Frank Sinatra is a music legend whose work has become truly iconic. He was part of the zeitgeist during the Golden Age of Hollywood and as American as Apple Pie. You can’t pigeonhole him into one genre of music, no more than you can do that for the Beatles or Pink Floyd.
What Genre is Frank Sinatra?
The Frank Sinatra Genre of music was truly his own. He pioneered a style which so many others tried to emulate, and still do today. He sang Pop, Jazz, Swing, and Easy Listening, and many more. For 60 years, Frank Sinatra was one of “pop music’s most abiding paragons” according to Rolling Stone.
He sang about love, and loss, victory, and defeat, and never stopped being true to his passion of pumping out tunes. In his own words, in a Playboy Interview, Sinatra opined:
“I’m for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.”
You could say that the Frank Sinatra genre of music is all these things individually, and all at once.
Who is Frank Sinatra?
Frank Sinatra was born in 1915, right in the middle of the First World War. Beginning in the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s, he would go on to become one of the greatest musical artists ever.
Sinatra himself took inspiration from one of the greatest jazz singers in history, Bing Crosby. Sinatra was part of the glee club at his high school, and began to sing at nightclubs from the very beginning. When he finally scored a spot on the radio, he was picked up by bandleader Harry James.
With James, he recorded “All or Nothing at All”. From there, it was success after success. He earned such nicknames as “The Voice” or “The Sultan of Swoon”.
Frank Sinatra was part of the Rat Pack in his heyday and hung out with giants like Jerry Lewis, and Sammy Davis Jr. He also was close friends with both President John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.
It’s nigh impossible that you haven’t heard his music, even though you may not have known it at the time. One of his greatest hits, “My Way”, was featured in the trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Heck, singers like Michael Buble even emulate his style to this day.
What Did Frank Sinatra Bring to Music?
Frank Sinatra was one of the pioneers of his genre. Whether it’s Jazz, or Pop, or Swing, he did it all. You can feel his influences in songs about love, loss, and longing, and hope and despair, all the time.
He Brought Rock ‘n’ Roll into the Mainstream
Frank Sinatra brought Rock ‘n’ Roll to the mainstream before there truly was any Rock ‘n’ Roll. His energy was emulated and enhanced by musicians like Elvis Presley, and Michael Jackson after him. He was the model for the heartthrob before the Beatles made all the women swoon with their performance of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.
He Pioneered the Concept Album
However, in purely technical terms as well, Sinatra was a pioneer. He pioneered the Concept Album. His 1946 album, “The Voice of Frank Sinatra” is considered by certain music critics to be the first concept album. While the term came to be many years later, this album is considered to be a pathbreaking feat.
Sinatra played a much more active role in the arrangement and direction of the music than singers generally would. According to “Sinatra: The Chairman”, written by his Biographer James Kaplan, “Sinatra invented the idea (of the concept album).”
He Made Covers “A Thing”
Today, it’s considered common for old popular music to be covered by young artists. However, Frank Sinatra did it before it was cool. When he was coming up, Pop music was considered just that, popular music. It was meant to generate revenue and then fade into obscurity.
However, Sinatra made it common to go back and revisit old hits from Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. Sinatra revisited “Night and Day” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”.
This practice allowed popular music to become immortal and gain new life for new generations. At times, certain covers would gain a much better reception than original songs did at the original release.
He Created a “New” Voice
This can be said for a lot of musicians, but Sinatra’s new voice was made to mirror something pure and melodic. You can almost hear it in his voice when he talks as well. He deliberately made it so his voice matched the Trombone’s melody. This allowed his voice to take on a dreamy, pleasant quality which was never coarse or “pointy”.
In his later years, bands adjusted their performance to his own voice to allow him to shine. In doing so, he allowed his own voice to be amplified by the music and not be drowned out.
He Raised His Voice for Others
Frank Sinatra was also one of the first celebrities to lend his voice to causes he believed in, and he used his music to do so. He’s well known for voicing his support for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, of course. He used his influence to promote African American musicians like Harry Edison. At a time when everything was segregated, Sinatra helped make sure that black musicians were paid well and treated with respect.
Sinatra also assigned bodyguards to Quincy Jones band members when they performed with him in Vegas. He also ordered those bodyguards to break anyone’s nose that “looked at us funny”.
The other half of his activism was also political in nature. He helped elect more than one president in his lifetime. Today, people throw their weight behind Presidential hopefuls all the time. Frank did it when it was a novelty.
He supported Harry S. Truman and John F Kennedy’s Presidential campaigns, and supported Ronald Reagan later on. Though some accounts have talked about that friendship as being opportunistic, it can’t be said for sure.
What Did Frank Sinatra Sing About?
As mentioned above, Frank Sinatra sang about everything under the sun. However, what he’s known for the most, is love and loss. That’s why his voice was all about “understatement, relaxation, wit, and ease”.
Frank Sinatra’s music was about inward reflection as much as it was about being loud and bombastic. You can find the rhythm of life in his music to the point that you’ll feel his voice coming from inside your own heart. While his contemporaries like Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong were about big and bold gestures, he’s about quietness.
In his song “Something Stupid Like I Love You” which he sang with his daughter, Nancy, this is evident. It’s a very simple tune about saying “I Love You” for the first time, and how it can make or break a moment. Yet, the simplicity of this expression is what makes it so beautiful. It’s not Shakespeare, nor is it Tennyson, but it’s Sinatra, through and through.
His voice granted empathy to a lot of music which was known to be grandiose and operatic. Instead, Sinatra made it seem like he was sitting beside you in the park and serenading you. Instead of the big voices which only made sense in the theatre or on the stage, he made the gentle voice mainstream.
Not to say that Sinatra didn’t have a big voice. On his best day, he could go toe to toe with the biggest voices in Pop and Jazz. However, like all great artists he brought forth something new from the old material so many had seen before. Like Bob Dylan brought folk music to the youth, Frank Sinatra brought classical jazz to the youth and pop to the old.
What is the Frank Sinatra Genre of Music?
For every fan that you ask, the answer may be different. However, there is generally a consensus that you may find with all the answers. It was unique. Today, it’s been emulated by many, but never fully replicated. It’s the kind of music that you can always recognize on a rainy day or in the middle of a restaurant.
In a word, the Frank Sinatra Genre of music was its own melody, and tempo. It’s not bound by time, only by expression. As Frank himself said it, “Whatever else has been said about me personally is unimportant. When I sing, I believe. I’m honest.”
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.