Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

or, Frank Sinatra Remembered ... Again

How can Frank Sinatra be dead? He was singing in my living room just the other day, sounding as big as life on my home stereo.

I've got you under my skin....

Nevertheless, May 14th marks the eleventh anniversary of his death, and I couldn't resist the desire to say a few words about him. Even though it's hard to find say anything about Sinatra that hasn't already been said.

When somebody loves you, it's no good unless he loves you
All the way....

Every time I put on some of his music, I'm struck anew. Popular music may not change the world very much, but still -- the world sounds better because he was in it.

The world may forget you as time goes passing by
The stars will remember, and so will I.

That last set of lyrics comes, ironically, from a forgotten song Sinatra recorded in 1947, "The Stars Will Remember," written by Leo Towers and Don Pelosi. (If you can hunt it down, it's a beauty.) While Frank Sinatra is in no danger of being forgotten any time soon, he is in danger of being oversimplified. Too many people today know him only as the Rat Pack guy, the finger-popping dude who did songs like "Luck Be a Lady" and "New York, New York." That's one side of Sinatra, and the razzle-dazzle style is hard to forget. But there was so much more. That fourteen-carat voice gave us some of the most amazing melodies ever sung, and he knew just how to caress the words and make them glow.

In this world of overrated pleasures
Of underrated treasures
I'm glad there is you....

Frank Sinatra didn't write any of the lyrics I've posted here. But he was one of the first to re-record many of the songs we now know as standards, songs that came before his initial heyday of the 1940s. Without Sinatra, we might not know "I've Got You Under My Skin," "I've Got a Crush on You" or "The Way You Look Tonight." Or songs he made famous in his era, like "All the Way," "I've Got the World on a String" and "Young at Heart." That's what I love about Sinatra. His work embodies so much of the greatest music ever written.

So, in that way, Sinatra lives, alongside great songwriters like Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. He brought their music to life, for me and countless others.

And I guess that's as close to immortality as you can get.

1 comment:

Jennifer Shirk said...

I love to listen to Sinatra. :)
I saw a biography about him and the whole Rat Pack.
Fascinating life and story, too!