As I've said many times before, Frank Sinatra's always been there in my life. My mother—who, as a teenager, would cut high school to go swoon over Sinatra at New York's Paramount theater—made sure his songs were playing constantly in our house. (For the record: My father loved Frankie just as much. If you were Italian, you had to. It was a genetic imperative.) I may have been a child of the rock and roll generation, but I was always under Sinatra's spell; and the older I got, the more I came to love—make that revere—his mix of swagger and vulnerability, bravado and tenderness. Most of all I came to appreciate the aching humanity in Frank Sinatra's music. For all his Vegas, Rat Pack glamor, he was, beneath it all, a skinny kid from Hoboken who knew the same loneliness and despair, hope and joy, that we all do. And he was blessed with an extraordinary voice that could express it in the most natural, and yet magical, of ways.
In honor of what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday, here are some classic moments—starting with a very young Sinatra singing what was then his signature song.
And now here's Frankie at the height of his powers, with the amazing Count Basie and his orchestra storming away behind him.
And, finally, Sinatra in the autumn of his years, voice waning (and all the more poignant for it), facing down the darkness with eloquence and heart.
Happy Birthday, Frank. The song is you, indeed.