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
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
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
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
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
"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
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;
"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
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
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
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
Two months later he was again in hospital -- this
time doctor said he suffered an "uncomplicated''