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Joining us now is James Kaplan who is -- New York Times best selling author whose latest book is called frank.
-- -- It's available now what looks super under your Christmas tree or wrapped up next to your Chanukah menorah or wherever you're celebrating.
Great to have you here thanks very much for coming in here so much so this is really one of the one of the icons.
Of American popular culture.
Maybe one of the biggest of the twentieth century yes I think just about the -- -- the so we know so much about him already yeah what.
New are you telling us this is the beginning of his career this is Frank Sinatra when he was setting out to become -- the first superstar in American entertainment.
The indeed do we frank the forming frank the frank Sinatra -- learning how to use and create that amazing voice and and and becoming the Elvis in The Beatles before Elvis and The Beatles.
I must admit.
Full disclosure that I have not had a chance to read the book yet but I look forward to it I did go through some of the press materials though so I know a little bit about some of the things that you touch on.
This is really about the rise the fall and then the rebirth of the career.
Frank Sinatra and as you say you really sort of take it up to 1954.
-- which is after the point that he has.
Won the Academy Award for his.
Amazing roll in from here to eternity and that career just in a -- -- -- from there -- So let's go back the beginning here this is this is a guy who grew up.
Just over the over the through the tunnel like get outta here in itself so here and so far from New York City you could take the path train and be.
In Hoboken, New Jersey -- just a couple of minutes and this is where he's from so how did.
His background in Hoboken his childhood.
Shape the man that he that he eventually he became Sinatra was a guy who always had a chip on his shoulder he was an Italian American in 1920 from the 1930s when Italian Americans weren't you can considered white legally and America.
And so and -- also came from a small town back then you couldn't take that path he had to take the ferry today in New York with the gulf it was -- -- -- -- -- -- across the -- And dream about being famous he knew we had something he knew we had a gift.
A genius for singing and that trick was -- that challenge was to convince the rest of the world.
One of the things that I was fascinated to read -- that you really talk about how his voice.
Which is of course part of the title of your book.
Was something he had to work on -- I you know I think you you hear the voice of Frank Sinatra.
And others -- like Aretha Franklin who is ill apparently there's going to be a vigil for her we wish her the best Barbara surprising and you know some of these voices that you really just -- you like world.
These voices their god given yet Frank Sinatra the had to work yes he had a god given year for music he could sing on key from from childhood.
But one of the big surprises about working on this book for me was learning how incredibly hard he worked on singing on the lyrics on his breath control -- every part of this art it.
He made it look easy it was not him.
So he gets involved I -- his first big break is with the Tommy Dorsey yes orchestra which was the big.
The big big band orchestra at the time yes and he gets locked into.
-- a contract.
That eventually he wants to get out of it is not so easy and anyone who is signed a contract -- to what what happens well at the godfather.
I gave it sort of spicy twist with the singer that was sort of based on Sinatra have been -- sort of based on Dorsey.
There may have been some -- pressure on Tommy Dorsey but -- also lot of agents and lawyers involved that's the boring part of the story nobody wants to hear about.
That the main thing is though that once the Sinatra began singing with Dorsey band -- used to be the second part of the act.
He became the forefront of the act and he needed to get out.
And he was able to do that of course and he broke down his own.
But he still had a lot of difficulties.
After his initial success what led to his slide was it.
Revelations about possible ties to the mafia what was it that brought about all of the above and so much of it was self inflicted for one thing popular music changed after world -- tooth not convenient to go out of style records weren't selling anymore.
But for another -- -- a lot of self inflicted problems he yes he attended a mafia summit in Havana in 1947.
There happened to -- -- newspaper columnists there from the Hearst papers began writing about it.
And then he left his wife and children for Ava Gardner it's so common these days among celebrities in those days you didn't do it.
He became a pariah and America you lost all this money he was dropped by -- record company buys -- movie studio by its agents.
And he was nowhere.
-- he began campaigning for this -- from here to turn it.
At his lowest he attempted -- he did a couple of times -- mostly had to do with Ava Gardner and that very very flammable and problematic relationship.
So he so there's this campaign for him he finds out about this movie.
And there's a particular role that's not it's not the -- running but is it Burt Lancaster.
