Praise for Sinatra from famous friends and fans.
But the list of singers who've paid homage to Sinatra hardly stops with fellow devotees of the Great American Songbook. Elvis Costello's first words, according to his father, were "Skin, Mommy" i.e., the toddler wanted to hear Sinatra's recording of "I've Got You Under My Skin." Snoop Dogg named his blue-eyed cat "Frankie." P. Diddy calls the lavishly appointed lounge in his Manhattan studio his "Frank Sinatra room." Bruce Springsteen has joked that Sinatra owned New Jersey, but was kind enough to "loan me a little piece of it down by the shore."
In other words, singers of all stripes and types have recognized the greatness of Sinatra over the years. From the Boss to Bono, here's a sampling of what notable performers have said about Frank Sinatra:
My first recollection of Frank's voice was coming out of a jukebox in a dark bar on a Sunday afternoon when my mother and I went in searching for my father. I always remember she said, "Listen to that, that's Frank Sinatra, he's from New Jersey." It was a voice filled with bad attitude, life, beauty, excitement, a nasty sense of freedom, sex, and a sad knowledge of the ways of the world. Every song seemed to have its postscript, "and if you don't like it, here's a punch in the kisser." But it was the deep blueness of Frank's voice that affected me the most, and while his music became synonymous with black tie, the good life, the best booze, women, sophistication, his blues voice was always the sound of hard luck, and men late at night with the last ten dollars in their pockets, trying to figure a way out.
On behalf of all New Jersey, Frank, I wanna say: "Hail Brother, you sang out our soul."
- Bruce Springsteen
He seemed more self-assured than cocky in his phrasing, and his tonal quality was unmatched. Sinatra was a beacon for his generation and for others that followed.
- Michael Buble
It was not just talent. It was education and hard work. Frank was hip, street, straight up, and straight ahead - a monster musician with big band roots. When he was coming up, Duke, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, and Basie were the Rolling Stones, U2, and the Beatles. Instrumentalists were the stars. Soloists were Ziggy Elfman, Buddy Rich, and Tommy. People paid to hear the drums and horns.
And sitting on a chair was Frank Sinatra, waiting the relief singer. But he was in the highest spawning ground, learning to breathe, to sing like the musicians played and jammed. Frank's greatness `besides immaculate storytelling, drama, and elocution` was that he phrased like Lester Young. He thought and sang like a horn. That's why he, Ella, Sarah, and Peggy Lee had multigenerational careers. They could sing Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin, but they didn't always care about the words, and because Frank felt he was a horn, he could sing without words.
I was conductor-arranger at Nicole and Eddie Barclay's record company in Paris in 1958 when Princess Grace's Monaco office called: "Frank Sinatra has requested." He was Chairman of the Board. I was twenty-five. We caught the first train smokin, with fifty-five musicians.
"Sinatra" walked into rehearsal at the Monaco Sporting Club and hit me with those steely blue eyes. "You've heard the records, you know what to do." There was no chat. Only, "A little faster," "That's in the pocket." After four hours, satisfied it could not get any tighter, he said, "Koo-koo," shook my hand, and walked out.
That night he swung so hard you could've turned him upside down, shaken the change from his pockets, and he'd never have missed a beat. For ninety minutes he tore the Sporting Club to the ground. Pure economy, power, style, skill. He shook my hand. "Yeah! Nice job, Q," and he was gone.
- Quincy Jones
Frank was old school. He had passion.
- Luther Vandross
He was the epitome of what singing is all about, beautiful sounds, smooth as silk, effortless, impeccable phrasing, stylish, intelligent, and full of heart.
- Barbra Streisand
In his day, Michaelangelo was considered a stonecutter. Today, we all stand in awe of his perfection. With Sinatra, there is that that same quality that will endure and be hard to top. Even though Sinatra's creative premise was popular entertainment, he never compromised on any of his recordings. Hundreds of years from now, these records will sound as fresh as they do today. His ability to communicate so strongly has hauled him to the top of the heap. Dedication to his craft has earned him the title, "King of the Entertainment World" - a position well deserved. He has given us all a legacy to aspire to and a standard to live by.
- Tony Bennett
He's my favourite singer, because at his greatest he can reach beyond himself; he makes contact with whatever it is.
- Elvis Costello
Sinatra is the total master of vocal technique. He was the first at holding phrases for such a long time, sliding from note to note. The way he can get vibrato on the high notes it's amazing. Then there is his breath control, the way he can hold phrases for 20 or 25 seconds. The best example is on "Old Man River"Â from The Concert Sinatra album. He must have an extra set of lungs; I wish he kept them in my chest.
- Harry Connick Jr.
He was simply the best. No one else even comes close.
- Elton John
Frank never did like Rock and Roll. And he's not crazy about guys wearing earrings, either. But he doesn't hold it against me. And anyway, the feeling is not mutual.
Rock and Roll people love Frank Sinatra because Frank has got what we want: swagger and attitude; he's big on attitude. Serious attitude, bad attitude. Frank's the Chairman of the bad. Rock and Roll plays at being tough but this guy, well, he's the boss. The boss of bosses. The man. The big bang of pop. I'm not gonna mess with him, are you? Who's this guy that every city in America wants to claim as their own? This painter who lives in the desert, this first-rate, first-take actor. This singer who makes other men poets. Boxing clever with every word. Talking like America Tough, straight-up, in headlines. Comin' through with the big stick, the aside, the quiet compliment. Good cop, bad cop, all in the same breath. You know his story 'cause it's your story. Frank walks like America' cocksure.
It's 1945 and the U.S. Cavalry are trying to get their asses out of Europe, but they never really do. They're part of another kind of invasion. AFR -- American Forces Radio (sic). Broadcasting a music that'll curl the stiff upper-lip of England and the rest of the world. Paving the way for Duke Ellington, the big band, Tommy Dorsey. And right out in front -- Frank Sinatra. His voice as tight as a fist. Opening at the end of a bar. Not on the beat, over it, playing with it, splitting it like a jazz man, like Miles Davis. Turning on the right phrase and the right song. Which is where he lives, where he lets go, where he reveals himself. His songs are his home and he lets you in. But you know that to sing like that you've gotta have lost a couple of fights. To know tenderness and romance you've gotta have had your heart broken.
People say that Frank hasn't talked to the press, they wanna know how he is, what's on his mind. But you know Sinatra's out there more nights than most punk bands. Selling his story through the songs. Telling and articulate in the choice of those songs. Private thoughts on a public address system. Generous.
This is the conundrum of Frank Sinatra. Left and right brain hardly talking. Boxer and painter, actor and singer, lover and father, bandman and loner. Troubleshooter and troublemaker. The champ who would rather show you his scars than his medals. He may be putty in Barbara's hands. But I'm not gonna mess with him, are you?
Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to welcome a man heavier than the Empire State, more connected than the Twin Towers, as recognizable as the Statue of Liberty, and living proof that God is a Catholic!
Will you welcome the King of New York City, Francis Albert Sinatra!
sources: Springsteen: Sinatra's 80'th birthday celebration, 1995. Buble: original to sinatra.com. Jones: introduction to The Sinatra Treasures, 2004. Vandross: statement released after Sinatra's death, 1998. Streisand: statement released after Sinatra's death, 1998. Bennett: liner notes to Perfectly Frank, 1992. Costello: interview with Record Collector magazine, 1980. Connick: from "A Perfect Singer, Ever Since He Began the Beguine," 1990, compiled in The Sinatra Reader. John: BBC interview, 1998. Bono: Grammy Awards, 1994.