Frank Sinatra isn’t just a quintessential New Jersey singer because he grew up in Hoboken. It’s the swagger, the combination of toughness and tenderness, the sense that he’s seen it all but is still, somehow, unjaded, and thrilled to be onstage with a microphone and a band behind him. It’s what people of my generation see in Bruce Springsteen. But those of my parents’ generation … they saw it in Sinatra.
One of Sinatra’s last big hits, 1966’s “That’s Life,” is a song that really expresses the down-to-earth, regular-guy side of him the best. Written by by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon and first recorded by Marion Montgomery, it’s a great anthem of resilience: “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king/I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing/Each time I find myself flat on my face/I pick myself up and get back in the race,” goes the chorus.
Sinatra really seemed to get a kick out of singing “That’s Life.” Just check out the way he leans back around the 3:40 mark of the clip below, which is from his 1966 television special, “Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music, Part II.” His intro is a little corny, so start at the one-minute mark if you just want to hear the song.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday last year. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we are marking the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, for almost a year — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. We started in September 2014, and will keep going until late in the summer.
If you would like to suggest any songs to be included, please let me know in the comments section underneath the video. And if you want to see the entire list, either alphabetically or in the order the songs were selected, click here.
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