Interviews

'The Voice' at 100: Frank Sinatra Jr. Speaks Out

On the centennial of his legendary father’s birth, Frank Sinatra Jr. strives to defend the Sinatra legacy, and keep his father’s music alive


Frank Sinatra

A Voice On Air (1935-1955)

Label: Sony Legacy
Release Date: 2015-11-20
Amazon
iTunes

2015 has been a very good year for Frank Sinatra fans.

The centennial of the singer's birth (on December 12, 1915) has seen the release of the two-part HBO documentary All or Nothing At All, multiple exhibitions, an expansive radio rarities collection, several new books and biographies, even a special Sinatra-themed whiskey. This plethora of Sinatra-related events and activity seems to have quenched the thirst of even the most ardent Sinatra enthusiasts, but there is one man who is not entirely pleased with the hoopla.

For over 70 years, Frank Sinatra Jr. has stood, with great pride, in his legendary father's shadow. An accomplished singer himself, Sinatra Jr. served as his father's musical director and conductor for the final years of his father's career, and since Sinatra Sr.'s death in 1998, has served as one of the most prominent defenders of his legacy. Frank Jr.'s "Sinatra Sings Sinatra" tour plays to packed symphony halls and auditoriums around the world, harkening back to a long-past era of tuxedoed singers, big bands, and the Great American Songbook; in a word, class. But despite his accomplishments as both an entertainer and champion of the Sinatra legacy, the persistent rumors and controversies surrounding his father's life continues to haunt the 71-year old Sinatra Jr.

It's difficult to imagine Frank Sinatra Sr., renowned for his limitless artistic talent, emotive power as a performer, and, it must be noted, ferocious temper, as a "rather simple man," but that's exactly how his son describes him. The seemingly endless Sinatra scandals, hearsay, and rumours -- about shady goings-on in Las Vegas, connections to the mob, a bevy of celebrity bedfellows, alcohol abuse and more -- continue to plague the late singer's reputation, however legion and universally-acknowledged his musical accomplishments. But according to his son, the vast majority of this gossip is simply that: gossip, designed solely to enrich and aggrandize the gossipers while, at the same time, tarnish his father's image. And Sinatra Jr., who chooses and enunciates his words with great consideration and tact, has had enough of it.

We recently caught up with Frank Sinatra Jr. on the eve of the 100th anniversary of his father's birth to talk legacy, what makes great art, what he thinks of the activity surrounding the centennial, and what it's like to share a name, bloodline, and profession with the greatest entertainer of the 20th century.

* * *

I'd imagine that when most people first meet you they're more likely to mention your father's accomplishments, as opposed to your own. I'll also guess that people have been doing that for most of your life. How does that make you feel? Doesn't it get old?

Well, you have to take it in perspective. In terms of his accomplishments as opposed to my accomplishments, mine are almost non-existent. He is the one who has made these great accomplishments, so you really can't blame people for gravitating toward what it is they know, and what it is they believe in.

You've been the primary guardian of your father's legacy for some time now. Is that not an accomplishment in and of itself?

As a practicing entertainer, I've never had a hit record. I've never had a hit television show. I've never had a hit movie. Those are what are called, in the "trade," accomplishments, none of which I have actualized. Therefore, as I say, he is the one who has won Grammys, and Oscars, and all kinds of trophies, and awards, and accolades, and things like that. Not I. So I cannot begrudge people for applauding what it is they admire so much.

What would you say is the biggest public misconception about your father? It's now been 100 years since he was born, and there's been a lot of attention, a lot of events going on. What do you think the public still gets wrong, in large part, about your Dad?

I'll tell you what it is. There have been a plethora of articles in newspapers, magazines, there's a couple of new books out. And because of the nature of my travels, regrettably I have to read these terrible things. And the real bad thing is that there are stories that are told firsthand, secondhand, thirdhand, fourth-hand, fifth-hand. And it's like when you play "telephone" when you were a kid. When you whisper something in someone's ear that goes to the next -- and by the time it comes around the circle it's nowhere near what the first message was.

And all of these people, in order to aggrandize themselves, and, of course, to sell their writings, they add more falsity into these stories which are watered down so many times anyway. And most of that which they add is all fabrication, it is all scandalous, it is all controversial, it is, in many instances, criminal. And what they do to the reputation of a man who has been in his grave for nearly 18 years now is equally criminal.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.