Thanks to some research I've been doing for a workshop I'm doing in a couple of weeks* on biographies and memoirs, I've been on a real Frank Sinatra bender. Do you know how many biographies there are about Frank Sinatra? A lot. A lot a lot. This works out nicely for me, as I am a fan.**
I've got a pile of Sinatra books here, and every day I wander through some of them, looking at the pictures and reading snippets of text here and there. It's also gotten me in the mood to listen to some Sinatra, which I did today, and which was fun, as CRjr seems also to be a fan. He particularly seemed to enjoy "Luck Be a Lady," although that might have been because his crazy mother was sashaying around the kitchen singing along to it.
One book I made it all the way through was Pete Hamill's Why Sinatra Matters, which I'd file under "hagiography"--Hamill doesn't sugar-coat some of Sinatra's less savory connections or personality attributes, but he definitely comes down on the side of fandom. It's brief--180 pages--and if you like Sinatra's music you'll probably enjoy it. There's a bit about his parents and hometown, birth (he was a 13-pound baby!), childhood, marriages, and mob connections, but the best part is the chapter on the second part of his career, when he made a ton of his hits at Capitol Records:
"There were a number of components to the Sinatra-Riddle collaboration. Friedwald emphasizes one of them: 'Lightness shines as the primary ingredient of the Riddle style. Whether he has ten brass swinging heavily or an acre of strings, Riddle always manages to make everything sound light; that way, the weightiest ballad doesn't become oversentimental and insincere, and the fastest swinger doesn't come off as forced.'" (p. 171.)
I enjoyed that; I enjoyed the look behind the scenes at Sinatra's music (and Nelson Riddle's arrangements of it). Much more fun reading than any of the stuff about the mob. And let's hear it for Hamill; in the back of the book he lists a little bibliography of other books about Sinatra. Nice.
*Calling all library staff in the Chicago area: there's still time to join us!
**Come on. I've Got the World on a String? One of the greatest songs ever.