On Sinatra’s Birthday: from a review in 2015
<<< Sinatra's Century is a recent book written by David Lehman. The full title of the book is Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. As you know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary singer Frank Sinatra. The significance of this year brings us many new books, events, products and unreleased music, and Sinatra's Century is one of the additions to commemorate his legacy.
Sinatra’s Century consists of 100 notes and the book is approximately 290 pages long. These are very short notes, each with their own topic. A typical note is 3-4 pages long and can include Sinatra’s birth, his big band years, Ava Gardner, Rat Pack, Bing Crosby, Kennedy, Frank Sinatra’s death, film career, Marilyn Monroe, mafia connections, saloon songs, David Lehmans trade opinions or whatever. The topics cover almost everything you want to know about Frank Sinatra and are concisely summarized with the most important parts. The notes also include many quotes from Frank Sinatra or people who knew Frank Sinatra. For the most part these quotes are very interesting and quite funny at times.
Having described Sinatra’s Century and what it is about, I will now move on to my personal opinion. The book is good to read. Sinatra’s life is spread fairly fairly across 100 chapters, so you get a taste of everything. And above all, thanks to the dynamic structure of the content, there is no boredom. Different content in each chapter and brevity of chapters keep you fresh and interested; and you don’t get tired while reading, since not every line contains factual information that you have to remember.
A “personal” book about Frank Sinatra is a bold move. The trend in Sinatra books is that if you’re from the Sinatra family, you write a memoir, and if you don’t, you write a well-structured, informative biography. Sinatra’s Century is a combination of both. It gives you biographical information about Frank Sinatra but with a personal touch and feel. Like “Why Sinatra Matters”, but more extensive.
In one chapter, David Lehman talks about how Frank Sinatra changes the lyrics, and I really like that observation. I had made a listing for The Lady Is A Tramp 3 years ago and was happy to find similar content in the book. I liked that he dedicated 1 of the 100 chapters to it as it is worth mentioning but mostly ignored by many book authors. I think part of the reason for this is that most book authors don’t really delve into Frank Sinatra’s live performances, sticking instead to studio recordings.
Here’s a paragraph from Sinatra’s Century to show what David Lehman thinks of Frank Sinatra:
“What does Sinatra stand for? Above all brilliant as a singer and performer. He had the ability to give a song its definitive expression, even making it seem like an extension of his own personality and experience. Superb phrasing is the consensus of its spot-on musical timing. Matching his respect for the meaning of a song’s lyrics is his intuitive grasp of the melodic and harmonic possibilities.” (Sinatra’s Century by David Lehman)
When a poet with a good vocabulary explains Frank Sinatra, the result is very satisfactory.>>>