Sinatra 100 Grammy Concert Recap

I’m not usually interested in tributes that aren’t mostly original material, but I’m giving this Grammy tribute a try. I know these people are all very good singers even though I’m rarely interested in their current material.

I’m also aware that any actual review of this will be far more critical than this, pointing out every weakness as if these people are competing for a prize. That's not me. Why would I be critical of an earnest tribute? Not even if I got paid to be. I’m looking for things to like, not things to dislike. I've added some clips I found; not sure if they'll all stay live, of course.

First a run-through medley of the decades.

Adam Levine sings “I Get A Kick Out Of You” all lazy-loungy. I quite like what he’s wearing. Grey tuxedo jacket with black velvet shawl collar, nicely fitted, very early 60s except for the stripe.

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I’d relisten to a recording of this, in which he’s more comfortable doing it than he was here. I understand he’s one of the “use every bit of range” types, but he held back here, and that’s a fine thing. Next is Katherine McPhee singing “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Great dress, cool back piece, very nice performance.

Harry Connick, Jr is singing “My Kind of Town,” which is a song I like much better than “Chicago.” I think he went to the Frank Sinatra hairpiece shop, but he wears it pretty well. He still looks fit, too. He can sing this song better, though. Belt it out, man.

Here is John Legend. He gets a bit of a separate intro, because of how people probably really want to hear him. White jacket, black tie, black trousers, doing “You and Me,” which sounds terrific. Katherine McPhee has joined him, and they sound good together, but I’d have just given him the song.


And now here is Seth MacFarlane to open the show. His toupee looks better than the last time I saw him, but I still don’t like how I’m drawn to his hairline. Holding a glass, sure thing, champ. Screen Shot 2015-12-07 at 10.45.44 AM
He gave Frank Sinatra’s famous toast about living to be 100. And his tailor has crafted perfect shoulders, that’s really nice. I, too, love Nelson Riddle, man.

Zac Brown is on stage wearing a hat with his tuxedo, and also pointy boots. It’s silly, but nice, too. He is singing “The Way You Look Tonight,” which is a song that always grips my chest. I don’t actually know who he is, but I’d listen to him sing the whole thing.

We are now listening to a recording of Sinatra singing “Happy Birthday to Me,” and for some reason, Jeremy Renner has shown up. He’s wear a brown velvet tux. I…think I like it? But it’s a bit odd. He is introducing Garth Brooks singing “The Lady Is A Tramp.” He is dressed like Classy Garth Brooks. He must be even less fit than the very interesting Zac Brown, because he’s wearing a tapered pant to offset his middle. It’s all right. And I mean, he’s totally nailing this song, yet…mainly in a “I am a good confident singer” way, not in a “I can completely own this song” way, even though I bet he can in more comfortable clothes. I hope reviewers weren’t too hard on him, because I’m pretty sure Frank would have appreciated the effort.

Now, Celine Dion. I’ve never liked her style. I’m sure she’s a nice person. She is singing “All the Way,” very poignant. Not quite certain about this dress. I love the open leg, but I’d have made a long center drape instead of just a fold at the top. The band sounds great.

Now some photos and bits of recording about Frank making it big. There’s Ava. These are the divine Capitol years with Nelson Riddle.

Here is LL Cool J. Why are you still wearing that cap, dear? Let go, I think. His suit has a classic cut, suitable for someone of his height and frame.

Carrie Underwood is wearing blue instead of black, singing “Come Fly With Me.” I don’t know how I feel about this. My son says it’s a song for a man to sing. I don’t know if that’s it. Maybe it is something to do with her higher register, though. Now Seth MacFarlane singing “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” which is a song he can do, like. This makes me want to put his CD on my wish list.

Now Zac Brown has a top hat. The really long ago super tall kind. He’s singing “Stars Fell on Alabama.” The other two have joined him. I guess I’m just not keen on her voice.

John Legend again, striking a cool pose. He is singing “Young At Heart,” which was Frank’s first song with Nelson Riddle. He should also do every Nat Cole song ever. I know he sang “Unforgettable.” And Sam Cook songs, too.

LL Cool J is back doing some hosting. I like his pinky ring. Harry Connick is talking about Sinatra in Vegas, using the Rat Pack term they all hated. Frank is speaking while we’re looking at clips from the Sands. Now Harry sings “Luck Be A Lady.” Hey, that would have been an interesting one for Brooks. Come on, man, give it some gas! They gave you a Vegas backdrop, this is no time to be subtle. His shoulder padding isn't as good as MacFarlane’s but the fit of his pants is worthy of note.

