By Chuck Ross
James Kaplan has spent ten-years buried in the life of Frank Sinatra. Back in the fall of 2004 he began to think about writing a biography of Sinatra, the first volume of which was a hit several years ago. That work, “Frank: The Voice,” has been followed up with the recently released book “Sinatra: The Chairman.”
In the new volume, Kaplan writes that his 10-year mission has been a “quest to chronicle in full measure the life and work of a man who was not only a genius – the greatest interpretive musician of all time, in the opinion of many, including myself – but also a man whose life touched almost every aspect of American life in the twentieth century.”
In a recent issue of Maclean’s magazine, Kaplan added that in those 10 years of studying about and writing about Sinatra, “I’ve never gotten bored with him. I’ve disliked him. He was a genius at a number of things, including being dislikeable.”
Kaplan continued, “‘The dualities were sharp and intense.’ Sinatra revered women yet often treated them like chattel or worse. A man who honoured family above all else, he was a largely absentee father. He craved class and sophistication and was chummy with Kennedys and kings, yet persisted in speaking and behaving like the thugs he also courted. Generous to a fault, lavish with gifts and selflessly philanthropic, he was capable of fierce cruelty.”
Likewise, I have been fascinated for years by the dualities that made up Sinatra’s personality. It’s a subject I have written about before, and you can read my earlier essay if you click here.
I revisit Sinatra again this morning as today is the 100 anniversary of his birth. At various times this morning and this afternoon (check your local listings), various HBO channels will repeat the must-see two-part, four-hour documentary “Sinatra: All or Nothing at All.” The documentary is directed by Alex Gibney (‘Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room’), who is both an Oscar winner and a winner of multiple Emmys. If you have any interest in Sinatra or American popular culture in the last century, don’t miss it.
And please click here to read TVWeek Open Mic blogger Hillary Atkin’s piece about the HBO Sinatra documentaries.
Likewise, earlier this year Billboard’s Frank DiGiacomo conducted a gratifyingly lively and smart interview with Kaplan and Gibney, and you can listen to that podcast if you click here.
If you are looking for a noteworthy present this holiday season for someone interested in pop culture, may I suggest that you consider giving either (or both) of Kaplan’s books about Sinatra.