Sinatra: the intelligent swinger’s guide

December 12, 2015 at 7:08 pm (Jim D, music, song, thuggery, twat)

Frank Sinatra was born 100 years ago today.

He wasn’t the 20th century’s greatest singer: that accolade must go to either Enrico Caruso or Bing Crosby (or, maybe, Louis Armstrong).

But he was the first real pop star.

His unpleasant relationships with gangsters cannot, and should not, be ignored: but that should not prevent us from admiring his artistry in interpreting a song.

Despite stints with Harry James (his first band leader) and Tommy Dorsey (of whom Sinatra said something like, “He tought me everything about how to phrase a song”), Frank was never, really, a jazz singer. But this session with vibist Red Norvo, is probably the closest that Sinatra came to singing jazz:

Wised-up reads:

Richard Williams in the Guardian: A Very Long Retirement

Ian Penman in the London Review Of Books: Swoonatara

Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in the Financial Times: Sinatra’s Way

Gary Giddins (always worth reading) on Jazz singers in general


  1. valentin10 said,

  2. bowlly fan said,

    What about Al Bowlly?

    • Jim Denham said,

      Bowlly was a very fine singer: but he didn’t change things the way Crosby and Sinatra (and, indeed, Presley) did. That’s no disrespect to his enormous talent:

  3. Political Tourist said,

    Frank did a gig at a theatre in Ayr in the 1950s and so few tickets were sold he asked the audience to sit in the first couple of rows.
    In the end he could have sold out Wembley 20 times over.

    • Glasgow Working Class said,

      The people from Ayr were skint in those days.

      • Political Tourist said,

        Iron your Sash

  4. kb72 said,

    He used to speak the lyrics of a song before singing them in order to get the inflections right. The result was a conversational delivery with impeccable phrasing and a winning sense of personality. He was a master of tempo rubato — Italian for “stolen time” — the singing technique by which a vocalist plays around with, but ultimately obeys, a song’s timing: a perfect illustration of his mix of conservatism and rebelliousness.

  5. februarycallendar said,

  6. februarycallendar said,

    (Or six or seven times over, even.)

  7. Jim Denham said,

    A great performance with Tommy Dorsey’s Orch:

  8. Jim Denham said,

    He’s singin’ my song!

    Well, not mine exactly: Harold Arlan’s and Johnny Mercer’s. I could forgive him almost everything for this.

    • les said,

      i would also add his unpleasant relationship with the republican party and criminals like richard nixon and ronald reagan, but, yeah, “one for my baby” still gets me every time. and nobody could wear a fedora better than frankie. well, maybe humphrey bogart…

  9. Glasgow Working Class said,

    Strange how celebreties and tax dodgers become cult hero types.

  10. John walsh said,

    Hi Jim don’t think Crosby comes near to Francis Albert . Agree about Caruso . What about Asa youlson as a match for Sinatra . Merry Xmas

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