You Only Live Once

An Interview With Nancy Sinatra

by Steve Horowitz

14 October 2009


You began in an era of 45 rpm singles, as the new album reveals, and the technology has changed. What are your thoughts on this?

This is a digital release. You began in an era of 45 rpm singles, as the new album reveals, and the technology has changed. What are your thoughts on this?

Yea, I have mixed emotions. I’m glad that songs are easily available on the computer. I download legally all the time. But I feel sorry for all the store owners. We have lost so many good stores around here (in the Hollywood area). There is nothing like the feel of a good record store or going in one and hearing what’s playing and coming out with something you never heard of before but now love.

The new release does have a duet with Lee Hazelwood (“Indian Summer”). He died just a few years ago. What are your thoughts about your work with him?

Lee and I had a love/hate relationship. It was a love relationship until he left for Sweden the first time in 1970 without giving me a word of warning. We were in the middle of an album. It took us a while to become friends again, but when we did we became better friends than before.

When Lee recorded his last album, Cake or Death, he sent me an early copy. But I couldn’t play it. It was crushing. He understood he was going to die. He knew so much about music and taught me so much.

Your duets with Lee are legendary. Every time an album of male/female duets comes out, comparisons are made to the work of you and Lee, like the new Peter Yorn/Scarlet Johannson release.

Peter Yorn hurt my feelings. We worked together on my last album and I read that he said “I didn’t get it” when talking about my music. I knew what I was doing! There’s a reason my duets with Lee hold up so well.

Not long ago a British newspaper (Daily Telegraph) named “Some Velvet Morning” as the best duet of all time. The writers ranked it higher than stuff by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, higher than, well, I don’t want to name them all and I’m not saying we were better than everyone else, but Lee and I made wonderful music together. I’m proud of the work we did and a little tired of not getting credit for my contributions.

Why do you think your music doesn’t get the respect it deserves?

The public always loved our music, but there were some people who just didn’t take the work seriously, even back in the day. I was never part of that inner clique that critics praised, like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, because I was sloughed off as an airhead. My music was different than theirs, but we worked hard at what we were doing and did it well.

I few years ago I was talking to Phil Spector about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was on he Board of Governors and he told me, “You don’t have a prayer. It’ll never happen.” He didn’t go into details, but I knew what he meant. There are artists in there that do not have my track record, who have not accomplished what I have, but that doesn’t matter.

When I die, I already know what my obituary will be, “Frank’s daughter died with her boots on!” Ha.

Look, I never won a Grammy. The Movin’ with Nancy television shows introduced some of the earliest modern music videos, but they never won an Emmy. You don’t want to go through your life working your ass off, sweating through every release, thinking all of that was for naught.
How do you feel when other artists claim you as an inspiration or cover your songs?

I love it and take it as a compliment.  I get a thrill seeing my music and my image live on.

When Jessica Simpson recorded her version of “These Boots are Made For Walkin’,” she called me and asked for permission. I told her yes, only if she contacted the original bass player Chuck Berghofer and paid him royalties for the bass line. Lee dictated the bass line to Chuck, but the way Chuck played it was psychotic! I called Chuck to make sure, and Jessica was honorable and kept her word. He got paid.

Mariah Carey copies my album covers. I know Zooey Deschanel just did “Sugar Town” in the movie 500 Days of Summer. I own my own masters and keep track.

Do you have any regrets about giving up your career to have a family?

Not one. I wouldn’t trade my time with my two kids for anything, although there was a time I used to feel so jealous of Linda Ronstadt!

Look, we only go through life once. I only met Michael Jackson once, but I regret I didn’t reach out to him when I had a chance. I sent flowers to Teddy Kennedy last year with a note, but we lost him before I said more. We have so many friends in life that we don’t have a chance to be with more, so we have to treasure our time with those we love. I have an ego about my music, but I know what’s important.

If you could have any musician write an album of songs for you to record today, who would it be?

Paul Simon. I even have the titles for the songs on the album, which in my mind I call Biography. They are songs about famous people, like Jane Fonda, Nellie Bly, Fred Astaire ... I love the songs he wrote not long ago for his wife Edie Brickell, and wish I could get him to write songs for me. I met him once at Carrie Fisher’s house a long time ago, and once at a songwriter’s banquet, but I don’t really know him, just his enormous talent.

And if not him, then Randy Newman; it’s almost a toss up, because they both are flawless musicians. I have an aversion to musical bullshit. I don’t want to hear it, and with those guys you never do. They walk on water in my book.

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