This is a tears-and-all biography that is an absolute must for anyone who cares about Sinatra, 20th century popular music, the highs and lows of celebrity, music at its best, smoking hot movie stars with ants in their pants and etc. etc. etc. This has got it all and then some and it ends with his Academy Award in 1954. Frank still had 40+ years in him but this book gets at the glory and the heartbreak in the war and post-war years that made the icon.
For those of us who care, jazz, rock & roll, musical theater, cabaret singing and even modern ideas about love, life and what it all means eventually all come back in to Sinatra. He is an essential part of contemporary history as it relates to popular media and its rising influence. I am an unabashed fan who grew up with regular old rock and roll. It took me a bit of a while to come around, but when I did, Frank taught me, as he did many people, about a certain type of sensitive manliness that was impossible to resist.
You can love your dirty, filthy rock & roll but don’t forget where it came from— popular music from the 40s & 50s – and that was where Frank was king. He also had one of the greatest comebacks in pop music — hell, cultural history — which is the focus of this book.
His renaissance is the defining moment and the purpose of the book. Which is all to the good. The other main topic is his relationship with Ava Gardner. Man oh man. He wrecked his first marriage to marry the hottest woman in the world and who’s to say he was wrong? He behaved terribly. So what? He did it his way.
Perhaps Kaplan felt that the Reprise years and the Rat Pack era have been overdone. I would agree the Rat Pack nostalgia and the related movies were not artistically notable and do not reflect Sinatra at his best. The Reprise records are a different matter but if you are creating a chronological biography you can’t cover the one without the other. The books works very well on its own terms.
Frank: The Voice is filled with amazing detail of the early years, the tours and failures and glories of the bobby soxers era and beyond. It is scathing about the celebrity culture that constantly trashed Sinatra but it is also honest about how he needed to work the same system that trashed him. And how at the end the system made him an icon, a hero and an emblem of a lost world where he and Sammy and Dean and Joey and the rest made the Sands Hotel in 1966 the zenith of human evolution. And I actually believe this. And for those you who feel the same way or wonder about those of us who do – this is the book for you. It is a nice fat doorstop of a book to read in front of the fireplace. While listening to Frank Sinatra. Highly recommended.