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Frank Sinatra: Same Old Stories, Freshly Told

Christopher Loudon on James Kaplan’s new biography of Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra
Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan

It seems a pretty safe assumption that no singer’s life and work has received more book-length analyses than Frank Sinatra’s. There are books that focus solely on his music, with Will Friedwald’s The Song Is You topping the list in terms of sage and thorough dissection. There are books, ranging from the salacious to the effusive, that deal primarily with his richly variegated personal life. There are books that concentrate exclusively on his film career, the best of which is Tom Santopietro’s Sinatra In Hollywood. There have been honorific memoirs published by two of his three children, Nancy and Tina, and a gustier chronicle from his longtime valet, George Jacobs. Even his fourth and final wife, Barbara, is getting in on the act. Her Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank is due May 31.

So, is there a genuine need for James Kaplan’s recently published Frank: The Voice (Doubleday)? Yes and no. Though Kaplan has clearly done his homework, there is, factually speaking, nothing new here. Nor did Kaplan spend much time chasing down original sources (who, admittedly, are becoming scarcer and scarcer), relying instead on existing published accounts (he quotes liberally from Friedwald and others, including the very first Sinatra biographer, E.J. Kahn Jr., whose slim The Voice appeared in 1947).

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