Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Cool - On the Rocks

Turner Classic Movies. This past Sunday night. 8PM.
A dark car with blazing headlights comes toward the camera as a jazz riff begins. Slowly the car passes by the camera, stopping underneath a streetlight that illuminates a nearby alley. Instruments blare as the shot moves twenty feet directly above and looking down on the car. A man disembarks from the car and walks toward the alley. His elongated shadow menacingly walks before him. The shadow meets the door before the man, who callously opens the door and walks through it. The scene changes. Now the man - still in shadow - walks through a cavernous studio, depositing his fedora on a nearby short stool as he passes the empty orchestra section. He takes his place on a tall stool in front of a huge microphone. A cutaway. The camera is now on the man on the stool. Behind him sits the Gordon Jenkins/Nelson Riddle orchestra who kick into overdrive as Frank Sinatra belts out a slamming rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin".
So started "Sinatra - A Man and His Music".
For the next 50 minutes or so, Frank Sinatra was live and on TV, just like my parents had seen him when this special first broadcast live on November 24, 1965.
I had chills, and not just from holding my rusty nail on the rocks for too long.
Instead, it was because while I was watching this I was overcome with just how powerful a presence Frank Sinatra was during his lifetime. In 1965 he was 50 years old. He acknowledged all that he was with all that he still hoped to be in every song. Every gesture was powerful. He joked about his age while he sang about youth. He put nuance into "It was a Very Good Year" where none would have been before. Sinatra roared like a lion; taming the budding age of sixties rock for a few years more.
Sinatra could make any lyric work. Katie and I joked that he could sing "'C' is for Cookie" and make it rock. I think he could.
For me, the highlight of the evening was hearing a song that I had never heard before. It was "Last Night When We Were Young." Sung with both verve and melancholy, this song moved me.

Last night when we were young
Love was a star, a song unsung
Life was so new, so real so right
Ages ago last night

Today the world is old
You flew away and time grew cold
Where is that star that shone so bright
Ages ago last night?

To think that spring had depended
On merely this: a look, a kiss
To think that something so splendid
Could slip away in one little daybreak

So now, let's reminisce
And recollect the sighs and the kisses
The arms that clung

When we were young last night

This song must have held so many meanings for Sinatra at this moment in his life. All I know is that, when the last note faded away, I was left speechless.
Five minutes into the concert I had said, out loud, "God help me, the man gives me chills." And he did. Throughout the whole show.
There have been many voices since Frank that have tried to "be" Frank. Harry Connick Jr comes to mind. He's got a great voice. I'd even say he's a helluva crooner. But Sinatra...Sinatra was more than a voice. He was a man, a personality, a presence. During this show, at 50 years-old, he was still larger than life yet somehow more grounded. More vulnerable. He was made more powerful by acknowledging his mortality.
There are singers. And there are crooners. And there is Frank Sinatra. All others stand in his shadow and pale in comparison.


Blogger FoxInDetox said...

All right, cut the crap. You're making me look bad!

8:59 AM, May 07, 2008  
Blogger Bridget said...

I wish I could have seen that show. Damn not having cable!

4:48 PM, May 07, 2008  

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