Many would probably tell you that Frank Sinatra is one of the most iconic and important musical artists of the 20th century. He has left a massive legacy on the genre of jazz, it likely can’t be counted how many times his music has been covered. He’s sold around 150 million records worldwide, making him one of the best selling artists of all time.
But of course, legends like this start somewhere. This one had a danger of not even starting at all, due to complications of Sinatra’s birth. He was born at a massive 13 ½ pounds, coming from a woman less than five feet tall, doctors had problems getting him out. The doctor had to resort to forceps, which tore and scarred the child’s ear, cheek and neck. However, he wasn’t breathing. His own grandmother Rose stepped in, she held her grandson beneath cold water until he gasped, cried, and was finally breathing.
It makes you wonder how things would have gone had he not been saved. But that’s not the case, so let’s dive into the life and history of this legendary performer and take a look at some of his popular albums.
His interest in music began in childhood. At just 19 in the summer of 1934, he reportedly serenaded his future partner Nancy while she gave herself a manicure by performing to her with a ukulele in hand. But his first proper step into the industry came in 1935, from the local music trio, the Three Flashes. Supposedly they initially only agreed to take him because he had a car.
The Three Flashes had auditioned for an appearance on Major Bowes and his Original Amateur Hour. Sinatra insisted he performed with them, which earned them the name of the Hoboken Four. Their group won with 40,000 votes on the show which saw them tour across the US for 6 months as a band. The other members of the band were quite envious of Sinatra’s ability to gain women’s attention.
Sinatra moved on in 1938, working as a singing waiter in The Rustic Cabin, a roadhouse. He performed in the “Dance Parade” show, a show held at the roadhouse. Along with performing his first solo recording with saxophone player Frank Mane, performing on “Dance Parade” also attracted the attention of bandleader Harry James. James and his band recorded his first commercial record in July of 1938, “From the Bottom of my Heart” (which was also followed by “Melancholy Mood”). Both records didn’t meet much success, barely reaching 8000 sales.
Then following with “All or Nothing at All”, Sinatra found himself angry at the lack of success he’d found with James and his band. He moved on to join Tommy Dorsey’s band, who he ended up forming a close connection with. He asked Dorsey to be the godfather of his child, and even started adopting his mannerisms and hobbies.
After performing several hits that finally smashed the charts like “Polka Dots and Moonbeams”, “Say It”, “imagination” and “I’ll Never Smile Again” across 1940 and then “It Started All Over Again”, “It’s Always You” and several more, Sinatra managed to convince Dorsey to allow him to record solo. He loved it. It was all he wanted.
Trying to leave Dorsey’s band, his contract bound him to giving Dorsey 43% of Sinatra’s earnings in the entertainment industry. A legal battle emerged, where Sinatra was freed of his contract. Reportedly Sinatra’s godfather, Willie Moretti, a mobster, convinced Dorsey with a few thousands dollars and a gun to the head. Despite their closeness in the past, Dorsey showed bitterness towards Sinatra towards the press for years to come.
After performing in Paramount Theatre for a small while, Sinatra signed himself up at Columbia Records as a solo artist in June of 1943. He’d swept the industry with an impressive reputation of swooning teenage girls, widening the horizons for music as a whole. World War 2 loomed over 1944, Sinatra did not serve in the military at this time due to his damaged eardrum. Though towards the end of the war, he did perform for troops during USO tours with comedian Phil Silvers. In the later part of 1944 he released “I Couldn’t Sleep a Wink Last Night” and covered Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.
Now working fully with Columbia records, in 1946 Sinatra released his first full album, “The Voice of Frank Sinatra”. It leapt its way to number one on the charts, after all his legendary singles and recordings, his first album was a roaring success. He followed it up the next year with “Songs by Sinatra”.
His third album under Columbia "Christmas Songs by Sinatra" was originally released as an album set, in 1948, but it did also see a 10” LP two years later. However, around this time, Sinatra saw difficulty in his career. His popularity took a massive hit after allegations of his link to the mafia were presented. He only recorded two more albums with Columbia, “Dedicated to You” qand “Sing and Dance with Frank Sinatra”, released in 1950 as well as his last single under Columbia, “The Hucklebuck”.
Sinatra faced the death of his publicist, close friend and songwriter, George Evans. Followed by having to cancel his appearance at the Copa Club in New York due to a damaged throat. Performances after this for the next few years were brutally undersold.
After such an unsure set of years, Sinatra found his footing again in 1953. As well as his acting career returning to greatness, he also signed a 7 year recording contract with Capitol Records. His first single recorded with them was “I’m Walking Behind You”. After working on another movie, he returned to collaborate with Nelson Riddle. They recorded “I’ve Got the World on a String”.
