Frank Sinatra: Biography & Quotes

Instructor: Benjamin Olson
This lesson will detail the life and career of Frank Sinatra. We'll cover Sinatra's major eras and songs and his overall impact on American culture. Some of Sinatra's most well-remembered quotes will also be mentioned.

Sinatra: Style and Persona

Frank Sinatra 1960.

Frank Sinatra was one of the most beloved singers and actors of the 20th century. Bridging the gap between jazz and pop music, Sinatra's audience transcended genres and generations.

Sinatra's public persona was nearly as important as his music, comprising a combination of brash masculinity and introspection. Sinatra summed up his tough guy attitude by saying, ''The big lesson in life, baby, is never be scared of anyone or anything.''

Arguably the first genuine pop star, Sinatra's career went through many different phases. Let's take a closer look.

Early Life and Career

Frank Sinatra was born Francis Albert Sinatra on December 12th, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey. His parents were working class Italian immigrants.

Sinatra participated in glee club and band, but soon decided that formal education was not the road that would lead him to fame and fortune. During his sophomore year of high school, Sinatra quit school for good.

By 1931, Sinatra was singing wherever he could. Fraternal society lodges, roadhouses, bars, restaurants, and amateur contests were all early proving grounds for the young Sinatra. A brief stint with a vocal group called the Hoboken Four proved unappealing to Sinatra and he soon left the quartet.

First Hit and First Marriage

A gig as lead vocalist for the Harry James Band gave Sinatra his first opportunity to record, producing the hit song 'All or Nothing at All'. Sinatra's tenure with the Harry James band led to a much more productive role in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, which allowed Sinatra to record many more records.

As World War II loomed, Frank Sinatra was married to his childhood sweetheart Nancy and experiencing a modestly successful career with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, but was not satisfied.

By the outbreak of the war, Sinatra had gone solo and began to experience the first major phase of success that his career would enjoy. Sinatra's primary audience during this period was teenage girls and young women. Fans would become hysterical when confronted with Sinatra's suave crooning, earning Sinatra the nickname 'The Sultan of Swoon' and themselves the title 'bobby soxers.'

Songs like 'Stardust' and 'This Love of Mine' left audiences enraptured, but not for long. After the end of World War II, Sinatra's dreamboat shtick went out of fashion and he was dropped from Columbia Records.

The Post-War Sinatra

In an attempt to revitalize his career, Sinatra accepted a role in the 1953 film From Here to Eternity. The move proved to be successful, earning Sinatra an Oscar for best supporting actor. In 1953, Sinatra began the second major stage of his career by signing with Capitol Records.

Sinatra divorced his first wife and married the glamorous movie star Ava Gardner. During the 1950s, Sinatra made the hits 'Young at Heart' and 'Witchcraft.' Although reasonably successful during this period, his status as a pop star was somewhat compromised by the rise of rock 'n' roll, which Sinatra famously dismissed as ''the most brutal, ugly, degenerate, vicious form of expression.''

Sinatra's marriage to Gardner was not very successful and their divorce was finalized in 1957 after several years of separation. Regarding his often tumultuous love life, Sinatra once quipped, ''I'm supposed to have a Ph.D. on the subject of women. But the truth is I've flunked more often than not. I'm very fond of women; I admire them. But, like all men, I don't understand them.''

The Vegas Years

The 1960s were perhaps Sinatra's golden age. He left Capitol Records to start his own very successful label, Reprise. During this decade Sinatra became indelibly associated with Las Vegas, which were epitomized by his leadership of the Rat Pack, which also included Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop. In the 1957 film The Joker Is Wild Sinatra's character remarks, ''Las Vegas is the only place I know where money really talks--it says, 'goodbye'.''

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The Rat Pack made numerous movies together and performed live frequently. The image that the Rat Pack established around itself, that of the cool, fun loving, bad-boys of Vegas continues to be the stuff of Las Vegas mythology.

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