Biography of Frank Sinatra

Once the idol of swooning female fans, he continued to sing in his own inimitable style through the eras of the big bands, rock and roll and hard rock, never compromising his reputation as ``The Voice.''

On the way he became a legend, for his Grammy-winning music, Oscar-winning acting and a larger-than-life personality. He boasted friendships with presidents and less savoury types and even the cocky angle of his hat drew favourable notice.
His unique tenor voice made songs as "My Way,'' ``New York, New York,'' ``Witchcraft'' and 'The Lady is a Tramp'' memorable hits to generations.

Away from the spotlight he was an unpredictable, snappy superstar who fought with the media, lived the life of a potentate and was famed for his romances with the likes of Ava Gardner, Laureen Bacall and Mia Farrow.
A half-century after his first public appearance, he was still packing stadiums and theatres from New York to London, Paris to Las Vegas. A star of more than 50 films, he sold records by the millions.

Even in the 1990s, Francis Albert Sinatra, known as the ''Chairman of the Board'' to his colleagues in the entertainment industry and ``Ol' Blue Eyes'' to his millions of adoring fans, could still top the charts.
Titled simply ``Duets,'' it showcased Sinatra with younger singers who once had rejected his brand of music and was hailed as a symbolic healer of that generational gap. The Rolling Stone Encyclopaedia of Rock and Roll calls Sinatra ``the model and envy of rockers from the beginning.''
Although he mellowed in recent years, the tough background of a boy who grew up in Hoboken, N.J., still showed itself in flashes of temper. But his big heart was evidenced by the fortunes he raised for various charities and the help he gave friends in need.

Though he never graduated from high school, he made millions of dollars and knew how to spend it. From his sprawling, heavily guarded mansion in the millionaires' resort of Palm Springs, Calif. Sinatra ran private planes and limousines for his numerous house guests. He travelled with an entourage, including bodyguards and his lawyer, and his party often occupied entire hotel floors.

It was a far cry from his early days in an Italian and Irish neighbourhood in Hoboken, then a gritty riverfront city of saloons, sailors and machine politics across from New York. ''Everyone carried a 12-inch pipe then -- and they weren't studying to be plumbers,'' he once said.
His Sicilian-born father was a fireman and an amateur boxer and encouraged his son to box. His mother, born in Genoa, Italy, was a strong-minded woman who dabbled in politics and was reputed to be a back street abortionist.
Sinatra, born December 12, 1915, had hoped to become a sportswriter and worked as an office boy on the local Hudson Observer newspaper. But he became a fan of Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday and formed a singing quartet called the Hoboken Four.

The quartet did not last long, but Sinatra sang ``Night and Day'' on a radio amateur show and was given a job as a singing waiter at a roadhouse. His big break came when he joined the Harry James band in 1939. The same year he cut his first record on which he sang ``From the Bottom of My Heart'' and ''Melancholy Mood.''
But after only six months with James he was lured away by rival bandleader Tommy Dorsey. Singing with Dorsey, he became a sensation in 1940s. Young girls, known as "bobby-soxers,'' packed each performance to scream and faint in ecstasy as Sinatra sang. Sinatra developed his own intimate crooning style.
"It occurred to me that the world didn't need another Crosby,'' wrote Sinatra in a 1965 Life magazine article. "I decided to experiment a little and come up with something different. What I finally hit on was more the bel canto Italian style of singing without making a point of it.''

He developed a style of touching the higher notes softly, gliding the vowels and dragging his voice gently to the lower notes -- without losing one syllable.
By this time, Sinatra had married his childhood sweetheart, the former Nancy Barbato, and they had three children, Nancy, Frank and Tina, before their marriage broke up in 1951.

Sinatra made his film debut in 1941 in "Las Vegas Nights'' and starred in such musicals as "Anchors Aweigh'' (1945), and ''On the Town'' (1949). But his career slumped in 1950 when he suffered vocal haemorrhages, and his tempestuous behaviour, including public brawls with reporters, was too much even for his sponsors.

Few thought he would return, but in typical Sinatra style he clawed his way back. In 1952, he offered to play the role of Maggio in the film;
"From Here to Eternity'' for only $8,000 instead of his previous asking fee of $150,000. His performance won an Oscar for best supporting actor.
His film roles ranged from the dramatic --
"The Man with the Golden Arm'' (1956) and "The Manchurian Candidate'' (1962) -- to musicals such as;
"Guys and Dolls'' (1956),
"High Society'' (1956) and
"Pal Joey'' (1957).

He followed this by creating some of his biggest hit songs, including;
"Chicago'' (1957),
"It Was a Very Good Year'' (1965),
"Strangers in the Night'' (1966) and
"My Way'' (1969).

Other hits included "Witchcraft,''
"I Get a Kick out of You,''
"The Lady is a Tramp'' and
"New York, New York.'' He was honoured with Grammy awards in 1959, 1965 and 1966.

Sinatra also became famous for the parties he threw with his "Rat Pack,'' a group of friends including Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. He was chummy with President Kennedy and Kennedy's actor brother-in-law, Peter Lawford.
On the matrimonial front, Sinatra's stormy marriage to actress Ava Gardner lasted less than six years, of which they were mostly apart. In 1966, when he was 50, he married actress Mia Farrow, then 21. They separated the following year and were divorced in 1968.

Though he allowed himself to be photographed with mobsters, Sinatra always denied any links with the Mafia. Appearing before the House of Representatives' Select Committee on Crime, he accused members of what he called indecent and irresponsible action in allowing an admitted murderer to deliver hearsay evidence linking him with members of organized crime.

Sinatra lost his Nevada gambling license in 1963 after a Mafia leader, Sam Giancana, was seen in the Cal-Neva Lodge gambling casino in which Sinatra then held a major interest. The license was restored in 1981.
The singer's fourth wife, Barbara, a former model and dancer who had been married to Zeppo Marx, of the Marx Brothers, had a calming effect on her husband.

In November 1986, Sinatra underwent an emergency operation to remove a foot-long piece of his large intestine. In March 1994, he collapsed on stage from heat exhaustion in Richmond, Va., midway through ``My Way'' and was in the hospital briefly.

In November 1995, musicians spanning a half century from Peggy Lee and Tony Bennett to Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen joined together on stage to wish him a happy 80th birthday.
Sinatra was hospitalized again on Nov. 1, 1996. Although his publicist insisted he was only suffering from a pinched nerve there were reports that he was also being treated for pneumonia and heart problems.
Two months later he was again in hospital -- this time doctor said he suffered an "uncomplicated'' heart attack.