After finding massive success in working together, Sinatra worked closely with Riddle to solidify their musical collaboration. Sinatra’s first Capitol album, “Songs for Young Lovers”, knocked it out of the park with a roaring success in 1954, as well as the singles to follow until he reached his second album with the record label and with Riddle,
1955 saw the release of “In the Wee Small Hours”, Sinatra’s first ever 12” LP. After his first tour of Australia, he came back to work with Riddle and they came out with Songs for Swingin’ Lovers in March 1956. A particularly renowned album, some would say one of his best. The year didn’t end with this album though, and saw the release of “Frank Sinatra Conducts Tone Poems of Color”, a completely instrumental album.
Sinatra continued to release albums under his Capitol contract from 1957 to around 1960-1961. These include: “Where Are You?”, “Come Fly With Me” with Billy May, “Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely” and “Nice ‘n’ Easy”.
Sinatra left Capitol, feuding with Alan Livingston for over six months. After failing to purchase a record label, he formed his own under the name Reprise Records. The foundation of the label being that artists were promised total creative freedom of their own work, even publishing rights. He released his own first album of his new company, “Ring-a-Ding-Ding!”, in 1961. He fully reclaimed his throne by now, the album was once again a complete success.
He recorded “Point of No Return” over two days to complete his contract with Capitol in 1961 before he could finally move his attention fully to his own record label. Not only did Sinatra release “Sinatra and Strings” in 1962, but he collaborated with Count Basie for their duo-album, “Sinatra-Basie”. They found massive success in their teamup, not only commonly performing together after, but coming back to release “It Might As Well Be Swing” in 1963, their second collaborative album together.
“Softly, as I Leave You” and a collaboration with Bing Crosby and Fred Waring titled “America, I Hear You Singing” hit the scene in 1964. 1965 brought around Sinatra’s 50th birthday and perhaps the absolute peak of his career. The year brought about “September of My Years”, in which the song “It Was a Very Good Year” won a grammy for best male vocal performance.
The rest of the 60s saw similarly large success with Sinatra, seeing him involve himself a lot with charity work and performances and an endless amount of legendary collaborations with other big musical talents at the time.
After releasing “Watertown” in 1970, Sinatra went on to perform several more charity concerts with Count Basie. At the same time, 1970 brought about his short retirement. He’d simply gotten tired of performing, and sick of his own old songs, so he intended to do just about nothing for the next year or so to recoup.
He made his grand return in 1973, with “Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back” and then in 1974 followed it up with a live album, “The Main Event - Live” in 1974. What followed after was a huge amount of live performances for about 6 years without actually putting out a new album until he came about with “Trilogy: Past Present Future” in 1980.
With just a few more releases to follow, Sinatra passed away in 1998. His final live performances were held in 1994, where his voice had noticeably coarsened and lost its previous range and flexibility. The crowds didn’t much care, and for these last few years of his life his performances saw massive turnouts and success.
We’ve gotten together several sources and opinions to put together a small list of what a lot of people may consider to be Frank Sinatra’s best work. Don’t panic if your favourite isn’t here, it’s hard to have a bad choice when it comes to Sinatra!
One of Sinatra’s more bleak and sombre releases in terms of theme, but certain songs like “Glad to be Unhappy” leave a bit of light at the end of the dark tunnel of quieter and more emotional pieces like “When Your Lover Has Gone”. This album, and especially its title song, encapsulates Sinatra’s bleeding heart at the time of performing it. A heart breaker, but a fantastic listen nonetheless.
On the complete other end of the spectrum, this album sees a much more energetic tone throughout. Its bouncy, happy tunes are enough to get anyone’s feet tapping and its feel good energy is enough to bring a smile to most anyone’s face. Including songs like “You Make Me Feel So Young”, “Too Marvelous for Words” and “You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me”, this is certainly one of Sinatra’s best listens as well as possibly one of his most entertaining albums.
One of two times in which Sinatra teamed up with the legendary Billy May. Another high energy swing album from the king of the genre, this album includes toe tappers like “Cheek to Cheek”, “Dancing in the Dark” and the title track, “Come Dance With Me”. Billy May’s band knocks it out of the park, and combines their epic sound with Sinatra’s smooth voice perfectly.
Sinatra’s first collaboration with Billy May and his band. Another stellar collaboration that takes us on a trip all over the world! The title track “Come Fly With Me” is probably one of Sinatra’s most iconic songs, but the journey never stops with hits like “Isle of Capri”, “Autumn in New York”, “April in Paris” and “London by Night”. Whether you’re going on holiday or just want feel like you are, there’s no better listen than this one.
Another collaborative album from Sinatra, with none other than Count Basie and his orchestra. Basie had recorded multiple albums with Sinatra, but this was their only live album. The performance of the band is fantastic and Sinatra performs at his very best, recreating some of his classic songs with a fine tuned, stronger voice than they’d ever been heard in before. The band’s influence on his performance pushes both parties to perform their best!
That’s five of Sinatra’s most well received and beloved albums. They’re not really ordered, and he’s had so many smash hits it would take all day to sit here and discuss them all. What’s your favourite Sinatra song? Album? Did you spot it here?
We hope you enjoyed taking a swing back into the past with us, to explore the fascinating life of one of the most legendary musical artists of all time.