Here is Quincy Jones! You know I love his arrangements. He is telling LL that Sinatra made things happen for him. Which is true, and very cool, because he arranged two of my favorite Sinatra songs such that I do not even like them any other way. They introduce Alicia Keys, who is at the piano. She’s singing “I’ve Got A Crush On You,” owning it. Of course. I can’t see all of her outfit, but I think I like it. I like the vertical keyhole opening in the top. Here is a very nice trumpet solo.


Trisha Yearwood is on, introducing Tony Bennett. Her dress has a sequined flower top, which suits her better than all black. Tony is wearing a shiny tux jacket. Isn’t he a marvel? Just outlasted everybody, heart didn’t burst when he was 50 or anything. He’s doing “I’ve Got The World On A String,” and of course, it’s still good, but I can’t help kind of wishing Bublé was doing it. But he has his own arrangement, of course. Which you should hear.

Garth Brooks is back talking about how songwriters liked writing for him, such as with Bono and the Edge’s song, because Bono basically worshipped Sinatra, which is called “Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad.” I always wanted to hear it. I don’t remember there being a reason given that he turned down recording it, but it seems apt for an older singer. Maybe he didn’t like the extreme meta quality to it, but he’d have done it well. I like how Bono is singing with a sequined jacket in front of a small chamber group on folding chairs, with the Edge on an upright piano.

Katherine McPhee has returned, introducing Carrie Underwood singing “Someone To Watch Over Me.” This really is much better for her voice. Maybe the kid was right. Also, she is now wearing a fascinating dress…black sequined lace over nude fitted sheath, with a black back overskirt and train. She is having a shoe problem, so her exit was not real becoming, but I’d like to see the dress up close.

We’re looking and listening to the period of Sinatra’s early 70s retirement and his comeback. Here is Usher about to kill it with “That’s Life,” wearing a tight tuxedo with a very narrow collar and narrow tie. You could just imagine him walking down the street in Milan this week.

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And he’s getting to that good age, of course. I love this song. So does the audience, singing along.

John Legend is speaking of Frank’s work with Jobim. We get a clip of them together, then Juanes is on stage with his guitar singing “One Note Samba,” which I always love. I’d never heard it in English before, though. I like him doing it, and the lyrics are interesting, but I want to hear him do it in Portuguese now. And apparently, this was a whole medley, instead of just a bit of one song.

Robert Patrick is on stage, wearing a nice business suit. He looks like David Bowie’s half-brother with his hair slicked back and reading the monitor like maybe he should upgrade his contact lens prescription? Nice ring. He’s talking about the Quincy Jones arrangement of “The Best Is Yet To Come,” which turned that song from all right to amazing. Yes, I said amazing, and you know I hate that word. Adam Levine is singing it. Okay choice, loose and rangy. I bet he could have put just a little more on it, though, and I’d have rather had Usher back.

Nick Jonas is singing “In The Wee Small Hours.” I never heard him before, and this is very sweet. He should make this a career. :-) He’s wearing a short double-breasted white jacket with a somewhat broad satin collar and black tie. He must be quite thin, and it’s a nice choice, cut perfectly for him.

Robert Patrick is now introducing “I’ll Be Seeing You.” I hope it’s one of the later arrangments. Trisha Yearwood is back to sing it, now in a more conservative black gown. She was a good choice for this. I like her voice better than Carrie Underwood’s. I know nothing about either of them, though.

Jeremy Renner is introducing “One For My Baby,” which I know Seth MacFarlane will sing, because he has a whole schtick for it. Yes, there he is at a bar onstage, complete with bartender and shaker. When I can look away from his hairline closeups, I note that he has nice hands. These guys and their hairpieces. Why hasn’t someone improved transplants enough yet, if they all want top hair so badly? Anyway, I don’t mean to be mean. Love this performance. Nice sax, too. Aw, he put on a fedora with a white satin band to end the song. Better for him than a trilby, I think.

Final segment, in which MacFarlane introduces Lady Gaga singing “New York, New York.” I’m not a real fan of this song, yet I appreciate it. If you see what I mean. And it’s all, go big or go home, which you know she is all about. She’s wearing a Judy Garlandesque tuxedo and hat, and hey, paid reviewers? you are wrong if you think Sinatra wouldn’t have gotten the point of it.

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She has ascended some stairs accompanied by dancing show girls. Judy would have been surrounded by men, but still. I guess some people discovered Tony Bennett through her, but for me, it was kind of the other way around. I’d heard her, but not to pay much attention to, til they started singing together. I hope, and really believe, Frank would get a real kick out of this.


