Doing It Old School: Sinatra’s Enduring Impact On American Music

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Born and bred in Hoboken, New Jersey, Frank Sinatra would sing his way to the shores on the other side of the Hudson River to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Bing Crosby. His style, artistry and appeal became timeless as he became a true American icon. His take on the American songbook (solidified in a prolific 95 albums) would remain a standard for generations.

More than a century after his birth, Old Blue Eye’s indelible mark on modern American music is still fresh in the minds of musicians young and old.

Contemporaneous stars of music as Michael Buble and Harry Connick, Jr. have heaped praises on the late crooner’s singing style. Director and critically acclaimed big band vocalist Seth MacFarlane even went on not only to cover some of Sinatra’s underappreciated songs but to do so using a microphone preferred by the man himself, loaned from the Smithsonian, for his debut album.

Even today, many performers are measured by their resemblance to the man, with few modern musicians ever receiving the honor of a direct comparison. After all, beyond being a legend, he was also the first teen idol, codifying the appearance of a handsome musician wooing throngs of young women as a staple in modern music.

Sinatra combined the best of both standard pop and jazz, having been responsible for mainstreaming the concept of singing colloquially. He treated lyrics as personal statements and handled every melody with the ease and skill of extemporaneous improv, which in turn would pave the way for the idiosyncrasies of rock, a genre that he ironically didn’t warm up to for some time.

And though he had initially denounced pop’s direction toward rock and roll in the mid-1950s, he eventually would perform songs composed by the likes of Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, Jimmy Webb, and Billy Joel.

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Sinatra lived such a magical life that we can only dream about. He performed all over the world with the best musicians, was a celebrated movie star, and defined the songbook in America. His membership in the Rat Pack was legendary as their antics were adored by millions. He was known to enjoy a good Jack Daniels Whiskey and became a renowned party host. One thing not very public was Frank’s generosity. Frank was a very cheerful giver. He would donate to many children’s charities, help many in need and sponsor needed items for many groups. But, he never wanted it to be public. He chose to anonymously do this to not focus the light on him. Truly a remarkable trait to have.

A swing jazz musician and head of a swing orchestra, Vince Pettinelli holds Frank Sinatra among his favorite musicians. Visit this blog for more updates on vocal jazz and swing.