When I was 17 – in 1953 – Santa brought me some wonderful new technology. It was a little plastic box – about the size of two American Heritage dictionaries, stacked – and I was as overjoyed as a kid who gets his first iPhone.
This treasure was used to spin the new 45rpm records that had been on the market for only a few years. They were smaller than the 78s, with big holes in the middle through which they rested on a turntable.
Since Santa hadn’t been precisely sure of my musical tastes, I was also given funding for six or eight of the 45s, and my first purchase was Tony Bennett’s rendition of “Rags to Riches.”
My mother must have been a saint. Without comment, she endured a full weekend of Bennett’s hit — played over and over at full volume. “Open your heart and you’ll open the door / to all the treasures that I’m yearning for ….” See, I still remember the words, even when I had to check the newspaper this morning to be sure the Oscars are on tonight.
I got to thinking about all this when I saw a newspaper ad for “A musical tribute to Frank Sinatra” from March 11 through May 1
at the Stage Door Canteen at our World War II Museum. Reserve your tickets online at stagedoorcanteen.org
as I’ll be doing, or call 528-1943.
I came to love Sinatra even more than the ten-years-younger Tony Bennett, but the singing career of my very favorite performer was in the doldrums at the time I started playing 45 records.
Quoting from Wikipedia, “He had been signed by Columbia Records in 1943, becoming the idol of the ‘bobby soxers.’ He released his first album, ‘The Voice of Frank Sinatra,’ in 1946. Sinatra’s professional career had stalled by the early 1950s, and he turned to Las Vegas, where he became one of its best known performers as part of the Rat Pack. His career was reborn in 1953 with the success of From ‘From Here to Eternity’ and his subsequent Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.”
That movie career took off, and I was along for the ride. Meantime, Sinatra had signed with Capitol Records and released several critically lauded albums, including ‘‘Come Fly with Me” (1958), the one I remember best.
When Elvis came along while Sinatra was rebuilding his singing career, I’ll admit to falling deeply in love with another performer – and one of my own age. I interviewed Presley in 1957 when we were both 21 at a fair in Tupelo, Miss., but never saw Sinatra in person until he gave a concert in New Orleans sometime in the ‘80s.
The only Sinatra song that I never liked much was his rendition of “New York, New York,” which Liza Minnelli accused him of “stealing” when she was doing a show here in New Orleans. It was Minnelli who first sang it in the 1977 film of the same name, in which she and Robert De Niro co-starred.
In December, CBS aired its elaborate Frank Sinatra tribute, “Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert,” to honor the 100-year anniversary of the singer’s birth – December 12, 1915.
The performers were impressive, but none outshone Lady Gaga. Wearing a tuxedo and fedora, Gaga offered her take on “New York, New York,” striking Sinatra-like poses throughout the performance.
Interestingly enough, at least to me, Gaga sometimes partners herself with the aforementioned Tony Bennett, who sounded just fine – thank you – at almost 90 years of age when I saw them recently on TV.