It was the age of "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Carnaby Street couture and "Bond, James Bond." The Beatles ruled the world of popular music, having launched the "British Invasion" with their performances on The Ed Sullivan Show early in 1964. A year later that takeover was in full force, and yet for Frank Sinatra, on the verge of turning 50, 1965 would be a very good year.
|Nelson Riddle and Frank Sinatra|
By 1960, the buzz created by his close friendship with JFK and his celebrated sold-out "Rat Pack" shows in Las Vegas had elevated his status above and beyond any mere "A list." He was now in a league all his own and would soon form his own record company, Reprise Records, and hold other business interests, including a charter airline and a film company.
|Dean, Frank and Sammy|
"Beatlemania," a term coined by the media to describe what it expected would be another short-lived fad, not only did not subside, but continued to spread unchecked across the globe. In truth, the British Invasion was a catalyst for a world-wide youth movement. Old was out and young was in, and the impact of this on the careers of many stars of the pre-Beatles era was devastating. And yet, in 1965, the dawn of the "Youthquake," Frank Sinatra would be propelled to the next plateau of his career. The core of his repertoire would remain the American Songbook - the music of Cole Porter, the Gershwins and others - but he would occasionally, and wisely, add new material, very often written expressly for him.
These are some of the highlights of Frank Sinatra's 50th year:
June 20 - Officially known as the "Frank Sinatra Spectacular," Frank, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. perform a live benefit concert at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis. The show, emceed by Johnny Carson, is broadcast into theaters in ten cities, including New York and Chicago, via closed-circuit TV. The concert is filmed and is purportedly the only existing footage of the "Rat Pack" act they regularly performed at the Sands in Vegas.
June 23 - Von Ryan's Express, a WWII POW escape film in the vein of The Great Escape (1963), is released. Sinatra is the top-billed star and the movie is a big hit.
|Frank Sinatra and Trevor Howard in Von Ryan's Express|
July 4 - Sinatra performs with Count Basie as the main attraction at the Newport Jazz Festival.
September 1965 - Sinatra's September of My Years LP is released on Reprise. It contains a landmark hit single, "It Was a Very Good Year." The album will go on to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year and the song will bring Sinatra a Grammy for Best Male Vocal Performance. "It Was a Very Good Year" becomes Frank Sinatra's first #1 single on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart and will also track on Billboard's Pop chart.
November 16 - CBS broadcasts a black-and-white documentary, "Sinatra: An American Original" featuring a sit-down interview with Walter Cronkite and footage of Sinatra's recording sessions for September of My Years. Working behind the scenes on the production are producer Don Hewitt and writer Andy Rooney, who will both go on to great success with 60 Minutes.
|Frank Sinatra interviewed by Walter Cronkite on CBS|
November 24 - NBC broadcasts a one-hour color special, "Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music." The show will earn an Emmy Award for Outstanding Musical Program and is such a success that two follow-up specials will be produced.
|"Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music" on NBC|
November/December 1965 - During the 1965 holiday season, peerless pioneer of the "new journalism" Gay Talese travels to Los Angeles and begins his fabled profile of Sinatra for Esquire magazine. Because he was suffering with a cold, Sinatra cancelled his interviews with Talese who was left to develop the profile without direct access to his subject. He accomplished this by observing the star's entourage in relation to Sinatra's ill health. Published in the April 1966 issue of Esquire, "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" is generally regarded as the most famous celebrity profile of all time.
The definition of "cool" changed in the mid-'60s and Sinatra would no longer rule that kingdom. He would transcend it. Dubbed "the Voice" early in his career, his style matured and he developed an unmatched gift for interpreting lyrics and conveying emotion. Walter Cronkite said of him, "People who understand music hear sounds that no one else makes when Frank Sinatra sings." Others flatly insist he was the greatest popular singer of the 20th Century.
This is my contribution to the Sinatra Centennial Blogathon hosted by Movie Classics and The Vintage Cameo.