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The Sinatra paradox

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    The Sinatra paradox

    Just watching a documentary on Frank and it reminds me what a convoluted character he is. Obviously, I am not talking about his voice which was amazing (although too often set to songs higher pitched than best displayed his voice at its best, I thought) but the person. On one hand, he was a, for the States, left-leaning liberal who told Hoover's lot to fuck off when they accused him of being a communist. He also was, for that time, amazingly outspoken against racism and supportive of the NAACP, MLK, the black musicians that backed him and, of course, Sammy Davis Jr (although the latter got the bad side of Frank as well). Obviously, Sinatra later played Sun City so his anti-racist sensibilities weren't that acute.

    On the other hand, he was a bad-tempered and difficult fucker, to say the least. Chippiness in any genius is no surprise but Sinatra took this to the extreme even for performers of great (and fragile) egos. Obviously, the other thing with him was the Mafia connections. Whether this helped him get the power to make Vegas more multicultural doesn't matter, they were murderous fuckers and he knew it. Certainly, he obviously used it to promote Kennedy through the Teamsters and deliver votes. This backfired with the Kennedys throwing him under the bus which, with his inherent spite, meant him backing the Republicans - Nixon, Kissinger and Reagan of all people.

    Obviously, he wasn't the only one like this especially at this time - many of the same sort of accusations could be made pointed at the rest of the Rat Pack, Elvis, the Kennedys etc - bit he does seem to have more of these contradictions than most. Perhaps all genii have got these sort of complicated personalities and Sinatra was just not as good as hiding them. Perhaps, Sinatra is actually emblematic of America more than anyone else in that, despite his many flaws, we are drawn to what he produces.

    #2
    He's not that convoluted. It really simple if you think of him as a person who derives his stated principles from his last row. Think about it like this. He Starts out as a young kid in an italian community, he hears jazz music and really likes it, gets involved in it, and starts hanging around with black musicians (This is very important, because it's very difficult to think that you are racially superior to someone if you think they're really good at something that you are good at. You are good enough to know how good they are, and also you have one particular thing in common with them, that very few other people have.) It would only take two or three rows about hanging around with black people or trying to get served in a bar with his 'friends' and he takes it so personally that he becomes an outspoken supporter of civil rights. It's also important to remember that Italians didn't become officially 'white' until the civil rights act, so the republicans were always going to be a stretch.

    Then of course Bobby Kennedy rounds on him and some of the people that got Kennedy elected, and after this he's suddenly a quite conservative republican, which may well have just better suited him temperamentally at this point.

    As for the Mobsters, well, it would have been challenging to have any meaningful career as a musician like sinatra without having extensive contact with the mafia. They Controlled the music industry, they controlled many of the venues where he was going to be playing, they controlled las vegas, and they could shut down hollywood at the drop of a teamster's hat. At all point he's going to be operating in racketeering controlled industry. From the point of view of an Italian, or an Irish person, you would see this as being friends with the most powerful people in your community. The trick is not to start to see yourself as a mobster.

    I love Frank Sinatra the singer. The man was a genius at phrasing. He's almost as good at phrasing as Ella Fitzgerald. But Frank Sinatra the phenomenon can fuck right off. I watched Pal Joey, and found myself getting very angry. He's just too much of a cunt. All that Rat pack shit is just sloppy nonsense, and those movies that they made are embarrassing. All of those performers were better by themselves, or sammy and Dean together.

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      #3
      Originally posted by The Awesome Berbaslug!!! View Post
      But Frank Sinatra the phenomenon can fuck right off.
      See also Elvis, The Beatles and Michael Jackson.

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        #4
        Originally posted by The Awesome Berbaslug!!! View Post
        I love Frank Sinatra the singer. The man was a genius at phrasing. He's almost as good at phrasing as Ella Fitzgerald. But Frank Sinatra the phenomenon can fuck right off. I watched Pal Joey, and found myself getting very angry. He's just too much of a cunt. All that Rat pack shit is just sloppy nonsense, and those movies that they made are embarrassing. All of those performers were better by themselves, or sammy and Dean together.
        Completely agree. I have a slight problem with his music because his style is by turns so conversational and intimate that it makes it difficult to remove him from it. Even though it is technically as skilful and accomplished as grand opera the illusion of ease works against my enjoyment of it because the sense of him as a technician is so well hidden. It would be easier to ignore him as a person if his art was more obviously artful.

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          #5
          <nods sagely>

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            #6
            On the other hand, when you've lived and loved the way Frank did...

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              #7
              With Ella, you can enjoy the song because she does not make it about herself. With Frank and with Billie Holiday, you have to engage with the singer or leave the room so to speak. Billie was more likeable but irreparably damaged after she got hooked on smack. Frank was "just" a boozer but was able to have two careers: 40s pop idol and 50s mature album artist, the first popular artist to make concept albums. Three greatest American singers of the century without a doubt.

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                #8
                Good points all round. Well done everyone.

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                  #9
                  The Sinatra Paradox is neatly illustrated by the fact that he once punched Bob Monkhouse in the face...then gave him a Rolex by way of apology.

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