Who Gives a Fuck About 'The Voice'?
So Frank Sinatra was called "The Voice." Get over it. Saxophonist Stan Getz was called "The Sound," but he's not treated like a saint. Besides, the worst thing Getz ever did was get the shakes every once in a while, whereas Sinatra lived his 80 years as if he had a special pass that allowed him to be a much bigger asshole than anyone else. And as far as The Voice is concerned, Sinatra wasn't God's perfect singer, either. He sang up in his larynx, too high up in his throat, a problem that caused him to blow out his voice by 1952. Throughout his career, and especially later on, the true secret to his musical success was that other people provided him with the best compositions, the best arrangements, and the best backing groups. Although they're rarely mentioned, the orchestras who played behind him would've made Biz Markie sound like Pavarotti.
Frank, Jerry the Crusher, and Kyong Kim
Many Sinatra apologists claim that he was just a "man's man'" and not a bully at all. U2's Bono provided a dribbling example of this when he exclaimed like a teenage fan, "He got what we want--swagger and attitude." Sinatra's kind of attitude, however, was the kind that only real assholes could respect--his bodyguards Joe Tomatoes and Jerry the Crusher excelled at holding people down so Sinatra could hit them. Tough to the end, Sinatra was nearly 70 when CBS aired footage of him trying to get Kyong Kim, an Atlantic City card dealer, fired for not cheating for him. The best Sinatra quote from the exchange with the young Korean American woman was, "You don't want to play with one deck, you go back to China!"
Frankie, Sammy, and the Polish Wet Suit
As the civil rights wars raged in America, Sinatra brought Sammy Davis, Jr., who had more talent in his glass eye than Sinatra did in his whole body, to Vegas, as a Black foil for his nightclub routines. Sinatra's gang started out with the name "The Clan," a moniker that Davis probably didn't choose, if you know what I mean. Sinatra's defenders say the group's routines were equally demeaning to all, and therefore okay. Typically, Dean Martin (an Italian) would say something to Frank (another Italian) about spaghetti, and then Sinatra would turn to Sammy (the only Black person onstage, and usually in the whole casino) and crack a joke about coons, watermelon, and ribs. Anyone who thinks that's an equal exchange has some funny ideas about racial dynamics.
If you're not convinced Sinatra's a bigot, there's always the transcript of his appearance with Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. Among his more bizarre punchlines were "The Polacks are deboning the colored people--and using them as wetsuits"; and, referring to the awesomely talented Count Basie Orchestra, "I'd publicly like to thank the NAACP for this chess set they sent me." A lifetime of PR can't hide the fact that people who aren't racist bastards just don't say those kinds of things.
Sinatra's Going Down, Man
Tupac's gun can kill children, and Marilyn Manson's goons can get thuggish with music editors, so why should we single out Sinatra? Well, unlike Shakur (dead) and Manson (widely known to be a joke), Sinatra was adored in both life and death. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, by his good friend Ronnie Reagan. If we don't get to hating him properly, his songs--which are at best great collaborative efforts involving talented composers and orchestras--will continue to bring fame to Sinatra alone. Worst of all, the thousands of people he humiliated, used, or just plain clobbered will have to live the rest of their lives knowing that Sinatra had the last laugh. In the end, hating Sinatra is about making sure that doesn't happen.