Frank Sinatra died 17 years ago today at the age of 82. Shortly before his death, COMMENTARY published the definitive appreciation of Sinatra’s artistry by Terry Teachout. From September 1997, here on this Throwback Thursday, is “Taking Sinatra Seriously.” Enjoy.
What will Frank Sinatra be remembered for? In the decade prior to his retirement in 1995, his singing became a grotesque and embarrassing self-caricature. His oft-reported ties to organized crime have figured prominently in the tabloids for years. And then there are the various cults that have formed around him. His most passionate fans, obsessed with his charismatic manner, celebrate his best singing and his worst indiscriminately. Meanwhile, another cult, a cottage industry of scholars specializing in “cultural studies,” neglects his art to focus on his status as an “iconic” figure in American popular culture; a conference to be held next year at Hofstra University on Frank Sinatra: The Man, the Music, the Legend, is typical of the breed.
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