“FOR THE FIRST YEARS of his solo career, the early 1940s, Sinatra hadn’t recorded any material. There had been a strike called by the Musicians Union fighting for residual payments for recordings played on the radio. The strike lasted two years. Sinatra said, ‘I didn’t want to cross the lines.’
“The strike settled, he now recorded Saturday Night is the Loneliest Night of the Week, I’ll be Seeing You, When Your Lover Has Gone, These Foolish Things…
“The jazz magazine Downbeat wrote, ‘He said for the boys what they wanted to say. He said for the girls what they wanted to hear.’
“It was in the midst of this success that Sinatra decided openly to back Roosevelt and the Democrats in the 1944 Presidential election and to throw himself into the struggle against racism.
“Sinatra joined the Political Action Committee set up by the left-wing union federation, the Congress of Industrial Organisations, the CIO. The CIO was in a way the successor to the old Industrial Workers of the World, the Wobblies, who so influenced the revolutionary Red Federation of NZ in the early years of the 20th century.
“He gave money to the Roosevelt campaign, spoke at huge open-air rallies and broadcast pro-Roosevelt messages on the radio.
“The night Roosevelt won a fourth-term presidency, Sinatra and Orson Welles toured the bars of Manhattan and ended up celebrating at the headquarters of the clothing workers’ union, which shared the same building as the Communist Party…”
Today Sinatra is remembered as an entertainer who sided with Republican politicians like Nixon and Reagan, hung out with mobsters and swaggered about Las Vegas with his cronies singing, “I did it my way…”
But there was another side to Sinatra, an early radical Frank. At the height of his popularity, in the 1940s, he was branded a Red, a commo—ol’ pinko eyes.
He was one of the first major stars of the era to stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor and the oppressed. Asked by a reporter in 1946 what he considered the biggest problem America faced in its post-war world he replied, “Poverty… Every kid in the world should have his quart of milk a day.” The great bandleader Duke Ellington remembered Sinatra in the 1940s as being the leader of the campaign against race hatred.
All of this, and all Sinatra’s great songs, will be remembered at Bloomsday Productions’ December show at the Thirsty Dog on Karangahape Road, Saturday night, December 12—the very day Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, one hundred years ago in 1915.
A century later to the day, Linn Lorkin, Justin Horn, Hershal Herscher, Dave Powell and Stuart Grimshaw—the Auckland Frank Sinatra Big Band—will be celebrating Sinatra: “You Make Me Feel So Young”… “Old Devil Moon” … “One For My Baby, And One More For The Road” … and the Popular Front, the United Auto Workers’ sit-down strike in Michigan, the Westfield Freezing Workers’ stay-in strike in south Auckland…
Frank Sinatra, born Dec. 12, 1915, nine-time Grammy winner, died in 1998 at the age of 82.
Remembered by Linn Lorkin & Friends
Thirsty Dog, K Rd, Auckland.
TONIGHT, December 12th 2015, 8pm.
This posting is exclusive to Bowalley Road.