There are a lot of hard choices the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has to make. But this one is easy.
There is no singer of the 20th century who has had as huge an influence on popular music of all kinds as Frank Sinatra. And in the year of the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Hall should name him for induction, in 2016, as an Early Influence.
NJArts.net has set up a Facebook page to encourage the Hall to make this happen. To go to it, click here. And please, if you agree, “like” and “share” the page.
The Hall announced its 2016 nominees today. It traditionally does not announce the recipients of honorary awards until the inductees are chosen, so there’s still time.
Yes, Sinatra had some harsh words to say about rock and roll in the genre’s early days. But he softened his stance in later years, recording songs by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Beatles, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles and Paul Simon and dueting with Elvis Presley, Bono, Aretha Franklin and Chrissie Hynde, among others.
Early Influence inductees include Woody Guthrie, Les Paul, The Ink Spots, Louis Armstrong, Pete Seeger, Charles Brown, Nat King Cole and Billie Holiday. I truly believe that Frank Sinatra has as strong a connection to rock ‘n’ roll as any of them.
And if you don’t believe me, here’s what Bono had to say about Sinatra at the 1994 Grammy Awards, where Sinatra was given the Legend Award:
Frank never did like Rock and Roll, and he’s not crazy about guys wearing earrings either. But he doesn’t hold it against me, and anyway, the feeling is not mutual. Rock and Roll people love Frank Sinatra because Frank has got what we want: swagger and attitude, serious attitude, bad attitude, Frank’s the chairman of the bad. Rock and roll plays at being tough but this guy, well, he’s the boss. The boss of bosses. The Man. The big bang of Pop. I’m not gonna mess with him, are you?
Who’s this guy that every city in America wants to claim as their own? This painter who lives in the desert, this first-rate, first-take actor. This singer who makes other men poets, boxing clever with every word. Talking like America, tough, straight-up, in headlines. Comin’ though with the big stick, the aside, the quiet compliment. Good cop, bad cop, all in the same breath. You know his story cuz it’s your story. Frank walks like America — cocksure.
It’s 1945 and the U.S. Cavalry are trying to get their asses out of Europe, but they never really do. They’re part of another kind of invasion — AFR, American Forces radio. Broadcasting a music that’ll curl the stiff upper-lip of England and the rest of the world, paving the way for Duke Ellington, the big band, Timmy Dorsey, and right out in front — Frank Sinatra. His voice as tight as a fist, opening at the end of a bar. Not on the beat, over it, playing with it, splitting it like a jazz man, like Miles Davis, turning on the right phrase and the right song. Which is where he lives, where he lets go, where he reveals himself. His songs are his home and he lets you in. But you know that to sing like that, you’ve gotta have lost a couple of fights; to know tenderness and romance you’ve gotta have had your heart broken.
People say that Frank hasn’t talked to the press. They wanna know how he is, what’s on his mind. But you know Sinatra’s out there more nights than most punk bands. Selling his story through the songs, telling and articulate in the choice of those songs, private thoughts on a public address system. Generous. This is the conundrum of Frank Sinatra. Left and right brain hardly talking. Boxer and painter, actor and singer, lover and father, bandman and loner. Troubleshooter and troublemaker. The champ who would rather show you his scars than his medals. He may be putty in Barbara’s hands, but I’m not gonna mess with him, are you?
Ladies and gentlemen, and you ready to welcome a man heavier than the Empire State Building, more connected than the Twin Towers, as recognizable as the Statue of Liberty, and living proof that God is a Catholic! Will you welcome the King of New York City, Francis Albert Sinatra!
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