Francis Albert Sinatra (December 12, 1915 – May 14, 1998) was an American singer, actor and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide.
Born to Italian immigrants in Hoboken, New Jersey, Sinatra began his musical career in the swing era with bandleaders Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Sinatra found success as a solo artist after he signed with Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the “bobby soxers”. He released his debut album, The Voice of Frank Sinatra, in 1946. But by the early 1950s his professional career had stalled and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known residency performers as part of the Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of From Here to Eternity, with his performance subsequently winning an Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Sinatra released several critically lauded albums, including In the Wee Small Hours (1955), Songs for Swingin’ Lovers! (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Only the Lonely (1958) and Nice ‘n’ Easy (1960).
Sinatra left Capitol in 1960 to start his own record label, Reprise Records, and released a string of successful albums. In 1965, he recorded the retrospective album, September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. After releasing Sinatra at the Sands, recorded at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas with frequent collaborator Count Basie in early 1966, the following year he recorded one of his most famous collaborations with Tom Jobim, the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim. It was followed by 1968’s Francis A. & Edward K. with Duke Ellington. Sinatra retired for the first time in 1971, but came out of retirement two years later. He recorded several albums and resumed performing at Caesars Palace, and released “New York, New York” in 1980. Using his Las Vegas shows as a home base, he toured both within the United States and internationally until shortly before his death in 1998.
Sinatra forged a highly successful career as a film actor. After winning an Academy Award for From Here to Eternity, he starred in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), and received critical acclaim for his performance in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). He appeared in various musicals such as On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), and Pal Joey (1957), winning another Golden Globe for the latter. Toward the end of his career, he became associated with playing detectives, including the title character in Tony Rome (1967). Sinatra would later receive the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1971. On television, The Frank Sinatra Show began on ABC in 1950, and he continued to make appearances on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Sinatra was also heavily involved with politics from the mid-1940s, and actively campaigned for presidents such as Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Sinatra was investigated by the FBI for his alleged relationship with the Mafia.
While Sinatra never learned how to read music, he worked very hard from a young age to improve his abilities in all aspects of music. A perfectionist, renowned for his dress sense and performing presence, he always insisted on recording live with his band. His bright blue eyes earned him the popular nickname “Ol’ Blue Eyes”. Sinatra led a colorful personal life, and was often involved in turbulent affairs with women, such as with his second wife Ava Gardner. He later married Mia Farrow in 1966 and Barbara Marx in 1976. Sinatra had several violent confrontations, usually with journalists he felt had crossed him, or work bosses with whom he had disagreements. He was honored at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan in 1985, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1997. Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Trustees Award, Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He was collectively included in Time magazine’s compilation of the 20th century’s 100 most influential people. After Sinatra’s death, American music critic Robert Christgau called him “the greatest singer of the 20th century”, and he continues to be seen as an iconic figure.
In Sinatra’s native New Jersey, Hoboken’s Frank Sinatra Park, the Hoboken Post Office, and a residence hall at Montclair State University were named in his honor. Other buildings named for Sinatra include the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, the Frank Sinatra International Student Center at Israel’s Hebrew University in Jerusalem dedicated in 1978, and the Frank Sinatra Hall at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, California, dedicated in 2002. Wynn Resorts’ Encore Las Vegas resort features a restaurant dedicated to Sinatra which opened in 2008. Items of memorabilia from Sinatra’s life and career are displayed at USC’s Frank Sinatra Hall and Wynn Resort’s Sinatra restaurant. Near the Las Vegas Strip is a road named Frank Sinatra Drive in his honor. The United States Postal Service issued a 42-cent postage stamp in honor of Sinatra in May 2008, commemorating the tenth anniversary of his death. The United States Congress passed a resolution introduced by Representative Mary Bono Mack on May 20, 2008, designating May 13 as Frank Sinatra Day to honor his contributions to American culture.
Sinatra received three honorary degrees during his lifetime. In May 1976, he was invited to speak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) graduation commencement held at Sam Boyd Stadium. It was at this commencement that he was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate litterarum humanarum by the university. During his speech, Sinatra stated that his education had come from “the school of hard knocks” and was suitably touched by the award. He went on to describe that “this is the first educational degree I have ever held in my hand. I will never forget what you have done for me today”. A few years later in 1984 and 1985, Sinatra also received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology.