(Please excuse this one off-topic post; I could not let Sinatra’s 100th birthday pass without writing about him 🙂 )
I remember the first time I listened to my grandfather’s CD player. As Grandpa sat beside me, there was a twinkle in his eye; he carefully unwrapped a hard candy, making sure to thoughtfully offer me one as well, while selecting an album from his impressive collection. I must confess that I do not recall which song he played for me, but I remember the album itself. I remember the voice.
The album’s cover intrigued me: a man smiling and gazing into the distance as if he had just thought of something spectacularly wonderful. It was as if he possessed a beautiful secret others would long to know just from glancing into his wistful eyes—but it was his secret and no one could fully guess (though they would try). The man in question was Frank Sinatra; the album was Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits. Even though I was a young girl at the time, I instantly recognized the name as someone famous, someone important. It’s just that this was the first time I was learning why.
“Your Grandma and I have been listening to Frank Sinatra for years. There were a lot of great singers when we were growing up, but Sinatra was always the best”, Grandpa explained—a statement he would repeat for many years to come.
And so we sat in a complacent silence, listening. I was captivated; there was something remarkably unique about Sinatra, even from that first song—something warm, sincere and inviting, something never quite matched by any other singer up to that point or since. Of course, I asked Grandpa if I could borrow the album, to which he readily agreed.
Since then, scarcely a day goes by when I am not aware of the myriad of ways in which Sinatra has touched my life, the ways in which he will undoubtedly continue to do so. I think of his films: from watching Robin and the 7 Hoods with my father as a child to finally seeing High Society a few months ago, his warmth is as apparent onscreen as it is on an album (of course, there’s humor there as well). I remember the articles, the books, the documentaries—all the wonderful works of fiction and nonfiction highlighting the incredible life of this singer, actor, civil rights activist, legend. I recall last summer, when I referenced my Grandpa’s love for Sinatra in the eulogy I wrote for him; whenever I listen to Sinatra—as I am now while writing this—I imagine he is still with me, smiling.
Today marks what would have been Sinatra’s 100th birthday—sadly, The Chairman has been gone for close to twenty years; but when you consider how lucky the world was to have him and his music at all, this passage of time—this period of time where Sinatra has not been physically present—seems insignificant. Sinatra never really leaves. His music is not akin to that soundtrack you listened to for three months straight before growing tired of it or that one pop song you played on repeat incessantly until it, too, bored you. Listening to and loving Sinatra’ music is not a phase; it is a lifestyle. There is a Sinatra song for everything, every time, every place: excited, in love, broken-hearted, lonely, proud, dejected, celebratory, reflective, remorseful.
Ultimately, each and every one brings me back to the initial awe I had when I first listened to him as a young girl; each and every note he sings transports my life to a place of joy, a place of love—and I’m still drawn in by his wistful eyes, wondering what he was first trying to convey. I think I get it now: the secret is in that very state of awe, the fact that I listened to him as a young girl, listen to him still and shall continue to do so.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Sinatra; in the end, all I can really say is thank you.