Listen, we know the headline of this post got your attention — that’s what it was intended to do. But now that we have your attention, how about you forget about the man’s famous name for a minute? Forget, too, some of the stories you may have heard — stories that are a half-century-old now — belonging to the tabloids of another era. Once was the time when it was one of things the man was famous for. But can you imagine continuing to be dogged by ridiculous questions about something that happened to you when you were 19 — when you are 69?
Listen, we say, to the music:
We’re not done. If the man didn’t possess the famous name he possesses, the name we’re demanding you put out of your mind for a minute, if the man didn’t inherit the legacy of a globally famous father looming over him, the very legacy we’re demanding you put out of your mind for a minute, we wager you’d be intrigued. You’d sit up, you’d take notice. You’d listen, harder and more intensely this time, for more, snapped to full attention by the clarity of his pipes. Here it is one more time, introduced by the single greatest musical vamp in the history of American popular song:
No, we’re still not done. We’re choosing these videos and not something slicker because audiences clearly, viscerally respond to the man and his voice. And while some may at first respond to the man’s clear connection with his parentage, in the end they connect with a talent that is not his father’s but wholly his, one that neither channels nor imitates but charts its own course and demands its own attention. The man we’re talking about today has a slightly higher, lighter, more freewheeling voice, at full ease in the melodic comfort zone that has sustained his career, backed by brilliant big bands, for more than 50 years. If you’re listening for his father, you’ll think you’re hearing it, but you’re not. What you’re missing is the essence of the son with the famous name being nothing less than his own man:
All right, now we can mention his name: Frank Sinatra, Jr. And, yes, there is plenty of timbre and tone that is redolent of Ol’ Blue Eyes, but the point is that Sinatra, at the aforementioned 69, has nothing second-rate, second-tier or secondary about him. He is also fiercely intelligent, suffers fools without gratitude and is understandably proud of the opportunity his father gave him late in his career to join him as his musical director and conductor:
We like artists who don’t suffer unprepared journalists gladly. We really do.
And now that your ears are interested, it’s time for you to get an eyeful of the ever-interesting Sinatra — to go check him out yourself. On Sun., Nov. 24, he will appear in Come Fly with Me: The Sammy Cahn Centennial Concert at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (Prudential Hall, 1 Center St., Newark, NJ, 1-888-GO-NJPAC), backed by the New Jersey Symphony Chamber Orchestra and with special guest Steve Tyrell.
The show, of course, salutes and celebrates Cahn, the beloved and prolific lyricist behind such standards as “Love and Marriage,” “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!,” “Come Fly with Me,” “Time After Time,” “Three Coins in the Fountain” and “I’ll Walk Alone,” and who received 26 Oscar nominations and won four times.
The event is part of NJPAC’s American Song Series, with proceeds benefiting the institution’s arts education programs as well as those of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.
And now, 5 questions that Frank Sinatra, Jr., has never been asked (and maybe an extra question or two):
1) What’s the most perceptive question anyone has asked you about your work?
“What do you think about when you are singing your songs?” My thinking about my songs when I perform them is to bring each lyric to the audience as if it were coming to me for the first time, at that moment. To dramatically perform each story as if the conversation between me and the listener is totally spontaneous.
2) What’s the most idiotic question anyone has asked you about your work?
In the autumn of 2012, my people and I were appearing at a jazz club in London. Naturally I was called upon to give interviews to radio and press representatives in order to promote our engagement. One such interviewer, who had been described to me as “a great authority on jazz music,” put forth his first question in the following manner:
“Do you think any of the music you will be performing in your show during this visit to London will have been influenced by the fact that you had once been kidnapped and held for ransom 50 years ago?”
If that isn’t the dumbest question I have ever been asked about my work, I would regard it as a close second.
3) What’s the weirdest question anyone has asked you about your work?
The weirdest question I have been asked about my work must be why I have never recorded an album of Madonna’s music? (At the time, my response was: “I don’t have the underwear for it.”)
4) Your bio says that 2013 marks 50 years since your professional show business debut. What do you know about singing the American songbook now that you didn’t (and couldn’t) know then? What do you know about the Cahn’s songs, specifically, at 69 that you didn’t know at 19?
I gave my first performance as a singer on Aug. 25, 1962 and am now in my 52nd year of performing as a nightclub artist. I first met the late Sammy Cahn in the early 1950s when I was in knee-pants. I loved his writings then. However, as is the case with all people, as I matured into my later years, I have become aware, with great pleasure, of his deep sensitivity in his poetry, for poetry is what he wrote.
5) If your name was Joe Sixpack and not a first and last name recognized worldwide, would you have had the same love affair with the American songbook? If “yes,” how do you know that?
My love affair with what is today incorrectly called “The Great American Songbook” has not now or at any time in the past had anything to do with anybody’s name. And if my name had been Joe Sixpack, I would be working behind the counter in a convenience store at a gasoline station.
6) The year is 2063. How do tomorrow’s crooners interpret the Sammy Cahn songbook? Can you imagine them interpreting Cahn’s songs — or all the American songbook — differently? Is it a good thing, a bad thing?
I don’t have a lot of experience in predicting the future.
Extra bonus question:
7) We loved your two Family Guy episodes. How did Seth MacFarlane approach you for them? Did you have any say in the writing or songs chosen? If you were offered a regular gig on the show (as the owner of pLace, of course), what would you say? We’re ready to campaign for you!
Seth MacFarlane is a talented man who has always had a great love for the better music that we had in the past. He has made it an ongoing staple in his very successful career. Something for which I am deeply grateful. His people first approached my people some years ago about doing a cameo appearance on Family Guy, for which I am also deeply grateful. If somehow Seth were disposed to ask me to be a regular on his show, I would love it because I love the show and the people who make it. It has afforded me the wonderful experience of seeing myself as a cartoon.