Saturday, March 26, 2016

Reading a (Mostly) Good Book About a Bad (But Talented) Person

Frank Sinatra wasn't Joseph Stalin bad.  But he was a jerk.  An awful guy.  Insanely arrogant, he treated women horribly - actually he treated everybody pretty badly.  He was a bully, he slept with possibly thousands of women - he married Mia Farrow when he was 51 and she was 21.  Ew.  He liked to provoke fights and punch people (a lot easier to do when you travel with bodyguards - I mean, "friends").  

The mafia stories - did he use "connections" to sever his contract with Tommy Dorsey?  Did he use other connections to get his Academy Award-winning part in From Here to Eternity?  Was he the model for Johnny Fontane in The Godfather films?

Sinatra was a creep.  But also talented and he worked hard at his craft - music meant something to him and when he sings, you can hear that.  After I read part one of James Kaplan's biography, Frank: The Voice, I bought a best of Sinatra CD and even though - duh - I knew he was a great singer, I became more of a fan.  Listen to "I've Got the World on a String" or "Witchcraft."  See what you think.       

I've just finished Kaplan's sequel, Sinatra: The Chairman, and it was a good read in a sort of "National Enquirer" way.  Juicy and filled with gossip, maybe a little too juicy and filled with gossip.  But entertaining.  And I liked reading about the business of recording music - Sinatra's work with Nelson Riddle was especially interesting. 

It's a big fat book, over 900 pages, so I was surprised when it was 1971 and suddenly the book turns into a "Coda" where the last fifteen years of Sinatra's life are very condensed.  Too rushed and unexplored. 

So as a person - not so great.  But as a singer, as an artist - fly me to the moon, Mr. S. 

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