That was good. Needed a bit more Usher, a bit less Carrie Underwood. And I understand a couple medleys were longer, and a  few songs were cut. I hope we can hear them $ome other way. Here's a little more for now.


Pause button inspiration

I study him as a discipline, an endless fascination. Maybe I think if I can figure out Frank Sinatra, I can figure out men. Maybe I just wonder what's really going on behind those deep blue eyes, both wide open and hidden at the same time, like a theater with double front curtains.

I never try to figure out Bill Holden. He wasn’t complicated, anyway. His intellect took direct paths, for better and for worse. And for me, he was just attractive, until he wasn’t, but because I love the younger man, I love the older one, too. That’s how I love. Bill is like one of my first boyfriends I broke up with badly, only he’s older than me and gets there first, because I can’t imagine it any other way. We don’t get a happy ending, though there is a sweet, sad parting in my mind, a lingering fond farewell, and I learn to smile when we run into each other now and then, even when he calls me “kid.” I keep loving him even when I don’t need to anymore.

I don’t love Frank Sinatra. At least, not like that. I find him mesmerizing, but I don’t want him in bed or at breakfast. I want him next to me on the bench in front of Abraham Lincoln, on the subway heading all the way downtown from the 80s, or across the dinner table with plenty of other people around. In those places he’s a man I’ve seen everywhere, almost unnoticeable until he speaks, and then everybody listens. He commands the room and you can’t look away.

But when you start imagining someone that way, you make him bigger than life, bigger than other people, which is a dangerous thing to do. He must have known that about himself sometimes, maybe pretty often. We take ourselves seriously in a certain particular way that nobody else can. There’s still a struggle that other people don’t see anymore.


All The Things You Are

We often heard the term “Ol' Blue Eyes” without any consideration for what it meant. But think about it now. Millions of people have blue eyes. What made one man known for his? They were astonishingly blue, that’s what. Unforgettably, piercingly blue. What else could they be on one of the most unforgettable men of the 20th century? The person who coined the phrase “go big or go home” was probably listening to a Frank Sinatra song at the time.

He was born big, over thirteen lbs. A great big baby with shocking blue eyes; destined to become one of the biggest men of his generation. Physically, Sinatra was a big baby, but he did not grow to be a big man, except where it counted, in his voice, and perhaps if the rumors were true, a certain elsewhere...

Sometimes he had a chip on his shoulder about people who didn’t see his bigness right off the bat. He was demanding from the start, and nobody likes that from a young punk, or wants to take it seriously. But sometimes the reason we don’t like it is because we see in that guy something we don’t see in ourselves. And then he convinces us we were wrong not to listen to him. He wasn’t perfect, but he knew perfection when he heard it, and he learned how to create it for us to hear, too.

Frank Sinatra’s heyday coincided with, as well as helped form an extraordinary period of time for the recorded music industry, but I don’t know if anybody knew it then. Maybe they did, and maybe they thought they were creating something that would last forever. Well, part of it has at least lasted into a new century, only not in a way anyone could have imagined back then.  

With a few keystrokes or voice commands we can all access a Frank Sinatra recording. The bulk of music history is now at our fingertips. And we can read about when he had a cold, or about his near destruction after his breakup with Ava Gardner. We can infuse ourselves with an overwhelming amount of material, eventually rendering it less special because it’s so easy to fill up on it, oversaturating our senses.

Recently, I stopped listening to Sinatra recordings for nearly three whole months because I stopped having to look for them, and it’s been so long since I hoped for one, I wanted to relive the sensation of one Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg at Easter instead of year-round multi-packs. Honestly, it wasn’t just Sinatra; it was everything I had access to through the internet. That's a topic of its own to discuss soon.  

So let's envision...

You earn the minimum wage in 1952; 75 cents an hour. For $2.50 or $3.00, you could buy a 10 inch long-playing record that held 35 minutes of music, but that’s assuming you have a player for it. You’re renting an apartment for $65 a month, which is half your wages before taxes. A radio is a better investment for you, so what they play is all you hear.

