Bono on Sinatra

A couple of years ago when, teaching a course on the improvisation in western art music, I was comparing different versions of a Cole Porter song (don’t remember which one now) to different versions of a Monteverdi aria, to show how similar the differences are.  The kids who were outstanding jazz instrumentalists were pretty dismissive of both Sinatra and Tony Bennett, which stunned me, given how much mutual influence there was between jazz and Sinatra and the great respect most adult jazz musicians I know have for him.

Turns out Bono gets Sinatra, as demonstrated in this beautifully-written New York Times op-ed piece.  The scene: “a Dublin pub, around New Year’s.”

Interesting mood. The new Irish money has been gambled and lost; the Celtic Tiger’s tail is between its legs as builders and bankers laugh uneasy and hard at the last year, and swallow uneasy and hard at the new. There’s a voice on the speakers that wakes everyone out of the moment: it’s Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.” His ode to defiance is four decades old this year and everyone sings along for a lifetime of reasons. I am struck by the one quality his voice lacks: Sentimentality.

Is this knotted fist of a voice a clue to the next year? In the mist of uncertainty in your business life, your love life, your life life, why is Sinatra’s voice such a foghorn — such confidence in nervous times allowing you romance but knocking your rose-tinted glasses off your nose, if you get too carried away.

A call to believability.

A voice that says, “Don’t lie to me now.”

That says, “Baby, if there’s someone else, tell me now.”

Fabulous, not fabulist. Honesty to hang your hat on.

As the year rolls over (and with it many carousers), the emotion in the room tussles between hope and fear, expectation and trepidation. Wherever you end up, his voice takes you by the hand.

Read the rest of that article.  It’s great.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Bono on Sinatra

  1. Terry

    Kids are so uninformed. Sinatra was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century — Phrasing and breathing, singing off a band, when to sing and when not to sing, use of the microphone (Although I consider Bing Crosby the first vocalist to really understand how to use a microphone in the new age of radio/movie/records). Sometimes I used to fantasize about teaching a music history/world history class. Tin Pan Alley, ethnic, jazz, pop, C/W, folk, and the wars, crises, technical changes, political movements, and social changes that went along with them.

  2. The new blog looks great! Great content!

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