Sizing up the Sinatra legacy, one hundred years on

Cover00Ted Gioia at Bookforum:

A musician's centenary celebration typically offers a chance to revisit songs long departed from the charts and to recall mostly forgotten triumphs. But that’s hardly the case with Frank Sinatra. I recently checked, and saw that the ten best-selling jazz songs on iTunes include four by Sinatra. And the top-selling jazz album today is a collection of Sinatra tracks for the Reprise label, most of them around a half-century old.

Face it, the Chairman of the Board hasn’t gone anywhere. He’s still where he’s always been:A-number-one, top of the list, king of the hill. David Lehman tells the story, in his aptly named appreciation Sinatra’s Century, of a senior corporate executive who strolled into a meeting with his management team. He slapped an eight-by-ten glossy photo of Frank Sinatra on the table and announced to the room: “This guy has been dead sixteen years and he still makes more money a year than all of us combined.”

Pretty good for a centenarian, no? Indeed, Sinatra’s more like a centurion, those hardy Roman soldiers who conquered the world. And the high rollers knew that, even when Sinatra was alive and kicking. Caesars Palace announced the singer’s appearances in the ’70s with a medallion that proclaimed: “Hail Sinatra, the Noblest Roman.” When even Caesar offers tribute, who are the rest of us to disagree?

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