Happy Birthday, Frank Sinatra!

December 12, 2009

My favorites come and go, but one person has remained constant for almost a decade now: Frank Sinatra.

I discovered classic films in December 1999, and then first heard Frank Sinatra sing two months later - on Valentines Day 2000. I was making a mix tape for my parents and found a Sinatra CD hiding amongst all the alternative rock music my dad usually listens to. One play of "All the Way" and I was hooked. Up until that day, I was strictly a top 40 girl. It embarrasses me now, but my entire music collection at the time pretty much consisted of Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys.

For me, Frank Sinatra is the one figure from the golden age whose music and movies have always remained at the top of the heap. His songs have comforted me through petty-in-retrospect-but-devastatingly-serious-at-the-time crushes in high school. When my cat was seriously ill in 2007, the only thing I could listen to was "Melancholy Baby." His songs were there when I had art successes -- "You're Gonna Hear From Me" was a popular tune in my home when I started getting sales in 2005. Every trip tape, every mix tape, every play list over the last ten years hasn't been without a Frank Sinatra song.

I have listened to his songs so often over the decade that I don't even need to play them to hear them; the songs are imprinted in my brain forever. When I do hear them, I can easily pinpoint what year they were recorded by the sound of his voice. From the smooth, silky sound of his early years with Harry James to the deep, world-weary gravely sound in the 80's. I love every one of his songs with all of my heart.

Frank Sinatra's voice, even at the beginning, had such a depth to it that while listening you really feel like you could fall into the sound. With headphones on in a quiet room, the music just engulfs me - no other singer I've ever heard could accomplish this but Frank Sinatra.

While my interest in Frank Sinatra has transformed over the years from a bobby-soxer, fangirl kind of fascination into a deep, heartfelt respect for the music and the man, I still go weak in the knees when I hear his love songs. Despite the fact that the album was made in haste at the end of his Capitol contract, my favorite album is "Point of No Return." It's usually outshone by his similar, but more popular, concept albums "Wee Small Hours" and "Only the Lonely" but if you haven't heard it yet, I highly recommend it. The track "It's a Blue World" has turned around my record player more times than I could ever count.

While I usually celebrate celebrity birthdays with a film or listening to one of their songs, Frank Sinatra's birthday is always different - he's like a member of my family! Because he's so special, he gets his own celebration in my home every single year.

The annual itinerary:

A double feature & a concert
(This year it's Von Ryan's Express, Pal Joey and A Man and His Music)

Sinatra music ALL DAY LONG, non stop.

And a pasta dinner using Frank Sinatra's recipe. The recipe was spoken to Sid Mark (host of the Philadelphia radio show Sundays with Sinatra)

"First you start with some olive oil and some garlic, four whole cloves. You heat the oil and add the garlic. Puncture the garlic with an ordinary fork so it exudes the flavor. When the garlic turns tan, turn off the oil and throw it out. Save the oil.
Next you take two whole cans of the Italian plum tomatoes. Place the can in the blender and count to a slow four. Put the tomatoes into a large sauce pan. Add some basil, salt, pepper, oregano, and the oil. Bring the sauce to a boil. Skim the oil that rises to the top. Dip a piece of bread in the sauce testing to see when the sauce is finished. At the end you might want to add from fresh parsley. And there you have it-a good pasta sauce."
Now, I edit this just a tad (sorry Frank!) I add a few tablespoons of honey (otherwise it can be pretty acidic!) and I crush the tomatoes with a potato masher instead of putting them in a blender, so that it has more texture. I always use Luigi Vitelli plum tomatoes (imported from Italy) and fresh Basil. It tastes delicious with any kind of pasta, but I usually use penne, capellini or shells. And very al dente!!
Happy Sinatra day!!!


Millie said...

WOW! Love this!

I'm so like you! Frank is permanently in my brain! That was one of the few artists I heard constantly as a child. In fact, my mom had a Frank song for each of us! Mine was, "Too Marvelous"...it's still one of my fav Franks ever!

I really loved this post! I see no reason to write one of my own now! Hahaha!

