OL' BLUE EYES
May 15, 1998
Franks Sinatra, the Chairman of the Board, passed away in California yesterday at the age of 82. Following a background report, Jim Lehrer and guests discuss the legendary crooner's life and music.
KWAME HOLMAN: From Hoboken to Hollywood--from New York City to the Cannes Film Festival--to the meeting of world leaders in Birmingham, England--everyone was remembering Frank Sinatra today.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
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A Lifetime of Swoon: a important dates and music samples from the Chicago Tribune.
FRANK SINATRA: Do you ever stop to think what the world would be like without a song? It would be a pretty dreary place.
The early Frank.
KWAME HOLMAN: Francis Albert Sinatra was the only son of Sicilian immigrants born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1915. As a teenager he was the lead tenor in a local band. The Hoboken Four won a contest on Major Bowes Radio Amateur Hour in 1935. Soon after, Sinatra struck out on his own. His first big break came in 1939 when he joined Tommy Dorsey and his band.
FRANK SINATRA: (singing) I walk along--they'll ask me why and I'll tell them I'd rather.
KWAME HOLMAN: It was in the 40's that Sinatra became famous, a teen idol who earned the nickname "the voice."
(Screaming Girls) KWAME HOLMAN: Bobby socksers swooned when he crooned. His songs were intimate, lyrical, and romantic.
(" THE SECOND TIME AROUND")
KWAME HOLMAN: A series of stormy marriages and messy divorces led to dark and melancholy songs--and coincided with a decline in the popularity of Sinatra's music. In the 1950s a fateful collaboration with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, along with a growing presence on the silver screen, put Sinatra's career back on track.
SINATRA SINGING: -and one more for the road.
KWAME HOLMAN: He danced--here with Gene Kelly--and acted with a host of Hollywood greats, appearing in more than 60 films, and winning an Oscar in 1953 for his performance in "From Here to Eternity."
KWAME HOLMAN: But whatever else he undertook, it was singing and Sinatra that were synonymous.
FRANK SINATRA: (singing) Fly me to the moon. Let me play among the stars.
The Rat Pack.
KWAME HOLMAN: Even for the Apollo 11 astronauts who put Sinatra at the top of their play list for their trip to the moon. In the 1960's, Sinatra's image as a bad boy grew, aided by the popularity of his confederation of buddies known as the "rat pack." The number of Sinatra's critics, as well--but the singer, who rarely gave interviews, dismissed them, and was quoted as saying "whatever has been said about me personally is unimportant--when I sing, I believe I'm honest."
SINATRA SINGING "NEW YORK, NEW YORK": Start spreading the news. I'm leaving today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.
KWAME HOLMAN: In December 1995, New York City lit up the Empire State Building in blue lights in honor of ol' blue eyes. It seemed the entire world wanted to help Frank Sinatra celebrate his 80th birthday.
Simultaneously, a 450-song Sinatra anthology was released on CD--as was a handful of new books--including a coffee table memoir by his daughter, Nancy, chock full of family photos. In recent years, Sinatra's health declined and he rarely was seen in public. A year ago, he suffered a heart attack. Last night, reportedly with his wife, Barbara, at his side, Frank Sinatra succumbed to another heart attack at a hospital in Los Angeles.
FRANK SINATRA SINGING: When somebody loves you, it's no good unless he loves you all the way.
KWAME HOLMAN: Frank Sinatra was 82 years old.