[First published in WRTI’s Arts Desk 4 Dec 2015.]

Frank Sinatra was born 100 years ago on December 12th, and there have been any number of stars in the entertainment world during that century. But WRTI’s Kile Smith looks at what truly sets him apart from all the rest.

FrankOver all the music entertainers of the last hundred years, over the stars and the superstars, there remains one name: Frank Sinatra. Some were incandescent for a time; some innovated; some influenced; some were multi-talented; some sold, and sell, millions of records. But Sinatra had all this, and something more.

Frank Sinatra reinvented the entertainment world. He created a continental divide in the pop music industry by bringing jazz out of itself and into popular music, and making it stick.

Instead of being the singer with the band, he made himself into an instrumentalist—of the voice. He bent rhythms, he shaped time, he colored his voice, he even changed the words if he wanted to. And, he could swing anything.

But is it too much to call Frank Sinatra a jazz singer? Well, not according to jazz musicians. They recognize his professionalism and control, his musicality and poetry. He owned the stage, the studio, and the screen, but no voice exposed the emotion of a song like the care-worn and burnished baritone of Frank Sinatra.

For five decades he reigned as Chairman of the Board. Everybody felt his impact, whether they knew it or not. Over all the stars and all the superstars there is simply before Frank and after Frank.

Here’s a good article on what jazz musicians have said about Frank Sinatra and jazz. And here’s one from the BBC on why he’s still the best.