In this unique homage to an American icon, journalist and award-winning author Pete Hamill evokes the essence of Sinatra--examining his art and his legend from the inside, as only a friend of many years could do. Shaped by Prohibition, the Depression, and war, Francis Albert Sinatra became the troubadour of urban loneliness. With his songs, he enabled millions of others to tell their own stories, providing an entire generation with a sense of tradition and pride belonging distinctly to them.
Like a musical Elements of Style, Hamill's slim meditation on Frank Sinatra is confident, smart and seamless. Since (and immediately before) Sinatra's death in May 1998, countless tributes have been made to the singer; Hamill (A Drinking Life) seems to be writing to set the record straight, for he knew Sinatra and, before that, knew the singer's music. But Hamill doesn't fawn over Sinatra the way other, younger writers have recently done. Rather, he elegantly tells the Sinatra story, dwelling on the singer's best recordings, dismissing "the Rat Pack, the swagger, the arrogance, the growing fortune, the courtiers," because in the end, he writes, they are "of little relevance." What matters, according to Hamill, is the music, chiefly that of Sinatra's early mature years, when the singer released his celebrated albums on the Capitol label. Where a starry-eyed author might vaguely praise these albums for their pathos and vulnerability, Hamill points out that, before the singer's Capitol comeback years, Sinatra's fans were almost exclusively young women. The stubborn, post-Ava Gardner heartache of Sinatra's later records, however, with their lack of self-pity, gained Sinatra a chiefly male audience. Of this, perhaps the singer's greatest musical period, Hamill writes that Sinatra "perfected the role of the Tender Tough Guy.... Before him, that archetype did not exist in American popular culture." That may be true, but Hamill sets his book apart from the many others about Old Blue Eyes by tempering intelligent superlatives with the retelling of touching, revelatory moments the two men shared. Hamill's is a definitive introduction to Sinatra's work.
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Worst autobiography I have read