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Frank Sinatra Dead at 82

The end had been near for some time, it seemed, but Frank Sinatra
battled back from each of his several hospital visits in the past
few years. Just two weeks ago, his fourth wife Barbara had reported
him to be in satisfactory health. But late last night, the
“Chairman of the Board” faced his final curtain, succumbing to a
heart attack at the age of eighty-two. The legendary singer and
screen star died at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His
wife and children (Frank Jr., Tina and Nancy) were at his bedside.

Sinatra, an only child, was born in Hoboken, N.J. on December
12, 1915. He began his singing career in a high school glee club,
although he would quit school after less than two months. When he
was in his early twenties, Sinatra and his group, the Hoboken Four,
won on the Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour. From there,
he began a meteoric rise from guest big-band vocalist to the
pre-eminent balladeer and song interpreter of the twentieth
century.

His earliest forays into the Top Ten — including the No. 1 hit
“I’ll Never Smile Again” — came during his tenure with the Tommy
Dorsey orchestra (1940-41), but it was as a solo artist of swinging
novelty tunes that he would earn the titles of “The Voice” and “The
Sultan of Swoon.” His popularity waned at the end of the Second
World War, leading to a loss of his recording and film contracts
with Columbia Records and MGM in the early Fifties. Vindication,
however, came with an Oscar for his role in From Here to
Eternity
(1953) and a new recording contract with Capitol
Records that same year.

By the mid-Sixties, with rock & roll in full-swing, Sinatra
was firmly entrenched in the charts, headlining the 1965 Newport
Jazz Festival with Count Basie’s orchestra and receiving a Grammy
Lifetime Achievement Award. It was also during the Sixties that
Sinatra, as leader of the “Rat Pack” (with Dean Martin and Sammy
Davis Jr.), began his long residency as a Vegas headliner. His
reputation as a ladies’ man, hard drinker and sterling performer
elicited awe in even the most rebellious members of the rock &
roll generation, who could not help but acknowledge this man who,
against all odds, straddled both tradition and cool. His signature
song, 1968’s “My Way,” was covered by both Elvis Presley and — in
his own unique way — the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious. “That Sinatra,”
the Doors’ Jim Morrison once remarked, “No one can touch him.”

Testimony to Sinatra’s enduring influence on younger performers
came with his two Duets albums released in 1993 and ’94.
The albums contained collaborations between Sinatra and the likes
of Bono, Aretha Franklin, Chrissie Hynde, Linda Ronstadt and Willie
Nelson. In 1995, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Salt-N-Pepa
and Hootie and the Blowfish joined Sinatra contemporary Tony
Bennett to pay tribute to the singer in a two-hour gala birthday
celebration, “Frank Sinatra: 80 Years My Way.” Sinatra, who had
retired from performing and retreated to privacy, agreed to the
public celebration on condition that it raise money for
charity.

The announcement of the singer’s death was greeted with an
outpouring of grief from fans and friends, including President
Clinton and Bono. The U2 singer remarked, “Frank Sinatra was the
twentieth-century, he was modern, he was complex, he had swing and
he had attitude. He was the boss but he was always Frank Sinatra.
We won’t see his like again.”

Speaking for a nation mourning the loss of one of its icons,
President Clinton told reporters, “I think every American would
have to smile and say he really did it his way.'”

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