Claim to Fame: With a career that spanned more than five decades, mastering music, film and TV, Sinatra was larger than life. The skinny kid from Hoboken, New Jersey, became a fixture on the pop charts, an Oscar-winning actor, the leader of the Rat Pack and a lightning rod for media attention. And, of course, that’s just scratching the surface.
Why He Matters: Above all, it was the voice–that silky, insinuating instrument of love. Invoking both loneliness and ring-a-ding-ding insouciance, Sinatra’s voice–whether coming from an intimate stage, cavernous arena, onscreen performance or a pair of stereo speakers–blessed each listener with memories of ocean breezes and late-night bars. He wooed his audience with his singing. No one could make a song his own like Ol’ Blue Eyes. His nuance, pacing and breath caressed and melted the lyrics, making them flow from his lips into the listener’s ears, each tune a lesson in seduction.
Postscript: Sinatra was a man of many contradictions. He was a staunch ally to John F. Kennedy as well as Ronald Reagan, a lover of many women and husband to four, a man of epic generosity lauded for his charity endeavors, as well as an enemy noted for his petty vengefulness. He lived to see his cool Rat Pack ways become passé, then return to fashion. Funny thing is, he just wanted to be known as a great saloon singer. So, that’s how we’ll remember him.
The Last Word: “I faced it all
And I stood tall
And did it my way.”