My speech today is on not just a man, but a man who owns tens of millions of recordings, nine Grammy’s and two Academy Awards, some 60 films, worldwide tours, television specials, and hundreds of millions of dollars raised for charities. In sheer productivity, few popular artists could touch the hem of his tuxedo jacket. In pure, smoldering style, he was unexcelled. His rueful, macho star power ensured that the music and lyrics of the swing era would resonate throughout the later years of the 20th Century - despite a near-endless string of horror stories about his vulgarity, hot temper and alleged ties to organized crime. Frank Sinatra was alluring and powerful not despite his contradictions, but because of them. He was bigger than life, but human as the next guy, and keenly aware of his public persona's many sides. And yet he knew, deep down, that the music - The Voice - was clear enough, powerful enough and passionate enough to eclipse the public's darkest doubts about Sinatra the man. Francis Albert Sinatra was born Dec. 12, 1915, the only child of working-class Italian-American immigrants, in a tenement at 415 Monroe St. in Hoboken, New Jersey. His father, Anthony, was a boxer-turned-fireman; his mother, Natalie "Dolly" Sinatra, was a former barmaid who often sang at family gatherings. Their home and their neighborhood rang with the sounds of the Italian bel canto style of singing, which Sinatra said inspired him to sing. In high school, he saw his hero, crooner Bing Crosby, perform live, an event that inspired him to become a solo vocalist. Between working various jobs at The Jersey Observer, Sinatra sang with a neighborhood vocal group, the Hoboken Four, and appeared in neighborhood theater amateur shows, where first prize was usually $10 or a set of dishes. His first professional gig was at the Rustic Cabin roadhouse in Englewood Cliffs (my Grandmother saw him perform there way back when), where Sinatra sang, told jokes and played the role of emcee when he wasn't waiting tables. He also continued his 4-year love affair with hometown sweetheart Nancy Barbato, who would later become his first wife and the mother of his three children – Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina. Sinatra later hit it big with the Tommy Dorsey Band, performing with Dorsey until he decided to go solo. Wooing crowds of "booby-soxers," Sinatra garnered his nick...
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...ollowed by Duets II. He granted his likeliness to ties, credit cards, Lipton Iced Tea, and spaghetti sauce. His marketing antics caused a rift between his wife, Barbara, and his children over who owned the rights to what Sinatra songs. At this time, as his health was fading, a renewed interest be people (like myself) who weren’t even born when he "retired" in the 1970’s, began to crave Sinatra. A flood of biographies, musical appreciation books and Sinatra-themed films and TV shows flooded popular culture, along with reissued Sinatra discs and vintage films of Sinatra and friends in concert. "Frank Sinatra was the 20th Century," said Bono, lead singer of the rock group U2, and a retro-swinger himself. "He was modern, he was complex, he had swing and attitude. He was the big bang of pop...the man invented pop music." "May you live to be a hundred, and the last voice you hear be mine," was the way Sinatra ended most of his concerts. Frank Sinatra died April 1998, at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Even though the master is gone, his spirit will be with us always. Truly, he was a man who did it "his way."
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