Born Francis Albert Sinatra, December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, NJ; died May 17, 1998; father named Anthony Martin (a boxer, boilermaker, and fireman); mother named Natalie Della Garaventi (a midwife and bar owner); married Nancy Barbato on February 4, 1939 (divorced 1951); married actress Ava Gardner on November 7, 1951 (divorced 1957); married actress Mia Farrow on July 19, 1966 (divorced 1968); married dancer Barbara Jane Blakeley Marx on July 11, 1976; children (first marriage) Nancy Sandra and Franklin Wayne. Addresses: Manager-Nathan Golden, 8501 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 250, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

Legendary singer Frank (Francis Albert) Sinatra was arguably one of the greatest-and most acclaimed-vocalists in this century; he made 1,414 studio recordings and had at least one song on the music charts every year between 1945 and 1995. He was as much noted for his passionate approach to life as for his music, and his ironclad self-confidence combined with classic good looks, pitched him into the realm of celebrity early in his career. He married high- profile actresses and starred in films himself, and his glamorous lifestyle eventually epitomized the Hollywood of the 1950s and 1960s. Frank Sinatra became an icon due to his romantic ballads, smooth, heartfelt vocal style, timeless material, and abundance of style. His singles "My Way" and "New York, New York" were so popular they transcended music to become a part of a larger, cultural bond. Time magazine's Jay Cocks wrote, "Not only does his music define the time and temper of the American decades in which it was made, but his singing moves those songs out of time into something indistinct, everlasting. In Sinatra's music, there is no past tense. You could say he was the greatest, and that's right. But ... there's nothing you can call him that doesn't in some way sell him short. Except Sinatra."

Legendary jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson told Time magazine's Christopher John Farley in 1998, "I wish Frank Sinatra influenced more singers today. He comes from a time when it about the phrasing of a piece, the emotional content of a piece. He descended from Billie Holiday and singers who placed more emphasis on the lyrical content of the song." Bono, lead singer for Ireland's rock group U2, told Farley, "Rock-n-roll people love Frank Sinatra because Frank Sinatra has got what we want-swagger and attitude."

Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, NJ, on December 12, 1915 to Anthony Martin ("Marty"), a boxer, boilermaker, and fireman, and Natalie Della ("Dolly") Garaventi, a midwife and saloon owner. She allegedly oversaw an illegal abortion service. Dolly Sinatra was a powerful figure in the local community, and her temperament was closely matched to that of her son's: both were fiery, determined, and strong-willed, traits that would describe Frank Sinatra throughout his long life and career. Sinatra was a lackluster student in school, and he decided while in his teens that he wanted to be a singer. A friend of Sinatra's named Maria Brush Schrieber told Kitty Kelley author of His Way: The Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra, "He loved hanging around musicians, so I suggested he get an orchestra together for our Wednesday night school dances. He'd just started singing (publicly) a little bit (at about age seventeen), and in exchange for hiring the musicians he'd get to sing a few numbers with the band."

Sinatra's first real group was called The Three Flashes, a singing and dancing trio which, due to the addition of another "Flash," later became The Hoboken Four. Sinatra is quoted in His Way as saying, "I always liked to sing and I liked to be around bands and to have a part of the band glamour. I couldn't play an instrument and I didn't care about learning to play one.... While I wasn't the best singer in the world, they weren't the best bands in the country, either." After taking voice lessons, Sinatra's mother used her influence with the musician's union to get him a job singing at the Rustic Cabin for $15 a week, and his performances were broadcast over the radio. Trumpeter Harry James, after recently leaving the Benny Goodman band, was searching for a singer for his new band in June of 1939 when he first heard Sinatra over the radio. He was so taken with Sinatra's voice that he went to the Rustic Cabin and hired Sinatra to sing with his MusicMakers for $75 per month. One of the early Sinatra-James hits was portentously titled, "All or Nothing at All". Unfortunately, reviews of the young Sinatra's singing were not favorable, and the band was even thrown out of the club, Victor Hugo's, after one particularly underwhelming session. After just seven months of his two- year contract, Sinatra quit the MusicMakers to join Tommy Dorsey's orchestra.

Career Blossomed with Dorsey

Sinatra came into his own while working with Dorsey. He learned about phrasing, dynamics, and style from the way Dorsey played his horn, and he enjoyed his work because Dorsey felt a singer should always be given a perfect setting. Sinatra worked diligently at developing his own style, and often slurred the vocals just enough to drive the young girls in the audience wild. One tale has it that Sinatra's agent, George Evans, planted screaming teenage girls in the front rows at Sinatra's shows as a ploy to create a sensation. If that's the case, the ploy worked. The Dorsey-Sinatra single, "I'll Never Smile Again," went to number one on the charts, and by 1941 Sinatra had dethroned Bing Crosby in the Downbeat magazine poll for Top Band Vocalist. In January of 1942, Sinatra recorded four solo songs and was on the verge of leaving Dorsey's band. The two had grown very close and Dorsey was even godfather to Sinatra's daughter, so when Sinatra left the band in September of 1942, it marked the end of their friendship.

