|This hair piece is meant as a tribute; though it might seem to be taking toupée-shots at Sinatra, it's not. I don't really know how to write about Sinatra's voice, especially its miraculous musculature in the 1950s during the Capitol Records years, in a way that will make you enjoy it anew. (Besides, why not just listen to the recordings again, if that's what you want?)
The "normal" topics about Sinatra, especially the Rat Pack gossip, have been covered in the same static ways for so many years that they are complete clichés and lead us away from the mystery of the man, not deeper into it.
Sinatra's style in singing and in life was---at least in his greatest period, the 1950s---anything but clichéd. It was deep and dangerous, with a mix of bravado and tumult, fire and darkness, iconoclasm and knowing respect and synthesis. For Sinatra's cultural range was a wide has his vocal one---and has not been matched by any other white singer of this century.
An aura/halo of white around Sinatra's head---an early promo shot, with Sinatra at an upright piano. The photo was placed on a yellow-paper pad like the kind a high school student (many were fans of his in the `40s) would buy. The glow accents Sinatra's wavy hair profile --- his "ethnic," Italian hair.
|"a dark vocal edge that was at once appealingly uncertain---an accidental virtue of his pitch problems ---and implacable."
"a primary color in the postwar U.S. palette...."
"white America's last completely satisfying definition of masculine style---to somewhat disconcerting effect...."
--- Tom Carson, "Primary Color,"
| To the left, a Radio Album magazine head shot from the 1940s, with just a wee bit of curl out and down.
Then there's . . . .
| The discreet ethnic curl in the shot above sometimes just got looser. This shake-down complements Sinatra's wise-cracking, confident, asymmetrical grin---hair combed back, comb-teeth-rows shining in the light, but also a curl loose and dangling just slightly on the forehead to cause trouble. A proper style but also loosened and shaken up a bit---or a lot:
(to da right)
|and in the '60s?|
| The TV Guide shot to the left is from Sinatra's later tough-guy period, after he switched from Democrat to Republican (after '65) in anger over what he felt were personal slights by JFK (whom he campaigned for in 1960) and his brother Bobby. He also may have switched loyalties because that's the way the power began to flow---especially in California, with Reagan ascendant. Sinatra's late '60s hairstyle is now principally a toupée, slightly silvered, and it is combed forwards, not back, on the front and sides. It is Sinatra's Roman senator look, tough and ruthless as armor-plate.
And yet... he's also wearing a wide-wale corduroy jacket and gold "love beads." Off-key, dissonant notes....
A prelude to what follows:
| Las Vegas shows eventually embalmed the styles of two performers---Sinatra and Presley. (James Newton and Liberace came to Las Vegas with their performance styles already embalmed, though at least Liberace could wink about his dilemma.) Here is a pix with Elvis, who was invited to appear on Sinatra's TV show after his return from the Army in 1960 [see above clip shot].
Elvis takes the swoop of Sinatra's hair to a new level, or rather a new height--- pompadour. And in the process he changes it somehow, by being extreme, from hick to hip. Sinatra's own hair, at this point, is combed like Presley's but never looks thinner than when he stands next to the younger man with a different, younger audience---an audience as young as Sinatra's once was. Sinatra becomes pals with Elvis at the moment when Elvis' pompadour is highest but when Elvis' own sense of what to do with his music is beginning to collapse.
In the long run, how well does Presley's career compare with Sinatra's? Remember John Lennon: "Elvis died when he went into the Army." Left unsaid: to be reborn as a martyred saint, helping some white southerners and others cope with suffering in living in contemporary America---suffering that they would find unspeakable without him.
bad ole boy