Frank Sinatra, the brash young idol who became the premier romantic balladeer of American popular music and the "Chairman of the Board" to millions of fans, has died of a heart attack. He was 82.
Sinatra, who had not been seen in public since a heart attack in January 1997, was pronounced dead at 10:50 p.m. Thursday in the emergency room of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his publicist, Susan Reynolds.It was not clear whether he suffered the heart attack at home. But wife Barbara was with him when he died, and the rest of his family arrived a short time later, said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Reynolds said a private funeral was planned.
"Ol' Blue Eyes" was a master craftsman and ranked as one of the most influential singers in the country's history. With more than 200 records, his music led the evolution from Big Band to vocal American music.
"Frank Sinatra was a true original," entertainer Mel Torme said Friday. "He held the patent, the original blueprint on singing the popular song, a man who would have thousands of imitators but who, himself, would never be influenced by a single, solitary person."
The blunt, often aggressive son of Italian immigrants communicated across generational lines with love songs filled with vulnerability and verve - from "Strangers in the Night" to "One For My Baby."
He refused to compromise - "I'm going to do as I please," he once said - and his trademark song was "My Way."
"I was an enormous admirer of his," President Clinton said. "I think every American would have to smile and say he really did do it his way."
Sinatra made almost as much news off-stage as on. Through his Rat Pack and organized crime associations, he was a cultural phenomenon who endured setbacks and scandals to become a White House intimate.
Sinatra's light baritone only grew deeper and richer through the years. He had a lavish lifestyle, four wives and some associates whose names could be found in FBI crime files.
But for each story of Sinatra's punching someone, there was another of loyalty and generosity to friends and strangers. He always thanked his audiences for listening to him.
In the early 1950s, his career appeared to be over, and he came back with a movie performance in "From Here to Eternity" that brought him an Academy Award for supporting actor. He retired to much fanfare in 1971 but found himself unable to stay away from the microphone.
Sinatra said he never took voice lessons except to extend his range and never learned to read music. During performances late in his career, he would read lyrics, yet his phrasing and timing rarely faltered.
His signature songs included "Night and Day," "Young at Heart," "One for My Baby," "How About You?" "Day by Day," "Old Man River," "New York, New York," "Come Fly With Me," "Strangers in the Night," and, with daughter Nancy, "Somethin' Stupid," a No. 1 smash during the rock era.
His movie credits include musicals - "Anchors Aweigh," "On The Town," "Guys and Dolls," "The Tender Trap," "High Society," "Pal Joey" - and grittier fare, such as "The Manchurian Candidate," "Von Ryan's Express" and "The Man With the Golden Arm," which brought him his other Oscar nomination.
He received the Kennedy Center honor in 1983 and was awarded the Medal of Freedom by his friend President Reagan in 1985.
"Sinatra's endurance has become a rallying point for many people who feel that their sacrifices and hard work are no longer honored, their values demeaned, their musical tastes ignored and sneered at," Pete Hamill wrote in New York magazine in 1980. "It should never be forgotten that Frank Sinatra was the original working-class hero. Mick Jagger's fans bought records with their allowances; Sinatra's people bought them out of wages."
Francis Albert Sinatra was born Dec. 12, 1915, in a working-class neighborhood of Hoboken, N.J. His left earlobe was torn off during the delivery, and his throat was scarred by forceps.
Sinatra's father, Martin, was a boxer and member of the fire department, and his mother, Dolly, was a nurse. He was spoiled as a child but grew up tough, leading a neighborhood gang.
In 1933, Sinatra heard Bing Crosby and left the theater determined to be a singer, but not a Crosby copycat. Joining trombonist Tommy Dorsey's band, he became the first popular singer to use breathing for dramatic effect, learning to use his microphone to enhance his voice.
It also was important, he would say later, for a singer to realize he was telling a story.
The 1940s belonged to Sinatra, supplanting Crosby.
"I think my appeal in those days was due to the fact that there hadn't been a troubadour around for 10 or 20 years, from the time Bing had broken in and went on to radio and movies," Sinatra said in Life magazine in 1965.
"I think the kids were looking for somebody to cheer for. Also, the war had just started. They were looking for somebody who represented those gone in their life."
Sinatra, classified 4-F because of a punctured ear drum, kept piling up the hits. Before the decade was over, Sinatra's career was spiraling downward.
His name was linked to mobsters when he visited Cuba at the same time organized crime leaders were gathering there and spent time with Lucky Luciano. He suffered a vocal cord hemorrhage and was forced to remain silent for 40 days. His record sales declined.
A romance with Ava Gardner led to the end of his marriage to longtime sweetheart Nancy Barbato, who married him in 1939 and bore three children - Nancy, Frank Jr. and Christina.
By the time he wed Gardner in 1951, the singer who had earned some $1 million a year had been cut loose by his agents.
"From Here to Eternity," and the Oscar-winning role of Pvt. Angelo Maggio, was his vehicle for a comeback. He won the supporting actor Oscar, was back on top of the charts by the end of 1954 and, by 1957, ABC guaranteed him $7 million on a three-year contract.
His tempestuous marriage to Gardner ended in 1953. His name was linked with Lana Turner and Lauren Bacall, and he was engaged to Juliet Prowse, but he did not marry again until 19-year-old Mia Farrow came into his life more than a decade later.
Sinatra was again breaking box-office records by the end of the 1950s and was firmly established at the head of the Rat Pack or the Clan, a group including Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr. and Peter Lawford.
In December 1963, Sinatra's son, 19-year-old Frank Jr., was abducted by two armed men from a motel in Stateline, Nev. Sinatra had his son freed within two days after paying $240,000 in ransom.
In 1966, Sinatra wed Farrow, a marriage that lasted just over two years. Saying he wanted room for reflection, he gave his "farewell concert" in Los Angeles in 1971 - but returned two years later.
Sinatra was married for the last time in 1976, to Barbara Marx, former wife of Zeppo Marx. Reagan was among those attending.