Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan #FrankSinatra #Hollywood #BookReview

Frank Sinatra was the best-known entertainer of the twenti­eth century—infinitely charismatic, lionized and notori­ous in equal measure. But despite his mammoth fame, Sinatra the man has remained an enigma. As Bob Spitz did with the Beatles, Tina Brown for Diana, and Peter Guralnick for Elvis, James Kaplan goes behind the legend and hype to bring alive a force that changed popular culture in fundamental ways.

Sinatra endowed the songs he sang with the explosive conflict of his own personality. He also made the very act of listening to pop music a more personal experience than it had ever been. In Frank: The Voice, Kaplan reveals how he did it, bringing deeper insight than ever before to the complex psyche and tur­bulent life behind that incomparable vocal instrument. We relive the years 1915 to 1954 in glistening detail, experiencing as if for the first time Sinatra’s journey from the streets of Hoboken, his fall from the apex of celebrity, and his Oscar-winning return in From Here to Eternity. Here at last is the biographer who makes the reader feel what it was really like to be Frank Sinatra—as man, as musician, as tortured genius.

Frank: The Voice (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) ( (AbeBooks)

I learned to love Frank Sinatra’s music as an adult. He was persona non grata in our house growing up. When I was an adult, I asked my mom about that because we listened to so many of the classic crooners. She said she never cared for Sinatra because of his alleged ties to the mob. I had no such qualms and collected his music and some of his movies, especially the musicals he did for MGM.

Recently I read the ARC of Strangers in the Night: A Novel of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner by Heather Webb and wanted to know how much of the book was real or not. It became clear to me that Heather Webb relied on Kaplan’s work when writing her historical fiction account of Sinatra and Ava Gardner because things match up pretty well with this book.

Frank Sinatra was a complex man, and Italian American who faced prejudice because of his heritage, but he didn’t let that stop him. In fact, it made him more tolerant of all minorities in a time when Jim Crow was still prevalent in society.

However, as forward-thinking Frank was about that, he was absolutely horrible when it came to the treatment of women, which is surprising because he had a strong mother figure. He used and abused women, treating his first wife, Nancy, horribly. He had affairs with Lana Turner and Marilyn Maxwell, and then he met Ava Gardner. He’s met his match. At least that’s how he saw it.

For all of Frank Sinatra’s early successes, there was the undercurrent of mafia help when he needed bookings at clubs, and he never could shake that image. Of course, it didn’t help that Frank kept up these friendships throughout his life. They certainly helped launch him into the big time with first the Harry James Orchestra and later the Tommy Dorsey Band.

Before Sinatra, there was Bing Crosby, who changed the way popular music was sung for every generation that came after him. Frank did something that Crosby did not: he appealed to the younger crowd, the bobby-soxers went wild for him and screamed and hollered so loud and fainted whenever he performed. Some of this was staged, but plenty of it was real. He was a musical heartthrob who reigned until Elvis came along and elicited the same response from teenage girls.

But then, just as quickly as Sinatra became hot, his star cooled. His movies weren’t making money, his music didn’t sell, there was something wrong with his voice and he couldn’t fill the clubs. All the trade papers thought he was washed up. The book reaches the climax when Sinatra begged and pleaded and did a screen test for the movie From Here to Eternity. He was convinced that if he played Maggio, he could win an Academy Award and things would turn around for him.

And then, the book ends, on the cusp of his big comeback. Volume two of his biography to be reviewed in a few weeks!

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