His Way
Coda Connections Feature - Winter 2015

Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra (December 12, 1915 - May 14, 1998) was born of Sicilian roots in Hoboken, New Jersey. Once called a skinny kid with big ears, he doggedly learned and perfected his chosen craft, soon earning newer and more rewarding nicknames like "Old Blue-Eyes," "Chairman of the Board," "The Voice," and "The Sultan of Swoon."

To honor his 100th birthday this year, Coda Connections presents the following abridged timeline, compiled from SinatraFamily.com (as written by daughter Nancy) and Biography.com, focusing on family and personal interests, as well as many career watermarks in his more than 50 years in show business. Enjoy!


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1928 - From SF.com: "At David E. Rue Junior High School, Frank, the budding performer, annoyed his teachers by doing imitations of popular movie stars and radio comics. Not much of a student, he was popular with the other kids."

1931 - Dropped out of high school. From SF.com: "At one point," he remembers, "I said I wanted to be an engineer...because I love the idea of bridges, tunnels and highways. It was my great desire until I got mixed up in vocalizing."

1935 - Decided to pursue a singing career after watching Bing Crosby perform; won an amateur radio show audition, separately from a trio called "The Three Flashes." The host put them together and after breaking the show's popularity records, they toured as "The Hoboken Four."

1939 - Married childhood sweetheart Nancy Barbato; made first recordings with Harry James, including All or Nothing at All.

1940 - Joined Tommy Dorsey Band during the height of the swing era; recorded more than 40 singles before the end of the year.

1941 - Named "Top male vocalist of the year" by Billboard magazine. From Biography.com: "It was the war years, and there was a great loneliness," recalled Sinatra, who was unfit for military service due to a punctured eardrum. "I was the boy in every corner drugstore who'd gone off, drafted to the war. That was all."

1942 - Left the Dorsey band to strike out on his own.

1943 - Expanded his audience by performing with full orchestras; played to packed houses at New York's Paramount Theatre, Madison Square Garden, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Wedgewood Room in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel; acting debut in the film Higher and Higher.

1944 - First visit to the White House while campaigning for Franklin Roosevelt; signed a $1.5 million long-term contract with MGM.

1945 - 1st box-office hit: Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly.

1946-47 - Prolific recording years: recorded 128 songs, including That Old Black Magic, September Song, Begin the Beguine, Almost Like Being in Love, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, The Nearness of You, But Beautiful, All of Me, and Body and Soul.

1949 - Took his relationship with actress Ava Gardner from flirting to a full-blown affair; starred in On the Town, his third MGM film with Gene Kelly.

1950 - Separated from wife Nancy; waning popularity and personal matters lost him his recording and film contracts, including that of MGM; headlined The Frank Sinatra Show, a one-hour variety TV program, which included guests such as Louis Armstrong, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, Phil Silvers, and Sinatra's protégé, Sammy Davis, Jr.

1951 - 1st Las Vegas appearance, at the Desert Inn.

1952 - The Frank Sinatra Show is cancelled; divorce finalized, married Ava Gardner; contracts dropped by Columbia Records and talent agency MCA; revived after attempted suicide.

1953 - Signed a new contract with Capitol Records, bringing a more mature, jazzier voice, along with renewed confidence.

1954 - Bough interest in the Sands Hotel, which would become his Las Vegas home; won an Oscar for his role in From Here to Eternity, which helped the public see him as more than a musician; became a member of Humphrey Bogart's "Rat Pack," which included Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, David Niven, and others; Young at Heart named best song.

From SF.com: "His generous acts of charity, his friendships with important people, including the president of the United States, his battles with certain members of the media, his fights against intolerance were becoming legendary-all were part of his colorful, romantic mystique. The American public's love for the underdog made him even more powerful. They identified with him. They were rooting for him."

1955 - Twice-weekly radio show went off the air--it would be his last radio series; made the cover of Time magazine; starred in the film version of Guys and Dolls.

1956 - A last-minute number arranged on the way to a recording session, I've Got You Under My Skin, was voted by his fans as the best song he ever sang; 63 songs recorded throughout the year, including Anything Goes, It Could Happen to You, I've Got the World on a String, and Young at Heart.

1957 - Recorded 56 songs this year, including Autumn Leaves, Witchcraft, Come Fly with Me, Time After Time, and April in Paris; finalized long-pending divorce from Ava.

From SF.com: "The New York Times Magazine profiled FS, signaling his arrival as an Establishment icon. Estimating his income at about $4 million a year, Hollywood correspondent Thomas M. Pryor wrote that 'Sinatra is perhaps the highest-paid performer in the history of show business.'"

1958 - Won a Grammy for his cover ballad Only the Lonely.

1960 - Recorded High Hopes with special JFK campaign lyrics; sang Love Me Tender alongside Elvis Presley, fresh from his stint in the Army, who sang Witchcraft; 1st performance in Japan; began his own record label, Reprise Records.

From SF.com: "The early sixties was their time and Las Vegas was their place. They made movies there and played nightclubs there and set a tone of arrogance and confidence, of energy and expectation that spoke to and for many of their generation. At the Sands, Dad and his pals-Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford-packed the room for two shows nightly. Guest stars of the highest magnitude dropped in unannounced: Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Dan Dailey, Harry James, Red Skelton, Shirley MacLaine and Danny Thomas, to name a few."

1961 - Produced JFK's inaugural gala; released 1st Reprise album, Ring-a-Ding-Ding, which went gold.

1962 - Briefly engaged to dancer Juliet Prowse; made a cameo appearance with Dean Martin in the last of the Hope/Crosby "Road" films, Road to Hong Kong; took his band on a World Tour for Children, including performances in China, Israel, Greece, Italy, France, England, and Monaco; back in L.A., recorded 10 songs with Count Basie, including I Only Have Eyes for You, Pennies from Heaven, and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

1963 - On December 8th, mere days after JFK was shot, 19-year-old Frank Sinatra, Jr. (himself a budding performer) is kidnapped. He manages to return to his family on December 11th with the help of the FBI - one day before Frank Senior's birthday. Many believed the false story that it was a hoax. The resulting suspicion of Frank Junior's honesty killed his reputation for a long while.

1964 - More recordings, including Days of Wine and Roses, Moon River, Three Coins in the Fountain, Dear Heart, and the soon-to-be international hit My Kind of Town, arranged by Nelson Riddle.

1965 - Saluted by Life magazine's 22-page cover story, the largest in the publication's history; performed at the Newport Jazz Festival with Count Basie, arriving and departing via helicopter; first called "Chairman of the Board" by Dean Martin; was the subject of many honors, awards, tribute broadcasts, and a documentary, as it was the year of his 50th birthday.

1966 - Recorded Strangers in the Night, which would earn four Grammys; married actress Mia Farrow.

1968 - Headlined a fund-raising rally and did a five-city tour for presidential hopeful Hubert Humphrey; saddened by his divorce from Mia; returned to Vegas and moved his nightclub show from the Sands to the larger Caesars Palace; recorded My Way, which was originally written in French, but Paul Anka provided the English lyrics.

1969 - Marty Sinatra, Frank's father, died of Emphysema and heart problems; The Apollo 11 astronauts played Fly Me to the Moon during their lunar landing expedition, via Mission Control.

1971 - Announced his retirement; received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on Oscar night; on his final performance from SF.com: "In deciding to step out of the spotlight, wrote Tommy Thompson in Life [Magazine], he has 'capped a career that included 58 films, 100 albums, nearly 2,000 individual songs'...'He had built his career, he said softly, on saloon songs. He would end quietly on such a song. He slipped from his words into 'Angel Eyes,' surely a song for the short hours. He ordered the stage dressed in darkness, a pin spot picking out his profile in silhouette. He lit a cigarette in mid-sentence and its smoke enveloped him. He came to the last line. 'Excuse me while I...disappear.' And he was gone.'"

1973 - Returned with a new album: Old Blue-Eyes is Back, plus a TV event with special guest Gene Kelly.

1974 - Became a grandfather, via daughter Nancy's first child; launched a nine-city tour with Woody Herman and The Thundering Herd; performed in a world-wide live show at Madison Square Garden called The Main Event, hosted by Howard Cosell.

1975 - Began a European tour that included Paris, Vienna, Munich, Frankfurt, London, Brussels and Amsterdam.

1976 - Married Barbara Marx, widow of comedian Zeppo Marx--his only marriage that did not end in divorce; surprised Jerry Lewis during his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon by reuniting him with his old friend Dean Martin, whom Lewis had not seen in 20 years.

1977 - Dolly Sinatra, Frank's mother, died in a plane crash in the San Bernardino Mountains; starred in his first made-for-TV movie, Contract on Cherry Street.

1979 - Recorded songs for the album Trilogy, including I Had the Craziest Dream, It Had to Be You, Just the Way You Are, More Than You Know, New York, New York, and My Shining Hour; performed at the foot of the Great Pyramids in Giza; with Dean Martin, campaigned for Ronald Reagan at a benefit in Boston; celebrated 40 years in show business at Caesars Palace.

1980 - From SF.com: "The largest paying audience ever assembled for a solo performer-175,000 people-gathered at Macaranã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro to hear Frank Sinatra sing. (The feat is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.); approximately 20 years into the Rock era, F.S. released his Trilogy collection, which received six Grammy nominations; tickets for a two-week Carnegie Hall show sold out in one day."

1981 - Produced Reagan's inaugural gala, also cancelled a show to be with Nancy Reagan when her husband was shot; TV special Sinatra: The Man and the Music aired on NBC, featuring Pennies from Heaven, I Get a Kick Out of You, and New York, New York, among others.

1982 - Inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

1983 - Received the Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Achievement Award; From SF.com: "The ceremony honored his lifetime in the arts. 'There is not the remotest possibility,' said Gene Kelly, who introduced him, 'that he will have a successor.' It was a summation of his nearly 70 years. Mikhail Baryshnikov and Elaine Kudo danced 'The Sinatra Suite,' choreographed by Twyla Tharp to the music of 'All the Way,' 'That's Life,' 'My Way' and 'One for My Baby.'"

1985 - Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award; grieved for three friends who died within days of each other: Nelson Riddle, Yul Brynner, and Orson Welles.

1993 - Released Frank Sinatra Duets, an album of 13 re-recorded standards with other big names such as Aretha Franklin, Bono, Tony Bennett, and Barbara Streisand.

February 25, 1995 - Final performance in Palm Springs, California at age 79.


Len Morse
​Trumpet, Percussion