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How Frank Sinatra Contributed to American Music

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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. Sinatras 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 dont 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 medias 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 Sinatras 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 Sinatras 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 Americas 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 Franks 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 with Las Vegas, which he was instrumental in establishing and popularizing as an entertainment capital.

The adulation reached a high point on Oct. 12, 1944, the opening day of a three-week return engagement at the Paramount, when 30,000 fans — most of them bobby-soxers — formed a frenzied mob in Times Square. “It was the war years, and there was a great loneliness,” Sinatra, who was kept from the draft by a punctured eardrum, recounted later. “I was the boy in every corner drugstore who’d gone off, drafted to the war. That was all.” From 1943 to 1945, he was the lead singer on “Your Hit Parade” and at the same time began recording for Columbia. Because of a musicians’ strike, the accompaniment on his first several recording sessions for the label was a vocal chorus called the Bobby Tucker Singers, instead of an orchestra.

Reinventing himself in the ’50s, the starry-eyed boy next door turned into the cosmopolitan man of the world, a bruised romantic with a tough-guy streak and a song for every emotional season. In a series of brilliant conceptual albums, he codified a musical vocabulary of adult relationships with which millions identified. The haunted voice heard on a jukebox in the wee small hours of the morning lamenting the end of a love affair was the same voice that jubilantly invited the world to “come fly with me” to exotic realms in a never-ending party. For years, Sinatra seemed the embodiment of the hard-drinking, hedonistic swinger who could have his pick of women and who was the leader of a party-loving entourage. (Petkov, 1998)

Sinatra appeared in more than 50 films, and won an Academy Award as best supporting actor for his portrayal of the feisty misfit soldier Maggio in “From Here to Eternity” (1953). As an actor, he could communicate the same complex mixture of emotional honesty, vulnerability and cockiness that he projected as a singer, but he often chose his roles indifferently or unwisely.

It was as a singer that he exerted the strongest cultural influence. Following his idol Bing Crosby, who had pioneered the use of the microphone, Sinatra transformed popular singing by infusing lyrics with a personal, intimate point of view that conveyed a steady current of eroticism. On a deeper level, Sinatra’s career and public image touched many aspects of American cultural life. For millions, his ascent from humble Italian-American roots in Hoboken, N.J., was a symbol of ethnic achievement. And more than most entertainers, he used his influence to support political candidates. His change of allegiance from pro-Roosevelt Democrat in the 1940s to pro-Reagan Republican in the 1980s paralleled a seismic shift in American politics. Rumors of mob connections hounded Frank Sinatra throughout his storied, tumultuous life. His denials were as ready on his lips as his trademark song “My Way” became in his waning years. ( J. Edgar Hoover didnt buy it. He thought Ol Blue Eyes was a murderer and a Mafioso with a golden voice. Despite Hoovers FBI amassing the largest file on Sinatra of any entertainer in U.S. history, none of the damning information there ever made it to a grand jury. Numerous times the government got close to indicting Sinatra, but it never did. Sinatra had friends in the highest places, first President Kennedy and then President Nixon and finally President Reagan. Each, in different ways and to varying degrees, came to his aid when he most needed them, enabling him to front for the mob with impunity. In the 1960s most Americans became aware of Sinatra’s friendship with Sam Giancana, the Mafia boss of Chicago. Most people were unaware of the connections of Sinatra’s family and the help he received from mobsters in his career. His FBI files definitively show that Sinatra was up to his ears in mob-related schemes and activities throughout his entire adult life.

Sinatras connection with mobsters actually began at birth. His uncle, Babe Gavarante, was a driver for a gang of armed robbers and may have been connected to the organization Willie Moretti ran in Bergen County and northern New Jersey. Gavarante, the brother of Sinatra’s mother, was convicted of murder in 1921 in connection with an armed robbery in which he had driven the get-away car. He was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor.

Sinatra wrote an article in Scholastic, a magazine printed on September 17th, 1945. He addressed the issue of racial prejudices and attitudes that exist and how they are encited and developed. Mr. Blue Eyes expresses the view that all men are created equal and quotes Abraham Lincoln. A certain color of skin does not determine intellectual, or physical ability among human beings. Sinatra wrote, No scientist in the world can examine blood and tell from which race of man it came. Take a brain from any mans head and no one can tell you positively from what race that brain came. (Sinatra, 1945) He starred in the film The House I Live In, which supported his view of racial equality and recorded a song with the same title. In this song, the house represents America, the home of many different creeds and ways of life. Sinatra celebrates his appreciation for our democratic and tolerant nation through his genuine voice. He carried this message to high schools, civic groups and virtually any audience he could find.

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How Frank Sinatra Contributed to American Music. (2019, April 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from
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