Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sinatra!

Exactly what is it about Frank Sinatra that causes some of his fans to obsess so?

I wish I knew -- it would at least help me to understand my own obsession with his music. In part, anyway.

After more than a quarter of a century since graduating college, I still keep in touch with an old school friend of mine. Although we haven't actually seen each other in nearly a decade despite living not too far away, we mostly keep in touch via the telephone; our conversations usually consist of either one of two things: Sports or Sinatra. We're big fans of both.

During one such phone conversation, we happened to be talking sports; I was bemoaning how poorly my teams were doing compared with the ones for which he rooted. He was amused by the fact that I was so negative about my teams, rather than confident that they would win. After hearing me go on for this a bit, he took the conversation into an abrupt detour.

"Now I finally understand why you're such a big Sinatra fan!", he observed. "It's always been said that Sinatra had a sadness to his voice. You always sound so sad when you talk about your teams, it's that sadness you're connected to".

Was he right? Maybe -- it sounded right, that's for sure. In general -- not just with my sports teams -- there's something about the despair in Sinatra's voice that's apparent and I can instantly relate.

The late singer Mel Tormé once said, "Sinatra doesn't just sing
to us, he sings for us". I couldn't agree more. To me, Sinatra is not merely a singer -- to call him that is almost an insult. Instead, he is an interpreter of songs -- often, an interpreter of great songs ... or songs that he could make seem great through his vocalizing.

Speaking of the sadness in his voice, some of his ballads were occasionally referred to as "suicide songs" -- if you were drinking while listening to them, it's best to stay away from sharp objects. One of the great examples of this was the version of "Everything Happens To Me", which he recorded in the early '80's. I know this is going to be my choice of songs to play once I finally get the courage to off myself. Although Sinatra recorded this song four times throughout his illustrious career, the final version which, appeared on the album of the same name,
Everything Happens To Me , is without a doubt my favorite.
Although he's old at this point and his voice no longer at its best, in its way, this enhances the meaning of the song. His interpretation of the lyric is much deeper to me because he's got that much more life experience behind him. This final recording of the song was arranged by Gordon Jenkins -- whose masterful style can make any ballad sound much more melancholy than even the songwriters probably intended. What adds to the enjoyment of this recording for me is the fact that it's not the standard version of the song -- this has special lyrics written just for Sinatra. I tried doing a search on the Internet for the special lyrics, to no avail; the only ones I could locate were the standard version, which are included below.

The traditional lyrics can be heard in the version of the song (the video coming from YouTube) ...


This version was recorded in 1956 and appeared on the "Close To You" album; it was arranged by Nelson Riddle. In this version, we hear what Riddle characterized as Sinatra's "voice to burn" days; in an interview a couple of years before his death in the mid-80's, Riddle said that during the Capitol Records period where he worked with him in the 1950's, Sinatra had "voice to burn" -- meaning (I think) that he could sing extensively take after take without wearing out his instrument. Yes, Sinatra's voice is better here, but not necessarily his singing; when it comes to this song, his best interpretation would not come for another quarter century.

Another video -- this one of Sinatra performing the song on his TV show from the '50's ...





Everything Happens to Me
Written By: Tom Adair

Music by: Matt Dennis

Arranged By: Axel Stordahl – Nelson Riddle – Gordon Jenkins – Gordon Jenkins
From the Album: Stardust: Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra
Label: Victor – Capitol – Reprise - Reprise
Recorded: 2/7/41 – 4/4/56 – 9/24/74 – 4/8/81
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Black cats creep across my path until I'm almost mad
I must have roused the Devil's wrath 'cause all my luck is bad
I make a date for golf and can bet your life it rains
I try to give a party but the guy upstairs complains
I guess I'll go thru life just catchin' colds and missin' trains
Everything happens to me
I never miss a thing, I've had the measles and the mumps
And every time I play an ace, my partner always trumps
I guess I'm just a fool who never looks before he jumps
Everything happens to me
At first my heart thought you could break this jinx for me
That love would turn the trick to end despair
But now I just can't fool this head that thinks for me
So I've mortgaged all my castles in the air
I've telegraphed and phoned, sent an Air Mail Special, too
You answer was "Goodbye", there was even postage due
I fell in love just once and then it had to be with you
Everything happens to me
I've never drawn a sweepstake or a bank night at a show
I thought perhaps this time I'd won but Lady Luck said "No"
And though it breaks my heart I'm not surprised to see you go
Everything happens to me
Everything happens to me