Wednesday, February 24, 2016

He Did It His Way

It was Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday a while back, and he was all over the radio, careening toward one note after another--don't worry! He didn't actually hit any of them!--and after a while I was bored in general, and real bored with Frank,  so I went ahead and typed on my Facebook page that I just didn't get what's so great about Frank Sinatra. Hey. I was bored. It was the middle of winter and there weren't any hornet nests to poke and the bears are all asleep.

It's a matter of taste. If we all had the same taste, it would be a middle-of-the-road world out there. The Velveeta Underground: all Eagles and Michael Bolton with Cheez Whiz and a side of Christmas albums. I could have written "I really don't get why anyone would put pineapple on pizza" and engendered a spirited exchange without anyone sizing me up for concrete shoes.

But Frank Sinatra is very nearly a religious figure, and that makes him dangerous.

Well, you like what you like, and I don't necessarily like the things I'm supposed to like. Like, for instance, jazz. All smart people like jazz. I like the old kind. But not the kind where a few people are playing in a room so smoky it gets pressed right into the vinyl and they're going head to head in keys they're making up themselves on the fly, and they take turns busting into a solo riff just stuffed with notes and they're hanging onto coherence by one thin opiated thread, and it's pure genius--that's what everyone says. But I can't follow it, and I feel stupid, because I'm sure they're right.

Sinatra I just don't like. I understand that he's a master of phrasing, the song stylist of all time. He has his own signature way of getting around to a note. It probably was a natural outgrowth of his early attempts to locate the note in the first place. It's around here somewhere, young Frank thought. I'll just slide around until I find it. And it will be that much more thrilling when it turns up.

Everyone agreed it was a thrill. Whoa! Did you hear how close he got to that note? That's how you style a song. But for me, even his approach doesn't make up for the actual quality of his voice, which I find unremarkable at best, and tight and annoying at worst.

This goes way back. We weren't a Frank Sinatra family. We didn't have to be--we were Lutherans. The few LPs we had included Mahalia Jackson and Odetta and Leadbelly. The entire crooner scene with its bip-bap horn section was foreign to our DNA and we rejected it. It meant cocktails and cigarettes and immodest evening wear and sly innuendo. It meant getting a new Olds every year and belonging to the country club and the Lodge and owning a fez. It meant liking Ike and not Adlai Stevenson and it meant hating commies and being okay with the Coloreds as long as they were Nat King Cole or Sammy Davis Jr.

My Facebook Sinatra thread grew longer and longer and didn't begin to fray for days. I dipped in from time to time. "You're not the right age," a few people told me. "You're not old enough."

Humph. My dad was even older than I am--yes he was--and  he didn't like him either. I began to object, and then someone tried again to explain the attraction and included a youtube snippet and something about it all began to sound familiar. And that's when I realized I had poked the very same hornet nest a few years ago and generated the very same thread involving many of the very same people. I'd done this whole thing before and I didn't remember it. 

I don't know how much older you have to get than that.

49 comments:

  1. We do agree on some things:

    http://joeh-crankyoldman.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-flash-in-pan.html

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    1. Aaaaand apparently neither of us can keep it our little secret!

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  2. Are you missing the high notes in your life? Is it getting hard to hum along they way you used to?
    Ask your doctor if Sinatra is right for you.

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    1. Gol, maybe that's why the kids liked Inna Gadda Da Vida when I was coming up. They knew they'd still be able to hum along late in life, and remember the words, too.

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    2. Did you know it was supposed to be In The Garden Of Eden?

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    3. Well, that was the explanation given by the druggies in charge, sure. Also, it says "I buried Paul" if you play "I am the Walrus" backwards.

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  3. I can't believe you did this before. That made reading this all the much more entertaining for me since I am one of the few on that thread who also doesn't like Frank and doesn't get his appeal. I have lived in Hoboken a couple of times while working in NY and I do like that little slice of NYC one river removed.

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    1. I've never been to Hoboken, but I love saying Hoboken. Hoboken. Hoboken. Yeah, we were in a distinct minority.

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    2. I loved living there because it really was like a tiny NYC. At the time, the best French restaurant in NYC was in Hoboken. We used to hang out at the downstairs bar after work listening to not Sinatra and eating some of the best chocolate mousse that ever passed my lips.

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  4. ...early attempts to locate the notes in the first place.
    Snicker, snicker, snicker.
    I never understood his popularity either, but I'm not musical enough to have understood why. Now I do-thank you!

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    1. We're going to have to keep this to ourselves. Oh, too late.

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  5. Luckily we live on a continent where - for now, at least - we can agree to disagree on things like Sinatra and THE EAGLES, MISSY ... ahem

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    1. They're all yours, with my compliments! :)

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  6. I don't appreciate him either but he is effortlessly making the sounds. Most singers have a range; Blu doesn't seem to. Maybecause he doesn't hit any of them?

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    1. And you know what? There are many, many musicians I don't appreciate but who have legions of fans. And I wouldn't utter a peep about them, but when they achieve god-like status, I seem to feel the need to poke some holes in the balloon and bring it down a bit. Murr, Murr, quite contrurr.

