Frankie, the song is you!
I hear music and when I look at you, the beautiful theme of every dream I ever knew. Down deep in my heart, I hear it play. I feel it start then melt away. I hear music when I touch your hand, a beautiful melody from some enchanted land. Down deep in my heart, I hear it say, is it today? I alone have heard this lovely strain. I alone have heard this glad refrain. Must it be forever inside of me? Why can’t I let it go? Why can’t I let you know? Why can’t I let you know the song my heart would sing, that beautiful rhapsody of love and youth and spring? The music is sweet, the words are true – the song is you!
In my book this was his greatest song, The Song Is You, composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. The genius of Frank Sinatra is that he makes you feel the song he sings is you, you alone, you above all. He gives vent to all your innermost feelings, your unspoken desires, your secret loves – the first tender kiss, the once-again and forever-after of teenage crush, the deep and abiding love of wife and husband, the towering and tender passion of man and woman, the sadness and the gladness, the triumphs and failures, the twists and turns, the zigs and zags of your journey upon this earth. No one in this world can do this except Frank Sinatra. And probably no one ever will.
Forty years and forty pounds ago, with a full head of hair, my friends saw in me the image of Frankie, and I was so thin (125 lbs.) I could enter a room through the slit under the door. In my teenage years there were no motels, only the backseat of my parents’ car, and there I made love to eight (I’m not boasting) beautiful women under the spell of Sinatra songs, whispering, murmuring, moaning in the moonlight as the earth moved out from under. Oh Frankie, you are the greatest!
He changed with every generation and stayed on top of the charts – moonlight and roses in the 40s and 50s, swing and sway in the 60s, rock and roll in the 70s and 80s, and the universal singer, the top of the heap, the head of the list, the A number one all the way to the 90s. He achieved his highest popularity rating during World War II when he was dubbed The Voice, and bobby-soxers screamed Frankie! and swooned during his concerts. He was the first singing superstar. Later he recovered from a slump after winning an Academy Award as the best supporting actor in the movie, “From Here to Eternity,” and made his greatest recordings with the orchestral arrangements of Axel Stordahl and Nelson Riddle.
As an actor he changed too, from a love-sick singing swain in his early movies, to an award-winning performance as a cocky wop greaser beaten to death in From Here to Eternity, to a country bumpkin under the wing of Gene Kelly in On the Town, to a smart ass gambler from the pages of Damon Runyon in Guys and Dolls, to a tough soldier in Manchurian Candidate and Von Ryan’s Express, to chairman of the board of the Rat Pack in Ocean’s Eleven.
He changed his lifestyle too from a young and humble singer under the guidance by Bing Crosby, both of them Catholic paradigms in Jesuitic myth, to a cocky ill-tempered associate of Presidents and Mafiosos. From being happily married to his childhood sweetheart, he was transformed into a playboy with four wives (Nancy, Ava Gardner, Mia Farrow, Barbara). He changed as his audience changed with all the faults and frailties, the virtues and goodness of each generation.
Frank Sinatra is dead, and with him died a great part of my life. And yet he lives on, in his records, in his films, and in the memories of our remembered days. He was with my late wife Cecilia and myself when we first kissed, up to the day we were married and had children, all the way to the day we parted when she passed away in the lobby of Intercontinental Hotel in Paris in 1993, and for the rest of eternity as long as my love and her memory will last.
His song “All the Things You Are,” also composed by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, is our love theme song, my wife Cecilia’s and mine. And it will forever haunt my days to the moment I meet my wife again in paradise:
You are the promised kiss of springtime that makes the lonely winter seem long. You are the breathless hush of evening that trembles on the brink of a lovely song. You are the angel glow that lights the star. The dearest things I know are what you are. Someday, my happy arms will hold you. Someday I’ll know that moment divine when all the things you are, are mine…
Oh Frankie, that song is you!
(ISYU, June 10, 1998)