Sinatra’s still special 100 years later, but his CBS show was a tad lacking

I tuned in to the CBS tribute Sinatra 100 Sunday night with great anticipation.

A fan of Frank Sinatra my whole life — or at since my father Frank introduced me to the music of the man known as both Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Chairman of the Board before I even went to kindergarten — I thought the Grammy folks were right to take the legend in the Centennial year of his birth and make sure the seeds were planted with stars of several generations sharing his words and sounds.

And the music was outstanding.

Hover over any gallery photo for a description. Click on the bottom right photo for an enlarged slide show.

And the music was pretty wonderful.

The orchestra, led by Don Was, handled the original arrangements as played by all those bands that backed Sinatra from the 1940s to the early 1990s to the note.

The singers included the go-to for this tribute, including great crooner Harry Connick Jr., who’s carried Sinatra’s love of the Great American Songbook onward for another generation and Frank’s friend, octogenarian and fellow legend Tony Bennett.

They also included country stars Garth Brooks and Zac Brown (both who wore black hats of different types) to represent the 80s/90s and this millennium, and Carrie Underwood, and pop giant Lady Gaga.

My favorite touch was from rock giant Bono and band mate from U2 The Edge, on film from London, who performed a wonderfully intimate version of a song they wrote specifically for Sinatra with the hopes he’d record or perform it. Indeed, One Shot of Happy, Two Shots of Sad. Sinatra, he shot them down. My second came from Colombian star Juanes, who backed up a clip of Sinatra and his friend Antonio Carlos Jobim with spectacular performance.

Yes, the music was special.

So were the moments when they let the old clips of Sinatra of speak for themselves.

But I kept waiting for somebody to take the stage and tell the world why the man is still so important these 100 years after he was born in Hoboken, N.J., spend a moment or two in words to inform the younger folks who might be enjoying their stars perform his music why the dots should be connected.

They had Tony Bennett right there to tell of that friendship and what made Sinatra special.

They had Quincy Jones there, to talk about the man and the music. Our treasured producer, now 82, came closest, relating a Sinatra quote: “Live every day like it could be your last. Someday you’ll be right.”

Sinatra fans in Syracuse will get a chance to relive his songs as well as the work of the great Billie Holiday with a nightclub-style show tonight at Drumlins on Nottingham Road. Ronnie Leigh sings the songs of Sinatra, and Patricia Oasis performs the songs of Holiday, who also was born 100 years ago. Tickets are $25, available at the door. Doors open at 6, and show time is 7 p.m.

Here’s the link to the photo of Garth Brooks.

Here’s the link to the photos of Lady Gaga and Carrie Underwood.

Here’s the link to my WAER podcast with Ronnie Leigh talking about Sinatra’s legend and the details about tonight’s Sinatra show at Drumlins in Syracuse.

If you saw the Sinatra special, which was your favorite song performance, and why? Would you prefer more songs or more words about the legend, and why? Who’s the best cover singer of a Sinatra standard you’ve ever heard, and why?

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31 thoughts on “Sinatra’s still special 100 years later, but his CBS show was a tad lacking

    • My favorite Sinatra song is “Summer Wind,” Ann. I sang it at karaoke one night. Killed it. I’ll leave the interpretation of that to you. 😉 I think you should pick the song you are most comfortable with at the tryout. That’s always the way to go.

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  1. I didn’t see the special. I hope to. I started to enjoy Sinatra at 21 when I used to go to a piano bar now and then. I fell in love with the crooners and wondered why I hadn’t noticed them before. I guess they were part of my parents’ world.
    Harry Connick Jr. was coming up big when I was first married and special to us. We went to see him once. Be sure you hear Julien Mueller covering “Fly Me To The Moon”, it’s really trippy.

    I enjoyed your podcast, thank you

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  2. I only saw about 30 minutes of the special, Mark, but I did see the U2, Usher and Carrie Underwood performances. I liked the early Sinatra, but thought he lost voice as he got older, a bit off key for me. It doesn’t take away from his legend, his persona. Always unique. ☺

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  3. I am not going to count the karoke versions of “My Way” into the covers, but I will say I bet Michael Buble would do some great covers of Sinatra’s songs.

    I prefer more music, less “insight”, but that is may also be because unless you own his albums you don’t hear much of his stuff these days.

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    • I agree with you that Buble is a great choice to cover Sinatra’s songbook, J. And mostly I agree with the music first viewpoint, but I’m fearful that young folks won’t ever learn about him if not now hearing some words now.

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  4. I haven’t seen it, although it’s been recorded. UGH to all the commercials in long programs like that. So annoying. Love that dvr, haha!
    I grew up with Sinatra playing regularly, so I’ll probably always be a fan. Love the recordings with the big bands backing him up. That stuff never gets old!

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  5. There was only one Sinatra. No one could phrase a song like he could. It’s hard to pick out one song but Summer Wind and Lady is a Tramp are two of my favorites. I saw him at Meadowlands in NJ later I. His career and he still killed it. Great post.

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  6. I agree that most of the little filler bits where they interviewed people about him or told pieces of his story didn’t seem to capture the essence. But I also realized that very few singers know how to own a song the way he did so for me it was a little flat because Frank wasn’t singing… Even though I think lots of the performers have talent in their own genres, for me most of the performances left me wishing we could have just heard the real deal. And thinking, really no one should try to cover the songs that are SO his. The one who surprised me with his ability to cover those songs was Seth McFarland. And I thought Lady Gaga’s choice to aim for Liza Minnelli’s version of New York, New York instead of Frank’s was inspired.

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    • It was an interesting mix of today’s singers for me, Leigh. A compilation of just-Frank-clips would make a different and unique special on its own, I agree. McFarlane is a big voice, yes. And I think Gaga was somewhere between Frank and Liza with her show closer. Thanks for your special voice on the show, my friend.

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  7. Gaga and Seth Macfarlane were standouts for me. There were some great vocal performances, but a few poor choices made in picking artists for the show. There were some wasted opportunities, but I appreciate them letting the sampling of his catalog do the talking. It’s criminal that Brett Eldredge wasn’t included in the show, he’s a huge Sinatra fan. I think it’s more relatable if the performer is a fan of the music they are singing, imo, of course.

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