On the stage of success
His parents named him Francis Albert Sinatra, but the world came to know him as Frank Sinatra, or simply “The Voice.” He was a singer and actor, who made more than 2,000 music recordings, participated in 50 films, and won five Grammy Awards and an Oscar. But on that December 12th, 1915, in New Jersey, he was simply the son of Anthony Martin and Natalie, a couple with Italian origins.
Frank Sinatra’s birth was extremely complicated, with the life of both mother and son in danger, but despite the fact that the medical equipment that had to be used left him with a perforated eardrum, the boy soon developed a great passion for music.
At the age of 9, Frank Sinatra was already singing in the tavern his father ran, accompanied by a pianola. At that time, he would try to imitate not only the voice of the great Bing Crosby, but also his way of dressing. Fond of athletics and swimming, the young Sinatra never finished high school, going from one sporadic job to another: from newspaper vendor to truck driver, messenger or sports commentator. Any job was good enough to earn a wage that would allow him to get by while he sang in small bars at night.
In 1932, he met Nancy Barbato, who would become his wife six years later, and the mother of his three children: Nancy, Frank Jr. and Christina. At that time, fate led him to enter a radio contest, accompanying the trio The Three Flashes, under the name of The Hoboken Four. They won first prize, which consisted of a tour sponsored by the radio programme. After three months, Sinatra abandoned the tour due to disagreements with the rest of the group, but his voice had already begun to gain popularity on the radio. Those who knew him back then said there was nobody with more self-confidence and belief in his own talent.
The birth of a legend
A decade later, Sinatra took the stage at the Paramount Theater in New York to accompany Benny Goodman. That day, a fan phenomenon started which got increasingly stronger, to the extent that a year later at the same venue, 40,000 girls brought the streets near the theater to a complete standstill. A star was born, and at the end of that year, thanks to the contract with Columbia Records, Frank Sinatra was already earning a million dollars a year.
Taking advantage of the surge of fame, the singer wanted to try his luck in the world of cinema. At first his films were not well received by critics. Around that time, the media began to make public the arguments between Frank and his wife, who asked for a divorce in 1950, when his relationship with the actress Ava Gardner was already public knowledge.
On November 1st, 1951, the singer obtained a divorce from Nancy, and the next day, Ava and he applied for a marriage license in Philadelphia. They were married in a week, thus beginning a passionate life together that was full of separations and reconciliations, until it ended in divorce in 1957.
Success in the cinema
During his marriage to Ava, Sinatra was still determined to be an actor. Following his instincts, he fought to get a role in the film “From Here to Eternity”, directed by Fred Zinnemann. The film was not only a blockbuster, it would also win him an Oscar as best supporting actor, thus starting a golden era for the actor, who obtained great success with a number of films, such as “Suddenly.” At that time, directors and producers called Sinatra not only to star in musical comedies, but also for dramatic roles.
Between 1955 and 1957, Frank Sinatra starred in more than eleven films, while maintaining his success in music and appearing on the cover of Time magazine, which defined him as “the best in the world of entertainment.” In this decade, his income was around four million dollars a year.
At the same time, Frank Sinatra was also enjoying success in love. After his separation from Ava Gardner, he had relationships with Judy Garland, Kim Novak and Lauren Bacall, among others. He even got engaged to some of these magnificent women, only to go back on his word later.
A music legend
With a booming recording career, and having bought his film and television production companies, Sinatra started the sixties earning twenty million dollars, which he invested in gambling-related companies in Las Vegas, shares in radio, and numerous real estate investments, among other ventures.
Faithful to the Democratic Party, in 1961, the singer and actor produced the Inaugural Gala of John F. Kennedy, while in a relationship with Marilyn Monroe, who was undergoing a difficult emotional process after having separated from her husband. They had a short, intermittent relationship which would not work out, ending abruptly with the death of the actress, a year later.
However, Frank would not take long to find the one who would become his third wife, actress Mia Farrow. Their first encounter took place on the set of “Von Ryan’s Express.” Despite the fact that the actress was only 19 years old at the time, they were soon married, although this marriage would also end in divorce, only thirteen months after having said “I do”. In 1972, Sinatra would add another marriage to his list: Barbara Marx, the ex-wife of Zeppo, of the Marx Brothers.
The eighties were a highly productive decade for Sinatra, in terms of the number of live performances as a singer. The concert he gave at the Maracanã Football Stadium in Rio de Janeiro in front of 175,000 people was particularly significant. He also broke all the records for Carnegie Hall, where all the tickets for two consecutive weeks of concerts were sold in a single day.
His last film, “The First Deadly Sin”, was released in 1981, and in 1984 he would record his last album with new songs, including the title track “L.A. is My Lady”, in tribute to Los Angeles and as compensation for the success of “New York, New York”, one of his greatest hits, along with such iconic songs as “Strangers in the Night” or “My Way”.
In the early nineties, Frank Sinatra began his last tour, although his memory and eyesight were beginning to fail him. Despite this, he managed to make a commercial success of his album “Duets”, in which he sang with the biggest names in music, such as U2’s Bono, Julio Iglesias or Liza Minelli. Few knew, however, that Sinatra did not meet up with any of them in the studio, as their voices were recorded separately and the duets were later electronically assembled.
In 1995, the singer gave what would be his last concert. It was at the Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort and Spa, during a private party in front of just over a thousand people. After his last public appearance in November 1996, he was admitted to the hospital. Thus began a long journey of intermittent hospital admissions that tragically ended with a heart attack. Frank Sinatra passed away accompanied by his children and Barbara, his last wife.
The world was left without its “Voice”, and the first condolences began to arrive from prominent public figures, such as Martin Scorsese, Nancy Reagan, Kirk Douglas or Bruce Springsteen. The only Catholic church in Beverly Hills was adorned with gardenias, roses and white lilies, Sinatra’s favourite flowers. In the chaple, a single song was heard, “Put your dreams away”, with which Sinatra used to close his concerts, and the soundtrack that brought an end to a successful life. He was 82 years old and was buried in the Desert Memorial Park of Riverside County, California.