film hits all of the main events, including his three marriages, his connections with the Mafia and his notorious friendship with the Rat Pack. Even with the presence of Tina Sinatra as executive producer. Casnoff received a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.
In 1998, Ray Liotta portrayed Sinatra in the HBO movie The Rat Pack, alongside Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin and Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis, Jr. It depicted their contribution to John F. Kennedy’s election as U.S. president in 1960.
Sinatra was also portrayed by Sebastian Anzaldo in the film Tears of a King, who also impersonated Sinatra in a TV episode of The Next Best Thing.
Brett Ratner is currently developing a film adaptation of George Jacobs’ memoir Mr. S: My Life With Frank Sinatra. Jacobs, who was Sinatra’s valet, will be portrayed by Chris Tucker.
Alleged organized crime links
Sinatra garnered considerable attention due to his alleged personal and professional links with organized crime, including figures such as Carlo Gambino, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano, and Joseph Fischetti. The Federal Bureau of Investigation kept records amounting to 2,403 pages on Sinatra. With his alleged Mafia ties, his ardent New Deal politics and his friendship with John F. Kennedy, he was a natural target for J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. The FBI kept Sinatra under surveillance for almost five decades beginning in the 1940s. The documents include accounts of Sinatra as the target of death threats and extortion schemes. They also portray rampant paranoia and strange obsessions at the FBI and reveal nearly every celebrated Sinatra foible and peccadillo.
For a year Hoover investigated Sinatra’s alleged and Communist affiliations, but came up empty-handed. The files include his rendezvous with prostitutes, and his extramarital affair with Ava Gardner, which preceded their marriage. Celebrities mentioned in the files are Dean Martin, Marilyn Monroe, Peter Lawford, and Giancana’s girlfriend, singer Phyllis McGuire.
The FBI’s secret dossier on Sinatra was released in 1998 in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.
Sinatra held differing political views throughout his life.
Sinatra’s parents had immigrated to the United States in 1895 and 1897 respectively. His mother, Dolly Sinatra (1896–1977), was a Democratic Party ward boss.
Sinatra, pictured here with Eleanor Roosevelt in 1960, was an ardent supporter of the Democratic Party until 1968.
Sinatra remained a supporter of the Democratic Party until the late 1960s when he switched his allegiance to the Republican Party.
Political activities 1944-1968
In 1944 after sending a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sinatra was invited to meet Roosevelt at the White House, where he agreed to become part of the Democratic party’s voter registration drives.
He donated $5,000 to the Democrats for the 1944 presidential election, and by the end of the campaign was appearing at two or three political events every day.
After World War II, Sinatra’s politics grew steadily more left wing, and he became more publicly associated with the Popular Front. He started reading liberal literature, and supported many organizations that were later identified as front organizations of the Communist party by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, though Sinatra was never brought before the Committee.
Sinatra spoke at a number of New Jersey high schools in 1945, where students had gone on strike in opposition to racial integration. Later that year Sinatra would appear in The House I Live In, a short film that stood against racism. The film was scripted by Albert Maltz, with the title song written by Earl Robinson and Abel Meeropol (under the pseudonym of Lewis Allen).
In 1948, Sinatra supported the candidacy of Henry A. Wallace.
In January, 1961, Sinatra and Peter Lawford organized the Inaugural Gala in Washington, D.C., held on the evening before new President John F. Kennedy was sworn into office. The event, featuring many big show business stars, was an enormous success, raising a large amount of money for the Democratic Party. Sinatra also organized an Inaugural Gala in California in 1962 to welcome second term Democratic Governor Pat Brown.
Sinatra’s move towards the Republicans seems to have begun when he was snubbed by President Kennedy in favor of Bing Crosby, a rival singer and a Republican, for Kennedy’s visit to Palm Springs in 1962. Kennedy had planned to stay at Sinatra’s home over the Easter holiday weekend, but decided against doing so because of problems with Sinatra’s alleged connections to organized crime. Sinatra had invested a lot of his own money in upgrading the facilities at his home, in anticipation of the President’s visit. President Kennedy’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, was intensifying his own investigations into organized crime figures at the time, such as Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana, who had earlier stayed at Sinatra’s home.
The 1968 election illustrated changes in the once solidly pro-JFK Rat Pack: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Shirley MacLaine all endorsed Robert Kennedy in the spring primaries, while Sinatra, Dean Martin and Joey Bishop backed vice-president Hubert Humphrey. In the fall election, Sinatra appeared for Humphrey in Texas at the Houston Astrodome with President Lyndon Johnson, and also re-stated his support for Humphrey on a live election-eve national telethon.
Political activities 1970-1984
On February 27, 1970 Sinatra sang at the White House as part of a tribute to Senator Everett Dirksen. Over the summer Sinatra supported another Republican candidate as he endorsed Ronald Reagan for a second term as Governor of California. Sinatra became good friends with Vice President Spiro Agnew. Sinatra said he agreed with the Republican Party on most positions, except that of abortion.
After a lifetime of supporting Democratic presidential candidates, Sinatra supported Richard Nixon for re-election in the 1972 presidential election. In 1973, Agnew was charged with corruption and resigned as Vice President; Sinatra helped Agnew pay some of his legal bills.
Sinatra is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.
In the 1980 presidential election, Sinatra supported Ronald Reagan, and donated $4 million to Reagan’s campaign. Sinatra said he supported Reagan as he was “the proper man to be the President of the United States… it’s so screwed up now, we need someone to straighten it out.” Reagan’s victory gave Sinatra his closest relationship with the White House since the early 1960s. Sinatra arranged Reagan’s Presidential gala, as he had done for Kennedy, 20 years previously.
In 1984 Sinatra returned to his birthplace in Hoboken, bringing with him President Reagan, who was in the midst of campaigning for the 1984 presidential election. Reagan had made Sinatra a fund-raising ambassador as part of the Republicans’ ‘Victory 84 get-the-vote-out-drive.