We all have soundtracks of our lives. During my teen years there were hours spent listening to the same record album over and over, sometimes even the same song, convinced that the artist had written the lyrics especially for me. "OHMYGOSH" my friends and I would shriek. That's EXACTLY how I feel!!!!" Neil Young, Elton John, Supertramp, Queen, Linda Ronstadt... it wasn't until I got older that I realized -- that was exactly how everybody felt.
In college, music became the backdrop for parties, the thumping beat at bars and clubs -- it was the 80s, after all, and the Cars and Blondie, the B-52's and Toto didn't make the kind of music that made you want to cry from the emotions their songs evoked. We all just wanted to dance.
It was 1984 when I first fell for Sinatra. And when I say fell, I mean really, really fell. There was a period of about two years when he was virtually all I listened to, with a little Bruce Springsteen and old Motown mixed in, plus some Elvis Costello to stay current. But Sinatra was the soundtrack of my early twenties, keeping me company on cassette after cassette as I drove around Los Angeles for my first job out of college.
The song for the first dance at our wedding. As if my husband had a choice.
Falling for Sinatra was an enormous undertaking -- his catalog of songs is huge, and he recorded over 50 albums in his lifetime. I zeroed in on the albums from the 50s, when his voice was strongest and his phrasing was impeccable, when you could hear the joy and sorrow in his voice as clearly as if he was speaking to you. That intimacy and the promise of something -- love, romance -- those were the things that made him timeless.
The first year out of college was not easy for me, adjusting to being on my own, commuting to work every day, trying to prove myself at my job and find myself in the world -- but Sinatra was the soothing voice of reassurance for me, as I learned each and every trip and lilt and turn of phrase he used on the songs I loved best. From "Young at Heart" to "The Way You Look Tonight," "Love and Marriage" to "My Funny Valentine," there was a song for every mood, every time of day, every event. I, like a million girls before me and a million since, fell in love with Sinatra through his voice, and what a voice it is.
Sinatra became a passion for me to share with my family. There was always singing going on in my family... as strange as it may sound, we would often sing song lyrics to each other in lieu of speaking in sentences.
I continued my love affair with Sinatra, and my children were raised on him...there's nothing quite like a 4-year-old girl singing "The Lady is a Tramp," as my daughter did one evening, delighting us all. I saw him in concert at the very end of his life, but it wasn't great -- he was old, and his voice was wobbly and weak, and the teleprompter had letters that were at least a foot high -- but still, it was Sinatra. We even considered naming our son Francis, after my husband's grandfather... and Sinatra. I think my son is relieved we didn't.
On the morning Sinatra died, my husband woke me to tell me the news before I heard it anyplace else. He knew how sad I would be, and I was. But I listened to his music, and of course, that made me feel better, which is, I suppose, what Sinatra was all about -- making the world feel better through his music.
Sinatra liked to end his concerts this way:
"May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine."
Not a bad way to go.
Sinatra and Elvis Presley duet -- utterly charming!