Frank Sinatra, often viewed as America's greatest entertainer of the twentieth century, is number one singer in the United States.

An icon familiar to the public for more than six decades, Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) was an incomparable Italian American legend. Born Francis Albert Sinatra, he was the only child of a working class family in Hoboken's Little Italy that was replete with Italian grocery stores featuring hanging provolone and pungent garlic aromas. The family was active in ethnic organizations like the Sicilian Cultural League. Frank's father was a fireman who also ran a saloon while his mother was a mid wife and a local leader in the Democratic political organization. Although he was familiar with popular Italian music, as a youngster Frank modeled himself after Bing Crosby.

In 1939 Frank was discovered singing in a local club by famous bandleader Harry James who hired him as his featured singer. James also sought to change Frank's name to a less Italian-sounding one -a proposition that the extremely sensitive Sinatra adamantly rejected. Almost immediately Sinatra elicited critical affirmative reviews. In 1940, he became vocalist for Tommy Dorsey's band and recorded major hits until 1942 when he went solo --a move that gained him increased audiences and appearances in Hollywood movies. Sinatra, however, was more than merely a singer, he was a phenomenon able to inject a sexual element that was enormously attractive to young female audiences who swooned deliriously. By 1944 Sinatra was recognized not only as the nation's premier popular male vocalist, but also one whose style became the model for a whole generation of singers.

With his unsurpassed vocal artistry and his swaggering personality, he became the dominant presence not only in music, but also in movies beginning with "Higher and Higher" in 1943. He made a few more light film musicals in the 1940s; however, by the early 1950s his career seemed to be in decline until 1953 when Frank's powerful non-singing role as the Italian American soldier Angelo Maggio, in the movie "From Here to Eternity," won him an Academy Award. Acknowledged as a versatile actor who could play dramatic roles in such movies as "The Man With The Golden Arm"(1955) and "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), he made memorable musical comedies such as "Guys and Dolls" (1955) and "High Society" (1956). Sinatra's singing career continued to thrive especially after he created the Reprise Record Company, his own record business in 1961. For example, in 1965 his album "September of My Years" was chosen Billboard's best, and he also won a Grammy for best vocal performance for "It Was a Very Good Year." In addition, he controlled four music-publishing houses, a string of radio stations and had investments in real estate, banks, and loan companies.

Notwithstanding controversy that sometimes marked his career and the impact of a succession of four marriages, Sinatra nevertheless had such an immense following that he came out of retirement and sang before huge audiences. His performance before 170,000 fans in a soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1980 was at the time, the largest live audience ever to hear a live performer. Sinatra extended himself on behalf of many good causes including post World War II efforts to aid war-torn Italy. His efforts for worthy causes were non-ending and is said to have raised close to two billion dollars in benefits for battered children, scholarships, and medical centers. Nor were his works of charity confined to the United States as he helped raise funds for orphanages in Japan and Italy.

Music critics have acclaimed Frank Sinatra the greatest singer in the history of American music. For Italian Americans, he was perhaps the foremost popular star produced by the ethnic community in the twentieth century.

NIAF Gala with Ambassador Volpe
Honored at the 1985 NIAF Gala

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