The one and only Frank Sinatra is one of the 20th century’s greatest crooners. A consummate entertainer, Sinatra was one of the most prominent exponents of the American songbook.
One of the frequently overlooked aspects of Sinatra’s remarkable career is the extent to which classical music shaped his unique style. Even though Sinatra never learned to read music, he was nevertheless classically trained, studying with Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill. His incredible breath control and long, legato phrases demonstrate a debt to the operatic and Romantic traditions that was almost entirely missing among his contemporaries.
Sinatra was also an avid classical music listener and collector, and would frequently entertain guests at his home with records of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Giacomo Puccini. His arrangements, which often incorporated strings and woodwind instruments that were rarely heard in a jazz, betray his love of classical music and the Romantic era in particular, an aesthetic that Sinatra would frequently request of his arrangers.
Although Sinatra did not perform classical repertoire, he has sung hundreds of songs by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and more great composers of what is commonly referred to as America’s Classical Music: Jazz. This weekend we celebrate his 100th birthday and remarkable musical appeal, which continues to bridge the boundaries of age and genre and will continue to do so for many years to come.