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  7. A fight over whether you like Sinatra or not...really, can we not have likes or dislikes on music? Well, you started it. Now if it had been on the Kardashians, the thread would have been much shorter.

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    1. See reply to T H E above! If you're someone who has never said "I just don't get what's so great about...[insert name here]" then I salute you. It's hard not to. The funny thing, to me, is that I did it twice.

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  8. Gravity really is getting stronger so I'm sure that's what is taking my memory and pulling it down until it comes out. And all this time my wife thought I was flatulent.

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    1. Actually, it cheers me up to think that my memory makes a fart sound as it gets pulled out.

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  9. I LOVE Sinatra--what are you going to do about it?

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    1. Ma'am, nothing, ma'am! [Stepping away quietly]

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  10. Schubert's bloody lieder.Counter tenors.Country shit-kickin' songs.I can't hit the off switch fast enough.
    But I was playing Sinatra as I did my homework while other kids adored Elvis. It's difference that makes our world cohesive.Damn' good job, too!

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    1. Yeah, see, I don't care for Sinatra, but I don't have that real visceral response you're talking about. But since you bring it up, there is one person that makes me absolutely lunge for the off switch. That would be Stevie Nicks. Especially "give to me your leather, take from me my lace." gag gag gag

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  11. Reminds me of my mother's pronouncement on Ella Fitzgerald : "Why can't she just sing it _right_!"

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  12. You think you're hard done by; I hated Elvis. Ever since I was in high school. In the 50s.

    Sinatra? I just shuddered and tuned out.

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    1. I was a bit younger. By the time I was in junior high school, it was embarrassing to like Elvis.

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  13. Let me pour some gasoline on the fire. Billy Joel = instant fumble for the off switch. I foolishly outed myself on Facebook once on the subject and I figure I'll forget all about it and do it again next year.

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    1. Looks like YOU were the one that started the fire! I like two of his songs. Let's see. Allentown, and And So It Goes.

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  14. I was trying to think if I had a favorite singer and Bonnie Raitt came to mind. I think it is more what she sings. In my teens I didn't really like singers, just music I could dance to.

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  15. I couldn't understand what was so great about the Beattles, given that you couldn't hear them with all the screaming. Not until my choral sung their songs, could I hear the beautiful harmonies. Now that I'm almost 70, I have begun to enjoy their music. Delayed development?

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    1. I thought my Beatles development was delayed because I didn't think about them when they came out when I was in fifth grade (except to sneer at the screaming). But of course I couldn't just buy Beatles records and play them at home (no money). Then in seventh grade I went to a slumber party and they were playing a Beatles album and that was that. So I was delayed two years...

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  16. Well, I love listening to Frank Sinatra, but I don't know whether that's because I like *him* specifically or because I just love the songs themselves. I'd certainly listen to Michael Buble or Harry Connick, Jr., or even Steve Tyrell singing those same songs and enjoy them just as much as if they were coming from Frank's mouth.

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    1. Sounds to me like you've found your genre!

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  17. My family, such as it was, with dad in this town and mum in another town,never thought much of Frank Sinatra either. Dad preferred Andy Williams, or female singers, like Connie Francis and Brenda Lee. Mum? no idea. I do know she liked classical music, but we weren't a music listening family, in spite of dad playing harmonica or piano accordion out in the yard on summer Saturday nights. None of us ever owned a Frank Sinatra record.

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    1. I guess we had about ten records. And one of them was the Vaughn Meader Kennedy record.

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    2. Wow! You had The First Family, too?
      Cool!

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    3. Now that I think of it, about a third of our small collection was humor. We had Anna Russell, Victor Borge, Bob Newhart, and Maine storytellers.

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  18. "cocktails...cigarettes...immodest evening wear...sly innuendo." These were the very things I yearned for as a kid. I thot that's what it meant to be a grown-up.

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    1. Hi, honey. Even with my limited introduction to all that, I thought the same thing: it's what it meant to be a grown-up. And I didn't have the stuff, and didn't want to grow up.

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  19. OOPS! Should have used spell check!
    I never liked Sinatra much either. I was more of a Gene Kelly or Bing Crosby fan.
    I thought it would be great if we could go around singing and dancing everywhere. But I would probably be locked up right now if I had done that.
    I do like to sneak outside in the backyard in the rain and twirl and sing SINGING IN THE RAIN.

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    1. You, my dear, have picked the perfect portion of the planet to do that in!

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  20. My goodness, you are I in another body. We were Episcopalians: folk music, classical, show tunes. Until those cunning Brits snuck in in the 60s. Never did, never will get Frank Sinatra, or any of that ilk. I don't really get jazz or opera, either, or poetry, so it's not like I am cool.

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    1. I'm still thinking I need to give opera a shot. But in person. Maybe this will be the year.

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  21. If it weren't for the gracious offices of la cosa nostra Sinatra would have remained playing places like the Cat's Meow.

    Not sayin' that's a good or bad thing; just that if you have an issue with Frank, find your local la cosa nostra representative and give him (yeah - it's gonna be a 'him') an earful.

    be careful of any 'pushback'...

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  22. I can relate. With the exception of Adele, I don't care for most of my generation's performers. As a result, I've had to look beyond mainstream music to find tunes that stir my soul.

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