One way to enhance your life very cheaply is to buy an old record player and buy old LPs for a dollar. Some of them, like my Leslie Gore album, you only want to hear one song: that would be “You Don’t Own Me,” produced by Quincy Jones. The rest is “Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry.”
But others, like Frank Sinatra singing with the Count Basie Orchestra, I play over and over.
“No one ever tells you what it’s like to love and lose,
How it feels to waken and have breakfast with the blues,
How to go on living, how to face another day,
No one ever tells you the way.
No one ever tells you that it’s just another fling,
No one ever warns you when your heart begins to sing.
Someone tells you later, ‘All is fair in love and war,’
But no one ever tells you before.”
Or this one:
“I won’t dance, don’t ask me
I won’t dance, don’t ask me
I won’t dance, Madame, with you
My heart won’t let my feet do things they shouldn’t do.”
This record is a lot more scratchy than I would usually buy, but I’m having tons of fun with it.
And besides being arguably the best singer ever, Frank Sinatra did nearly as much to fight racism as Martin Luther King and Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. He got a lifetime achievement award from the NAACP, and he earned it.
Not just after he was the king of pop music and no one could touch him. This guy got in bar fights when he was a young singer when black members of his band were insulted. He spoke out for racial equality when he was just starting out, when it could have hurt or destroyed his career.
When Sinatra was criticized for making ‘political’ statements, he was defended by a young music critic in New York who said he just might have the right idea, a guy by the name of Ed Sullivan. He later had a variety show you might have heard of.
Partly, he was motivated by the lynching of several Italians in New Orleans. “It wasn’t just black people hanging from those f—ing ropes, ” he said.
And when you think about it, Frank Sinatra reached people who could not be reached by Jackie Robinson or Martin Luther King — people who would not be altered, even a little, by a personal interview with Gandhi himself: wiseguys, would-be wiseguys, people who don’t pay a lot of attention to moral or philosophical considerations, if you know what I mean.
Frank said Sammie [Davis Jr.] was part of the Rat Pack and that was that. These otherwise unreachable types got the picture, once and for all: racism is not cool. Frank snapped his fingers and made it so.
Thanks Frank. You made a better world.