And who has the starring role a little GI from Brooklyn Angelo my geo chip on the shoulder one of the -- plays the trumpet right yeah out well a little bit but he's mostly just a feisty little guy with an attitude and Sinatra who was down on the -- at this point.
Totally identified with the guy.
At that point Sinatra only been performing MGM musicals singing and dancing he wanted to get -- serious role that could really take his career back to where should.
And so how did he get -- because you mentioned the movie to -- I -- Of course this is what everybody remembers with that the horses -- the -- -- bad to have the movie producer.
Who wakes up with media -- -- are -- -- it was a great movie did they get it right or is that -- -- -- with complete fiction a lot of it had to do with Ava Gardner Ava Gardner went to the head of Columbia Pictures Harry -- with the big latch.
And said to Harry Cohn I will give you a free picture if you give frank the screen test well.
Harry -- looked Ava Gardner up and down and -- what else can I get for free and he gave -- the screen that Sinatra -- the screen test.
He gets the movie it's it doesn't pay a whole lot but that really didn't matter.
-- -- got in the Academy Award yes and then what happened after that.
He had signed he had been dropped by Columbia records he signed with Capitol Records which win this -- -- and told the salesforce he would sign Frank Sinatra.
-- and the whole room groaned.
Nobody wanted to Sinatra that's so hard to -- that it is hard to imagine but but this genius executive at Capitol Records linked -- knocked -- up with this unknown young ranger named Nelson -- and they began making this series of amazing records together.
That you read.
Recreated Sinatra's career and it was at Capitol Records in the 1950s most unbelievable popular music of the twentieth century.
I grew up listening to this music of my grandparents -- that my parents played it.
-- really is just sort of a part of of our history.
You know and and even if you don't know very much about music and and I certainly don't you can tell that there's a way when Frank Sinatra sings that song yet.
Even if it's a song that you've heard other people saying and that's really.
What he did for the most part in the latter part of his career was to sort of re interpret popular songs through that were already but you know familiar to people.
He -- -- so differently how did he what was that something that was god given his idea his ability to interpret music and to freeze and you talked about his breathing a little bit -- -- learned that incredibly hard work learned breathing technique from Tommy Dorsey was a great trombonist and could hold a note for 32 bars.
But Sinatra also learned something else and this may -- was -- -- he learned to love the earlier he would read the lyrics of the song as it the world home before he ever -- -- -- He would he would inhabit that song.
And it was a combination of knowing that lyric knowing the -- and his his great vulnerability and that great voice that need each song his very own and made -- in the voice like no other.
I just -- your thoughts having done all of the research.
You did to write this book about the chances of an.
Of some day soon another voice.
Like Frank Sinatra's bursting onto the scene and and really having the kind of success that Sinatra had is that even possible.
In the standing there are there are hundreds of great voices out there the greater reap the Franklin who as you say -- all concerned for it's an amazing voice.
There will never be another voice like Sinatra if it is an unmistakable voice it will last for all time.
And we shouldn't compare apples and oranges it's not a quantitative thing when you talk about voices but again this is a voice that will last a few others it.
What surprised you the most is -- tell you must've talked to so many people.
-- in writing this book.
Did talk to Jerry Lewis -- -- Jerry Lewis secretary.
Okay so tell what Jerry Lewis tell you about Frank Sinatra well the biggest surprise about Sinatra to -- -- Jerry Lewis confirm that was.
That here -- the guy who always he was snapping his fingers that the image we have of him sure snapping a microphone cord snapping his fingers.
He's the -- -- in the late fifties early sixties.
On top of the world he had the world on a string.
But the thing that was a huge surprise to me was how deep down in secure this guy was about.
Everything about this looks you know you it's terribly scarred when he was born his left he was here very large berth in the age thirty pounds yeah thirteen -- they had to use forceps diplomats -- the left side of his face.
He didn't like to be photographed on that side.
He with a guy he was he is a small man he with hyper sensitive man you with obsessive compulsive.
He had all these tickets all these problems that we don't really know about and the you don't see on the surface.
But again they filter in to the vulnerability that he conveyed in his songs and made the singing great.
Maybe we can discuss this in a delicate way even though he had.