In December of 1942 Sinatra sang with Benny Goodman's band, widely considered the most popular band at the time, at New York City's Paramount, earning $1,250 a week. He also appeared in the movie "Higher and Higher". He was criticized for not serving in the armed forces during World War II at time when patriotism was running high. In His Way, he is quoted as saying, " I've planned my career. From the first minute I walked on stage I determined to get exactly where I am." In 1946 he signed a five-year contract with MGM for $260,000 annually to make movies at a time when he was at the top of the music polls and had sold more than ten million records. By 1949, Sinatra had dropped to number 49 in the top 50 in record sales, due to his emphasis on a movie career at the expense of his music career. At this juncture in his career, his films didn't take off as planned and his marriage to first wife Nancy Barbato was shaky.

Ava Gardner A Major Influence

In 1951 he divorced Nancy and married high-profile actress Ava Gardner. Their stormy marriage lasted for only five years, but Gardner was instrumental in securing his role in the film From Here To Eternity. Sinatra had desperately yearned for the role, and when he landed it he was overjoyed. He garnered an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and went on to appear in The Man With The Golden Arm, Pal Joey, Some Came Running, A Hole in the Head, The Joker is Wild, The Manchurian Candidate, and more than 52 other movies. Gardner also had a profound effect on his singing. Veteran music arranger Nelson Riddle told Kelley, "It was Ava who did that, who taught him how to sing a torch song. That's how he learned. She was the greatest love of his life and he lost her."

Sinatra's collaboration with Riddle began when he left the Columbia label in 1952 and signed with Capitol. He was teamed with Riddle and the two collaborated on such hits as "My One and Only Love," "A Foggy Day," "My Funny Valentine," and 1954's Billboard top single, the million-disc seller, "Young At Heart". After a ten-year hiatus, Sinatra had returned to the top of the charts. His string of million-sellers continued with "Love and Marriage," "Learnin" the Blues," "The Tender Trap," "All The Way," "Witchcraft," and "Hey, Jealous Lover." In 1956 he divorced Ava Gardner, and dated a succession of entertainment figures such as Liz Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland, and Juliet Prowse. His personal life sometimes overshadowed his public persona: affiliations with reputed mobsters like Sam Giancana caused him much grief and truncated his invitations to president J.F. Kennedy's white house parties. Cocks wrote, "There was ... an Italian street-kid swagger that made such good cover for his black-and-blue soulfulness ... that attitude was a dodge ... protecting his private preserve of deepest feeling and experience, saving it for where it was needed most: the songs."

Sinatra's 1965 album, September of My Years, won a Grammy Award, and in 1971 he announced his retirement at a farewell show at L.A.'s Music Center. His retirement was short-lived and he returned with a television special and a new album, Ol' Blue Eyes is Back, in 1973. Sinatra was regarded in the music world as the consummate professional. Quincy Jones produced Sinatra's 1984 release, L.A. Is My Lady, and described his experience with Sinatra for Downbeat: "He came in at 2 p.m., and in less than two hours we had rehearsed, had keys and routines on ten songs.... Frank is one take, that's it. If the band's not in shape, he leaves them behind ... he came in at 7[:00], and at 8:20, baby, we went home. None of that three month stuff." Sinatra was criticized for performing in Sun City, South Africa, in the early 1980s, yet he devoted a lot of energy to fighting racism and performing community services. When Sinatra released Duets in 1993, which featured some of the brightest stars in music singing with him, he further underscored the fact that his appeal and his music are universal. He received numerous awards along these lines, including the Philadelphia Freedom Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Cocks wrote, "The proud champion of classic American pop fought a pitched battle against the engulfing tide of rock in the '60s. Became music's elder statesman in the '70s. Then the resurgent master of the '80s. And-at last, at the end of his days-the icon who could be forgiven anything for a song."

Sinatra died of a heart attack on May 14, 1998 in Los Angeles, California. He is survived by his wife Barbara and his three children.

by B. Kimberly Taylor

Frank Sinatra's Career

Worked as a copy boy and reporter covering college sports for the Jersey Observer during the early 1930s; professional singer 1936-1998; sang with the Hoboken Four in 1937; featured singer with Harry James' MusicMakers from 1939-1940, with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra 1940-42, and with Benny Goodman's band in 1942; began solo career in 1942; star of Lucky Strike Hit Parade radio program from 1943-1945; actor in more than 60 films, including From Here To Eternity, 1953; The Man With The Golden Arm, 1955; and The Detective, 1968; producer of and actor in the film The First Deadly Sin, 1980.

Frank Sinatra's Awards

Billboard magazine's Top Band Vocalist, 1941; Down Beat magazine's Top Band Vocalist, 1943; recipient of Special Academy Award, 1945; Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for From Here To Eternity, 1953; Down Beat magazine's Most Popular Male Vocalist and Top Pop Records Personality, 1954; Grammy Award for Best Album, 1959, 1965, and 1966, for Best Male Vocalist, 1959, 1965, and 1966, and for Record of the Year, 1966; Emmy Award, 1965; George Foster Peabody Award, 1965; Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1971; Screen Actors Guild Award, 1972; Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1985; Kennedy Center Honor, 1986; Lifetime Achievement Award from National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 1987.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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