That's so cool about celebrating Frank bday!

Anyways, great post about just possibly the coolest person EVER born!

Theresa said...

Wow! I'm so celebrating next year! Last night we watched Von Ryan's Express - perfect timing hey?
I love Frank in Guys and Dolls, it cracks me up every time! Plus Marlon Brando is in it :)

VP81955 said...

I'm certain Frank would be thrilled to know that someone who wasn't aware of his music during his lifetime is now an avid fan. I've been into Sinatra since the early '80s, and we lucky enough to see him in concert twice. Like Crosby, Armstrong or Fitzgerald, he's one of those people who is "beyond category," as Duke Ellington so adroitly put it.

At my site, "Carole & Co.", I have an entry on Sinatra today, asking people to design their dream 12-track Sinatra album; and I'd love to see your choices. Go to


Kim said...

I love Frank as well. His voice was so powerful and beautiful at the same time. It's just captivating to listen to him sing.

Robert Leeming said...

The nicest thing I've read all week.

Really like his later stuff..."Watertown" and "A Man Alone" are two of my favourite albums.

Robert Leeming said...

Oh.....and Cycles....i really really like Cycles...it didnt leave my CD player for months....Wandering...My Way of Life...love those songs.

Raquel Stecher said...

That's so cool that you devote a whole day to Frank Sinatra's birthday and go all out! That pasta recipe was hilarious to read.

Happy Birthday Frank Sinatra!

S and O said...

Happy Birthday Frankie!!!
my grandfather used to LOVE Sinatra and my dad has a ton of his songs...
It's funny to see this post because yesterday I was just listening to 'my funny valentine' (by Frank) and today my sister and I were listening to him and his daughter (Nancy Sinatra)'s version of 'something stupid' (one of my favorite songs)!!!
Hope your having a great weekend!

Penny Carrol said...

Fabulous post! I LOVE Frank! I listen to him everyday, actually. :)

I love what you do for his birthday. :) And thanks for posting that recipe, I'll have to try it sometime.

Unknown said...

Millie- Thanks! I adore Too Marvelous!!! What a neat thing for your mom to do! My mom used to sing High Hopes to me, but I never knew it was a Sinatra song until I got older. I do wish you'd still do a Sinatra post, though, he deserves more than one!

Theresa- Oh, that is good timing! It's a great movie, isn't it?

VP81955- I'm so jealous that you got to see him! I've seen Frank Sinatra Jr. in concert four times, and he's a really great singer, too! Bill Miller was his pianist at all four shows I went to; in fact I was at his last performance. I'll head over to your site now!

Kim- Exactly! :)

Robert- Thanks! A Man Alone is one of my favorites too -- and I could listen to Cycles a million times. My favorites are the title song & Both Sides Now.

Raquelle- Thanks! The pasta sauce is so delicious, you should try it sometime! That's actually the recipe I always use for sauce now, it's so great :)

Olivia- That's so neat! I love My Funny Valentine, too. And Somethin' Stupid is fantastic, they made a great singing team, and it's so sweet! Hope you're having a great weekend too!

Penny- Thanks! I listen to him every day too! I hope you like the recipe :)

Unknown said...

There's just something so hypnotizing in Sinatra's voice. He was captivating and mesmerizing. I love his voice so much.


Anonymous said...

Lovely posting, Kate, and I hope you had a great day. I was amazed to realise that Sinatra was such a great actor on top of his wondrous voice - truly a man of many talents. Judy

Thomas Pluck said...

Great post. Frank was one of a kind. My favorite collection is the V-Discs, music he re-recorded for the soldiers overseas in WW2, during the artists' strike. Slightly different performances, and he really belts it out for the G.I.'s!

As for the pasta sauce, every Italian family does it differently. Frankie was from Hoboken, not far from me- his barber is still alive!- and to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, I'd recommend softening some minced onions in the oil, or grating them and some carrot very finely (so they disappear) into the sauce. If you're not leaving the garlic in the sauce, when roasted they are very mild, and great when spread on Italian bread!