Sinatra is the story of an American icon who held the imagination of millions for more than 50 years and whose influence in popular music was unsurpassed in the 20th century. As a child, he said, he had heard "symphonies from the universe" in his head. No one could have imagined where those sounds would lead him. Tracing the arc of this incredible life, from the humble beginnings in Hoboken to the twilight years as a living legend in Malibu, Sinatra follows a career built on raw talent, sheer willpower, and criminal connections.Drawing on a treasure trove of documents and interviews, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan reveal stunning new information about Sinatra's links to such Mafia figures as Sam Giancana and Lucky Luciano. And we see for the first time where the Mafia connection began, how and why it lasted, and how it impinged on others.Here, too, is the core of the private Sinatra that the singer so long concealed. The heartbreaking truth about his passion for Ava Gardner emerges from never-before-published conversations with Gardner herself. In exclusive, intimate interviews, the women who loved Sinatra share memories of the joy and pain of their relationships with him. And we learn what it was like to be the friend of a man who was generous and loyal to a fault, yet who could turn abruptly into a vindictive brute.Dramatic, eye-opening, and unfailingly fair-minded, Sinatra is masterful biography: the revelatory story of a brilliant artist and an infinitely complex man.
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During the opening parts of this audio book, I was amazed at how much private information the author (Summers) seemed to have accumulated on the Sinatra Family. As I got further into the book, I began to feel a little “suspect” of the growing amount of intelligence he had gathered. By the time I was halfway through, I had begun to suspect just about anything Summers was saying.
Although the publicity statement on the book labels it as “unfailingly fair-minded,” after finishing the book, I think it’s safe to say that such accolades are seriously off-target. This biography is anything but “fair-minded.”
Summers’ bias trickles through in the first third of the book (he obviously didn’t like Sinatra, the man), then runs more steadily in the book’s middle before it grows to a torrent by the last third.
For instance, Summers obviously approves of Sinatra’s political dalliances with the Roosevelts and the Kennedys, but repels at his alignment with Nixon later in his life. He makes light of Sinatra’s failure to condemn the burglary of Nixon’s doctor’s office by Kennedy henchmen during the 1960 presidential campaign (Frank’s mob connections may have even helped), but is offended by Frank’s cavalier opinion about the Watergate burglary by Nixon henchmen during the 1972 campaign.
And some of Summers’ assertions are just too improbable, such as the allegation that Sinatra turned to forcible rape when he was a mega-star in his 50s.
The book is entertaining, and well written (and narrated), but I would take about 80 percent of it with a grain of salt—maybe even a whole saltshaker. In fact, if just 20 percent of the contents can be called factual, then Sinatra has to be discussed in the same vein as Ted Bundy, Son of Sam, and Jack the Ripper. If I thought the information was more accurate, I would have graded it a star higher.
This biography qualifies for my 2016 reading challenge as the “book I own but never read.” I’ve owned two copies of this book, hard back and audio, for many years now but I never ‘found the time’ to read either. I think in part because of the size, I knew it would be a large time commitment. The other half of that argument I found represented in the best meme to date:
Let me start first by saying: It was worth every single minute, page, word committed.
The authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, thoroughly researched this book. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a strategically thought out biography. Truly. The structure followed (for the most part) from the beginning of Frank Sinatra’s life and his parentage through his death, with limited veering from the timeline. Sinatra managed to cover some hot topics such as: The Mob, JFK Life and Death, The Mob, All 4 Wives and 400 Mistresses, The Mob, Singing Career, The Mob, Acting, The Mob, His Charitable Nature, and even The Mob…again. I always wondered how deeply rooted Sinatra was with the Mob, and this biography paints a very colorful story I’m sure would make the very private Sinatra roll in his grave.
Summers and Swan made me reassess the love of my musical life, a little. Like every person breathing, Sinatra was human. As humans we all make mistakes and some of them are worse then others. Sinatra lived a very… is ‘active’ (pun only partially intended) the right word here?… a very unique life.
Musically speaking I was a bit on the sheltered side. Some might argue the opposite, my parents for sure but it wasn’t until I was 16 that I discovered life outside of 80s rock. This might be great for someone a few years older then myself but my formative middle and high school years were in the late 90s and early 2000s (graduating class of 2003 here). Growing up in the most north west corner of the united states meant that Canada was closer then Seattle, offered better hangout places, the only local TV and radio (also why my accent is accused of being Canadian – not that I’ll admit to having an accent in the first place). Which effected my choices of what to watch and listen too- also this contributed to missing a lot of the very popular types of music and TV (Meh). This combined with the cost of CD players in the 90s and my lack of radio control all equaled believing that the coolest music in the world was accessed through my parent’s record and CD collection. It was a lot of Guns and Roses, Heart, Meatloaf, Alice Cooper, Eagles, and Cindy Lauper. My first tape was a mix and my favorite song was Joan Jet’s version of Crimson and Clover. In fact I think I still have it in a box somewhere. So sweet 16 came along and I got my first car. To me, this meant control over the radio. Holly shit world, there is so much music! Gods forbid I run with the crowd on this one, no… I fell in love with Sinatra instead. So while my friends were in the world of boy bands (which is a funny story for another time) I was in love with Frankie Blue Eyes.
Reading this book meant taking the chance that I’d be so disgusted with someone I loved. But I guess that’s the thing about love. It means loving the person whole, flaws and all. Loving them for everything they are: good, bad, and the ugly. I worried for nothing. I still love Frank despite his severely rooted Mob ties, his drinking, the 400 mistress, and his often angry take on life. His music makes me swoon still today. I can’t help but stop whatever I’m doing to listen. A girl doesn’t take 10 years hunting down a specific record to find the only version of a song she loves, to fall out of love by some words in a book. Even if that book doesn’t always paint the man so nicely. While this post has taken a mind of it’s own, Sinatra was a gripping detailed portrait of a man the world loved through music and movies. I was no exception. While not always kind with words, the authors seemed to be as unbiased as possible in their work which I appreciated. At the end of the day when all is said and done, I would recommend it wholeheartedly.