Sinatra 100 - 12th December 2015
2015 is a significant year for music historians, as it is the 100th anniversary of one of the most iconic singers of all time – one who would go on to change the face of popular music, producing innovate records and entertaining audiences across the globe for seven decades – Frank Sinatra.
Frank Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey (just across the Hudson River from New York City) on 12th December 1915. He made his name touring with the big bands of Harry James and Tommy Dorsey in the late 1930s and early 1940s, before moving to the west coast of America where he forged a successful career as a Hollywood actor, singer and entertainer.
Most swing bands have a few Frank Sinatra numbers in their repertoire, and Down for the Count are no exception. We have been performing Sinatra hits since our very first public performance in 2005, and several of them are amongst the most requested songs in our repertoire.
To celebrate the centenary of his birth, we’ve selected five of our favourite Sinatra performances for you to enjoy.
1. I've Got You Under My Skin
I’ve Got You Under My Skin is one of Sinatra’s biggest hits, arranged by Nelson Riddle for the album Songs for Swinging Lovers. It is a very popular choice of song for first dances at wedding receptions – probably because the tempo of the song makes it suitable for a foxtrot, lindy hop or even a traditional ‘slow’ first dance.
The definite version of this song was recorded live, with Sinatra backed by the Count Basie Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones, at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas in 1966. Sadly, no video of this performance exists but luckily we can still enjoy listening to it!
2. Mack the Knife
Another Sinatra favourite is Mack the Knife, which we have been using to close sets for about 9 years. It was written by the German writing team Brecht and Weill for the musical The Threepenny Opera and although it is most often associated with another American singer, Bobby Darin, Sinatra performed it throughout his career. Here he is performing it live, at the age of 70 in 1985.
3. One for My Baby
Sinatra loved torch songs, and one of the most famous is One For My Baby. This song was written by Jonny Mercer, apparently about his affair with Judy Garland. Often performed by Sinatra with just his pianist Bill Miller behind him, here Sinatra is joined by a whole big band for an expanded arrangement written by Nelson Riddle.
4. I've Got the World on a String
One of the most important collaborations of Frank Sinatra's career was with the arranger Nelson Riddle - indeed, many people credit Riddle with creating the 'Sinatra sound' in the early 1950s that rescued his failing career. Here is one of Sinatra's first performances of a Nelson Riddle work - a short, but perfect version of Koehler and Arlen's I've Got the World on a String.
5. Body and Soul
The final song we’ve chosen is a rarity – a previously unreleased version of the ballad Body and Soul. It was created for a 2008 compilation album Nothing But The Best using a live studio orchestra with a vocal line recorded by Sinatra some years before. We’ve chosen this song not only because of Sinatra’s raw vocal performance, but also because it's a rare chance to see Sinatra in the studio, where he apparently felt most comfortable.
Come and see Down for the Count performing these and other Sinatra hits at A Very Sinatra Christmas - Winslow Public Hall, Buckinghamshire, on Saturday 12th December 2015 – the day that would have been his 100th birthday.