Some you know he was sort of small in stature.
He was large and other.
In other parts of his anatomy that actually.
You write in the book and with -- read in the press notes.
Yeah made it very popular with the ladies I think that what made him popular with the ladies with not necessarily his anatomy although Ava Gardner used to love to talk about anatomy.
But what made him popular with the ladies was I think it has more to do with his vulnerability and his magnetism.
Then with his anatomy lots of guys.
May be a minority but lots of guys are built big that that doesn't necessarily make them great with the ladies Sinatra had a lot of things going.
You know we think about you know it's such the music business and people who are entertainers they.
-- a lot of times they're not very good at sort of managing they're they're -- you know they're good at what they do they're good at singing where they're good at painting or writing or whatever but.
You do different -- have a business acumen was he able to.
Really sort of understand we talked a little bit about the contract that he had to get out of with Tommy Dorsey but was was he involved in all of batter was actually he left to other people in the early years very much left other people the early -- -- that the young Sinatra until he was succeeding with Capitol Records in the mid to late fifties.
He spent money like a drunken sailor he did not care when it was coming in.
Where was going he bought people gold cigarette cases he spent 50000 dollars on gold cigarette cases and lighters for friends.
Before -- thirty years old and that was when 50000 dollars with.
Forget it and now.
The answer the early part of his career is no later on he owned his own recording company owned his own private jet.
He -- all kinds of things he became much smarter.
And as far as his estate.
And I know that you your book on the goes up to to the mid 1950s but you know we read about.
The entertainers who have died and and and and the amount of money that -- -- the states is still are able to collect the royalties and things like that.
That he said his family up well.
He said -- Stanley up well he he left a widow Barbara Sinatra who doesn't apparently get along that great with his three children but I think everybody was well provided for and certainly.
It is an image.
And a body of work that continues to generate great income.
Are there are -- new Frank Sinatra and a lot of times news we hear about these receive new recordings are secret recordings that are just.
On -- there we are we gonna hear new Frank Sinatra music here needs you franks and this is a guy who loved recording songs we recorded.
Thousands upon thousands of numbers and takes.
And we it's amazing how the the new material just keeps on emerging especially when there's go to -- -- right exactly.
How did he pick the music that he wanted to report was that -- mean that he would talk to Nelson Riddle about.
But some of the other readers that he worked with their did he -- -- this innate because.
And I I have heard.
I grew up outside of Philadelphia and there's a radio show called for a Friday with frank yet.
And I think they also have Saturday with Sinatra worries that mark Sid Mark is yeah hosted this show and I whenever I was in the car with my grandfather that's what would with -- When it was on and it seemed like Frank Sinatra sang every song ever written.
You know we would be driving to the supermarket -- -- -- bridge over troubled water how do you keep the music playing you know these were sort of more contemporary songs -- and yet here was Frank Sinatra doing his own take on that.
Did he just did it be heard a song you like he just said he just made a record out of it was always out to me it he wanted to make it records.
And this involved recording a lot of great songs and also involved recording a lot of dogs unfortunately and so you will hear Frank Sinatra singing.
Mom don't bark and and -- bad bad Leroy Brown but -- also hear him singing day in day out.
I've got the world on the straying.
Knight and day these -- -- masterpieces that the American songbook.
He wanted to make kids that was the first thing -- and -- -- our young people is aware of Frank Sinatra today.
-- they know about his music or they.
It I think there's something for them to it to latch on to -- you know those who younger is people who are listening to the Justin Bieber is of the world and and the Kanye West's.
What would you and would you say to them to sort of introduce them to Frank Sinatra well I think that they know about Frank Sinatra to college age sons I visited them both in their dormitories and each case different colleges saw posters that Sinatra up on the wall.
I think they think of him as a swinger -- the guy -- is perpetually cool I think the music has.
And at eternal appeal the rappers love Sinatra you know Jay-Z calls himself the new Sinatra.
I just think this is a guy who goes on and on.
The book is called -- the voice the author is James Kaplan.
And it it sounds like -- read I I look forward to diving into it.
Check it out great get for the holidays for the music lover in your family and great to talk to you thanks very much -- -- -- country great.
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