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Frank Sinatra

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I actually have thoroughly enjoyed completing this assignment. The insight and knowledge that I have gained from researching Frank Sinatra has expanded my understanding of the developing United States. From the history of music and art and their influence on society to the changing American mentality and the development of organized crime, Frank Sinatra was "right in the middle" of it all. I chose to research Ol' Blue Eyes because of my love for music, and I wanted to learn of his greatness as an artist and vocalist. Little did I know of his influence on American culture and involvement with prolific mobsters of the 1930s and 40s.

Widely held to be the greatest singer in American pop history, Sinatra was also the first modern pop superstar. Frank Sinatra set musical trends for over half a century. Sinatra's style and personality seemed to change with time from decade to decade. In fact, he filled the role of trendsetter for two different styles of music in the 1940s and 50s. He defined that role in the early 1940s when his first solo appearances provoked the kind of mass pandemonium that later greeted Elvis Presley and the Beatles. But don't let the "Pop" label fool you, "Ol' Blue Eyes" provided much more than simply popular entertainment for the world. America experienced a cultural explosion in which Sinatra contributed to greatly. During a show business career that spanned more than 50 years and comprised recordings, film and television as well as countless performances in nightclubs, concert halls and sports arenas, Sinatra stood as a singular mirror of the American psyche. During World War II, Sinatra's tender romanticism served as the dreamy emotional link between millions of women and their husbands and boyfriends fighting overseas. By the late 1950s, Sinatra had become so much the personification of American show business success that his life and his art became emblematic of the temper of the times. "His evolution from the idealistic crooner of the early 1940s to the sophisticated swinger of the '50s and '60s seemed to personify the country's loss of innocence." (Lahr, 1997) And innocence, he had lost, according to the media's portrayal of Sinatra as a "hoodlum" or "gangster". The media and political figures such as J. Edgar Hoover, from the moment he reached stardom until the day he died questioned Sinatra's affiliation with organized crime. Sinatra used his fame and talents to express his socio-political views of equality for Americans from all ethnic backgrounds.

Frank Sinatra is heralded as the most influential American Singer of all time. Along with Sinatra's gentle yet persuasive tone, his lyrical phrasing set him apart from the rest and provided a model for musicians to follow for half of a century. Sinatra emerged on the scene with Columbia Records in 1942 and by 47' he was America's favorite popular music star. He topped the charts with hits such as "I Fall In Love Too Easily" and "Empty Arms". However, as Sinatra aged, his style and perhaps a bit of his personality changed. Thus, emerged Frank's second period of greatness, the Capitol Records years.

Mr. Frank Sinatra introduced himself to the world as a mellow crooner of love ballads in the early 1940s when he decided to leave the Tommy Dorsey band and pursue a solo act. A still young at heart and innocent Sinatra captured the hearts of young women across the nation. "The skinny blue-eyed crooner, quickly nicknamed the Voice, made hordes of bobby-soxers swoon in the 1940s with an extraordinarily smooth and flexible baritone that he wielded with matchless skill." (Lahr, 1997) His mastery of long-lined phrasing inspired imitations by many other male crooners, notably Dick Haymes, Vic Damone and Tony Bennett in the 1940s and '50s and most recently the pop-jazz star Harry Connick Jr. In some ways though, the Sinatra of this period, his first great period (1943-1952) seems hardly recognizable to the figure that emerged afterward. "How can we reconcile the vulnerable boyish crooner of this period with the finger-snapping, ring-a-ding-dinging Chairman of the Board of the following period?"(Mustazza, 1995).

The changes in Sinatra's vocal timbre coincided with a precipitous career descent in the late 1940s and early '50s. But in 1953, Sinatra made one of the most spectacular career comebacks in show business history, re-emerging as a coarser-voiced, jazzier interpreter of popular standards who put a more aggressive personal stamp on his songs. After the voice lost its velvety youthfulness, Sinatra's interpretations grew more personal and idiosyncratic, so that "each performance became a direct expression of his personality and his mood of the moment." ( Wikipedia, 2001) In expressing anger, petulance, and bravado, attitudes that had largely been excluded from the acceptable vocabulary of pop feeling, "Sinatra paved the way for the unfettered vocal aggression of rock singers." (Mustazza, 1995)

This re-emergence by Sinatra coincided with the introduction of Swing music to the American society. Swing is a form of jazz music that is less structured and has a faster rhythmic and percussion sections. As jazz in general, and swing jazz in particular, began to grow in popularity throughout the States, a number of changes occurred in the culture that surrounded the music. For one, the introduction of swing in the early 1930s, with its strong rhythms, loud tunes, and "swinging" style led to an explosion of creative dance in the black community. The various rowdy, energetic, creative, and improvisational dances that came into effect during that time came to be known, collectively, as swing dance. The second change that occurred as swing music increased in popularity outside the black community, was, to some extent, an increasing pressure on musicians and band leaders to soften (some would say dumb-down) the music to cater to a more staid and conservative, Anglo-American audience. Well, Sinatra rebelled against these pressures and thrived as he continued to contribute to the "Swing" culture of the 1950s. In fact, almost singlehandedly, he helped lead a revival of vocalized swing music that took American pop to a new level of musical sophistication. Coinciding with the rise of the long-playing record album (LPs), his 1950s recordings were instrumental in establishing a canon of American pop song literature. With Nelson Riddle, his most talented arranger, Sinatra defined the criteria for sound, style and song selection in pop recording during the pre-Beatles era. The aggressive uptempo style of Sinatra's mature years spawned a genre of punchy, rhythmic belting associated

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