December 12, 1915.
It might have been just another date in history, if it were not THE date. The birth date of Frank Sinatra, the skinny, blue-eyed crooner from Hoboken, New Jersey, who would change the face of American music like few artists before or since.
So much has been written in this, the centennial year of Sinatra’s birth, that words are truly secondary to what really counts: The Voice.
For those of us who were lucky enough to have attended a concert or two of his over the decades, he was the complete package: The style, the swagger, the glimmer in his eyes and above all, the voice that breathed incomparable life into the Great American Songbook as few other artists ever would.
Sinatra’s ties to Chicago are legendary, and they run deep.There was his public debut with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1940 at Rockford’s Coronado Theatre. Then there were the gigs at the Chez Paree in the 1950s, the Villa Venice in the 1960s. There was his reported $250,000 salary for a FREE gig at ChicagoFest in 1982. There was his sold-out concert to officially re-dedicate the meticulously restored Chicago Theatre in 1986. There were dates (most as a solo, some with his famous Rat Pack in tow) at the Sabre Room in Hickory Hills, the Arie Crown Theatre, the Chicago Stadium, The International Amphitheatre, The Hollywood Casino and the Civic Opera House.
It was Sinatra who was among the first three artists ever to perform in concert at the then newly opened United Center (the other two being Billy Joel and Eric Clapton) in 1994. And so many more dates and places in and around our fair city. Too many more to list.
And so we’ve arrived at the milestone date. Chicago and the world has celebrated all year, in tribute concerts, album compilations, DVD releases and books.
Here’s one more tribute, maybe with a hope that a new generation will discover not only the singer, but the songwriters, the arrangers, the band leaders who helped frame Sinatra’s 60-year career. So with a nod to Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Jule Styne, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Quincy Jones, and so many others, who, like Ol’ Blue Eyes, gave us some of the greatest music of the past 100 years, here’s a sampling of Sinatra through the ages.
In case you were wondering what all the hoopla has been about.
SINATRA IN THE 1940s
Tough call to make, with hits such as “Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week” (1944), “Night and Day” (1942; he would record it five times over the course of his career); “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1940; his recording with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra and the Pied Pipers would be inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame 42 years later). Sinatra’s sound explodes onto the music scene. He would never look back.
SINATRA IN THE 1950s
“Songs for Swingin’ Lovers” remains one of his all-time great albums (a must for any collection). Songs from the decade, such as “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Come Fly With Me” (1954) and “You Make Me Feel So Young” (1954,) further solidified his hitmaking prowess and his legendary way with incredible arrangements.
SINATRA IN THE 1960s
Sinatra at his swingin’ best, this time with Count Basie and his Orchestra and the seminal Quincy Jones-arranged “Sinatra at the Sands.” But there was also the Sinatra-Basie-Jones release of “It Might as Well Be Swing” in 1964, with “The Best is Yet to Come,” which would become, in 1995, the last song Sinatra would ever perform in public. Oh, and there was that other hit that just made the decade cut-off — 1969’s “My Way,” which became Sinatra’s anthem (whether he liked it or not).
SINATRA IN THE 1970s
This was the era of Sinatra’s foray into bossa nova with the iconic Brazilian singer-songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim, and of course his big return from “retirement” with “Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back,” (the album and tour, and bombastic ballads).
SINATRA IN THE 1980s
Sinatra releases the epic triple-disc compilation,”Trilogy: Past Present Future” (1980), and “New York New York” becomes (for better or worse) another of his signature tunes and one of the biggest hits of career.
Frank Sinatra’s last public performance was in 1995 at a Palm Springs, Calif., golf tournament charity gala. He died on May 14, 1998, at the age of 82.
Posted at 6:01 a.m., Dec. 12, 2015.