Frank: The Voice (Unabridged)
by James Kaplan
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Best-selling author James Kaplan redefines Frank Sinatra in a triumphant new biography that includes many rarely seen photographs. Frank Sinatra was the best-known entertainer of the 20th century - infinitely charismatic, lionized, and notorious in equal measure. But despite his mammoth fame, Sinatra the man has remained an enigma. As Bob Spitz did with the Beatles, Tina Brown for Diana, and Peter Guralnick for Elvis, James Kaplan goes behind the legend and hype to bring alive a force that changed popular culture in fundamental ways. Sinatra endowed the songs he sang with the explosive conflict of his own personality. He also made the very act of listening to pop music a more personal experience than it had ever been. In Frank: The Voice, Kaplan reveals how he did it, bringing deeper insight than ever before to the complex psyche and turbulent life behind that incomparable vocal instrument. We relive the years 1915 to 1954 in glistening detail, experiencing as if for the first time Sinatra’s journey from the streets of Hoboken, his fall from the apex of celebrity, and his Oscar-winning return in From Here to Eternity. Here at last is the biographer who makes the reader feel what it was really like to be Frank Sinatra - as man, as musician, as tortured genius.
A Great Listen of a Great Book
Is it possible to have this book better read than by Rob Shapiro, who is the reader of this audiobook? I doubt it: he's got the perfect voice for this mesmerizing biography of Frank Sinatra, and he uses its intonations and pauses in a way that not only makes what the book is saying clear and comprehensible, but utterly believable. You feel as if he's speaking directly to you in this resonant, deep, and knowing voice, as if he might be in a bar with you, drinks in hand, sharing his insider knowledge.
The book itself starts with Sinatra's birth in 1915 and goes to his winning of the Academy Award in 1953 for "From Here to Eternity". In between is a riveting and intimate account of the man, his music, the music of the period as it moved from the era of Big Bands to soloists, the wider music and film industry, the Mob, the FBI, World War II, Mccarthyism, the world of popular media, especially radio, and a lot more. The book also details the complex, fraught emotional life of Sinatra, his relations with his mother, his marriage to Nancy, his affairs with the likes of Lana Turner and Ava Gardner (whom he married and with whom he had a very, very stormy relationship). In short, the book moves easily from the personal and professional life of Sinatra to the wider milieu in which he lived, each casting life on the other. And given that the period is a fascinating one, and that Sinatra himself is complex, flawed, and exceptionally interesting, the result is fascinating. I can't remember when I enjoyed an audio book more.
Frankly the Best
I've listened to both the Kitty Kelley Sinatra biography and this one. In fact, this one obviously uses much of Kelley's reference material if not direct quotes at times. But this is the sunrise to Kelley's rainstorm. Kelley's obviously obsessed with payback for Sinatra suing her. Although she has plenty of facts, maybe too many, she uses them to hurt rather than give an unbiased view of Sinatra's reputation. She rightly reports scathing reviews...But ignores the many more glowing reviews and obvious fan support. Hers is a hatchet job. Here, Kaplan presents an infinitely fairer picture. He presents both dark and light in coloratura. If anything he may present too much glow. (I don't know if Kaplan is homosexual but passages where he goes on and on about the curve of Sinatra's lips and how cute and sexy he was get a bit creepy). Just as a well-written book, however, though it only covers Sinatra's heyday and not his latter years, I'd choose Kaplan over Kelley. Well written, well researched, well balanced and well read. Though there are splashes of overenthusiasm there is enough shadow to show the truth somewhere in between.