Monday, November 29, 2010

When a Skinny Singer Crooned to Knock Your Bobby Socks Off

By Stephen Holden

New York Times, November 28, 2010

 In “Frank: The Voice,” James Kaplan’s riveting 786-page biography of Frank Sinatra’s early years, the author pinpoints the moment in 1943 when the crooner’s new publicist, George B. Evans, came up with his first defining sobriquet.

Fourth billed at the Paramount Theater in New York, below Benny Goodman and His Famous Orchestra, and two comedy duos — the Radio Rogues and Moke and Poke — Sinatra’s name was accompanied by a slogan, “The Voice That Has Thrilled Millions.” The creakiness and sexlessness of those words made Evans cringe.

Certain he could come up with something better, Evans closed his eyes and imagined what drove Sinatra’s fans in bobby socks into a frenzy and suddenly realized he didn’t have to add anything. “All he had to do was subtract. Frank was just ... the Voice.”

If “the Voice” was later superseded by “the Chairman of the Board” and “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” it was the only major nickname to focus on the indispensable ingredient of Sinatra’s success. “Chairman” connotes power and “Ol’ Blue Eyes” longevity; “the Voice” evokes the intangible, mystical alchemy of sound, technique and emotion that fused when the skinny young Sinatra murmured tender endearments into a microphone.

The biography offers an almost day-by-day account of Sinatra’s volatile life and times from his difficult birth in 1915 to the evening in 1954 when his comeback from a severe career downturn was secured, and he was handed an Oscar for best supporting actor in “From Here to Eternity.”
Full review at New York Times.

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