Frank Sinatra, commonly considered to be the first "pop idol", became an American singing legend and sold over 150 million discs.
Francis Albert Sinatra collected 78 rpm records from a very early age. He started out singing in bars before securing regular engagements on New York radio. Harry James, former trumpeter in Benny Goodman's band, heard Sinatra singing on the WNEW radio station and took him on in his own band in 1939. Six months later, though, Sinatra joined the better-known rival band headed by trombonist Tommy Dorsey, which gave him an opportunity to become known. In 1941, having earned the nickname "The Voice", he sang in a string of musicals in Hollywood, becoming the highest-paid singer in America. After an initial TV show on the CBS channel, his moment of glory came in 1953 when he was awarded an Oscar for his role in the film From Here to Eternity. After tiring of his collaboration with Columbia, which offered him a predominantly comic repertoire, Sinatra switched to Capitol Records and recorded nearly 300 songs and some 20 albums, which were solid hits throughout the '50s. He then started his own record label, Reprise Records, but his artistic choices were unsuccessful.
In 1963, he recorded the first of his three collaborations with Count Basie and his swing band, then worked with the arrangers Quincy Jones and Gordon Jenkins. Three years later, Bert Kaempfert, who had composed the score for A Man Could Get Killed, wrote Strangers in the Night, which was sung by Frank Sinatra. The song became an international hit and from that time on was always associated with Sinatra. A few months later, Sinatra recorded a duet with his daughter Nancy called Somethin' Stupid, which was another big hit. At the height of his glory, the singer announced his "retirement" in 1971 after two albums in a row had failed to sell. He nevertheless brought out one of his last big hits in 1979: New York, New York. A final album, L.A. Is My Lady, produced by Quincy Jones, kept him in the spotlight but his voice was tired and his ambition had dwindled. After a final tribute from the world of cinema and music in the television special Sinatra: 80 Years My Way, he died in 1998 of a heart attack.
Six landmark dates in the life of Frank Sinatra:
1939: Recorded All Or Nothing At All with Harry James and his orchestra. Initially just a local success, this song became a national hit when it was re-released four years later.
1953: Awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in From Here To Eternity.
1960: Supported John Fitzgerald Kennedy's election campaign and organised the incoming President's inaugural gala.
1961: Founded his own label, Reprise Records, distributed by Warner.
1968: Recorded the English-language version of Paul Anka's song, Comme d'habitude, which became My Way.
1995: The world of cinema and song paid a final tribute to Sinatra with the television special Sinatra: 80 Years My Way.
Six key albums by Frank Sinatra:
1939: All or Nothing at All, with Harry James and his Orchestra
1944: All the Things You Are
1957: Where Are You?
1964: It Might As Well Be Swing, with Count Basie
1969: My Way
1984: L.A. Is My Lady
Biography compiled from Radio France Documentation (August 2014).