12 December 1915
Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey, United States
14 May 1998 (aged 82)
Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer, actor, and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, to Italian immigrants, Sinatra began his musical career in the swing era with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra found success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the "bobby soxers". He released his debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. Sinatra's professional career had stalled by the early 1950s, and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known residency performers as part of The Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of From Here to Eternity, with his performance subsequently winning an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sinatra released several critically lauded albums, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin' Lovers! (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Only the Lonely (1958) and Nice 'n' Easy (1960).
Sinatra left Capitol in 1960 to start his own record label, Reprise Records, and released a string of successful albums. In 1965, he recorded the retrospective September of My Years, starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, and released the tracks "Strangers in the Night" and "My Way". After releasing Sinatra at the Sands, recorded at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas with frequent collaborator Count Basie in early 1966, the following year he recorded one of his most famous collaborations with Tom Jobim, the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was followed by 1968's collaboration with Duke Ellington. Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971, but came out of retirement two years later and recorded several albums and resumed performing at Caesars Palace, and reached success in 1980 with "New York, New York". Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally until a short time before his death in 1998.
Sinatra forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity, he starred in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and received critical acclaim for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He appeared in various musicals such as On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957), winning another Golden Globe for the latter. Toward the end of his career, he became associated with playing detectives, including the title character in Tony Rome (1967). Sinatra would later receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1971. On television, The Frank Sinatra Show began on ABC in 1950, and he continued to make appearances on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Sinatra was also heavily involved with politics from the mid-1940s, and actively campaigned for presidents such as Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, though before Kennedy's death Sinatra's alleged Mafia connections led to his being snubbed.
While Sinatra never formally learned how to read music, he had an impressive understanding of it, and he worked very hard from a young age to improve his abilities in all aspects of music. A perfectionist, renowned for his dress sense and performing presence, he always insisted on recording live with his band. His bright blue eyes earned him the popular nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes". Sinatra led a colorful personal life, and was often involved in turbulent affairs with women, such as with his second wife Ava Gardner. He went on to marry Mia Farrow in 1966 and Barbara Marx in 1976. Sinatra had several violent confrontations, usually with journalists he felt had crossed him, or work bosses with whom he had disagreements. He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. After his death, American music critic Robert Christgau called him "the greatest singer of the 20th century", and he continues to be seen as an iconic figure.
Sinatra died with his wife at his side at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 14, 1998, aged 82, after a heart attack. Sinatra had ill health during the last few years of his life, and was frequently hospitalized for heart and breathing problems, high blood pressure, pneumonia and bladder cancer. He was further diagnosed as having dementia. He had made no public appearances following a heart attack in February 1997. Sinatra's wife encouraged him to "fight" while attempts were made to stabilize him, and his final words were, "I'm losing." Sinatra's daughter, Tina, later wrote that she and her sister, Nancy, had not been notified of their father's final hospitalization, and it was her belief that "the omission was deliberate. Barbara would be the grieving widow alone at her husband's side." The night after Sinatra's death, the lights on the Empire State Building in New York City were turned blue, the lights at the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor, and the casinos stopped spinning for a minute.
Sinatra's funeral was held at the Roman Catholic Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills, California, on May 20, 1998, with 400 mourners in attendance and thousands of fans outside. Gregory Peck, Tony Bennett, and Sinatra's son, Frank Jr., addressed the mourners, who included many notable people from film and entertainment. Sinatra was buried in a blue business suit with mementos from family members—cherry-flavored Life Savers, Tootsie Rolls, a bottle of Jack Daniel's, a pack of Camel cigarettes, a Zippo lighter, stuffed toys, a dog biscuit, and a roll of dimes that he always carried—next to his parents in section B-8 of Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California.
His close friends Jilly Rizzo and Jimmy Van Heusen are buried nearby. The words "The Best Is Yet to Come", plus "Beloved Husband & Father" are imprinted on Sinatra's grave marker. Significant increases in recording sales worldwide were reported by Billboard in the month of his death.
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Frank Sinatra & Count Basie