You’ve seen only a few color photographs of Frank Sinatra, but you know that he has the bluest blue eyes in his movies with Gene Kelly; those photos aren’t lying. So when you hear this on the radio—before his voice disappeared and came back, before he revived his career by demanding begging for a serious role in From Here to Eternity, before the post-Ava wreckage he climbed out of by launching the concept album into view and jerking our tears with In The Wee Small Hours, but you didn’t know the days of future past the way we do now—you hear this and all you know is that he seems to be saying what he is singing. And he makes you feel just the same way he does.  
You don’t know the story of this final Columbia recording or that it was chosen to make a statement about who Frank Sinatra intended to be. You just hope you’ll hear it again tomorrow night and often, and in the meantime, you look more closely into every masculine pair of blue eyes you meet, hoping to see what you might see if you could look into his. You imagine it would be quite a rarified view...

Today marks the beginning of 100 Earth rotations around the Sun since that big baby was wrenched free of his mama’s tiny womb. I expect to be over-saturated with Sinatra presentations and celebrations. I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t. I might even add something to the crowded picture myself. But tonight I’m going to put an old record on the turntable and let the man sing For Only the Lonely to me alone. Let it be like that for you, too. There was magic behind those ol’ blue eyes.


Frankie Sinatra: Homefront Dreamboat

He was the skinny boy with the big voice who made the girls melt while their boyfriends fought overseas. And he was born 98 years ago today in Hoboken, New Jersey. Here are the first mentions of him in Photoplay in the final quarter of 1943.

First, a detractor in the letters to the editor column. Kind of a weak prophylactic attack, because one month later, he was all over the pages of that magazine.
Shortly on the heels of this statement, a full measure of appreciation by a nearly gushing Louella Parsons. Sorry, M.G.



And suddenly, he was all over Hollywood, leaving only long enough to go get the Nancys for a long-term stay.


For the time being, anyway, Bing remained unconcerned.



Listening to what I hear

A. Sound

Right now as I begin to type, the cat is breathing loudly across the room. She is purring, but also has chronic congestion. I feel like I can hear the lamp behind me, but I can't be certain, because I also have tinnitus, and I'm not always completely sure which noise is only inside my head. As an example, I can hear a lot of electricity (so you see, the tinnitus isn't about hearing loss, at least not yet,) and that merges with the sound in my head,  which is sometimes crickets and sometimes just a hum, causing a bit of confusion. I can hear my hands typing, and the noise of the solid Apple keys beneath my fingertips. The refrigerator just began to cycle. And I can hear a car occasionally pass by.

Always, nearly always, there is music in my head. When not a distinct song, which is most of the time, a rhythm and aimless tune. It's been that way as long as I can remember. I keep all the tunes, they're all interconnected for me, like a website that has hyperlinks on every line, but of course, they're actually a real web of tangled musical phrases. If my son whistles a line from some song he knows, my head instantly sources wherever and whatever else I've heard with that same or a similar construction, and almost without being aware of it, I'm singing or humming something new (though probably quite old.)


Let's stop and reflect on the understanding that I know this isn't unique. I am not a precious snowflake of musical intellect or nuttiness. I've been given the impression by others that they don't experience quite what I can never fully express, but there certainly must be more people who do.

I used to think that because I love music so much, and oh, I do, even though it is a nearly-constant tease as well, that I could never choose "hearing" in the game of "Which would you rather live without, sight or hearing?" Now I know that because of the songs in my head, I could live without all the other external noise and still have music. I wouldn't even have the buzzing and chirping that forms part of the background, just pure song.

It's an awful thought, of course, and must be terribly sad for people who realize it is happening to them, learning to cope in silence. But for me, losing sight would be worse. If I look across the room, I might take some contentment from mentally tracing the outline of the flowers printed on my little yellow loveseat. I'm mentally redrawing them across the fabric. They're warm and sunny and remind me of youthful summer days spent reading books in the bright light of my bedroom. If I close my eyes, I can still imagine them, but they aren't really there for me to fully receive. Nor is the morning light on the dog's fur as he idles next to the window, or the slow rise and fall of his abdomen as he breathes in peaceful contentment. I have to see it with eyes open to fully experience it.

The cat beating her tail on the loveseat reminds me of how my oldest son used to chant rhythms when he was a baby. We called him "mantra boy," and later we thought he might take up drums, but what he does is compose music, in his own way, on a keyboard and guitar, connected to a computer. I suspect the inside of his head works much the way mine does. He has the same ability to find any tune on a keyboard after he's heard it once. And I think there's just a lot of noise in his head all the time.

When I was a child, my grandpa would show up occasionally with a crazy Christmas gift. One year it was an old but fully working organ with two keyboards. I wanted so badly to have lessons, but didn't have them, so I taught myself about notes from an old book I found in the bench. However, having to read notes to play a song seemed like more effort than just putting my hands where I knew the song would be. I was a little lazy, though, and had no one around to help me see what else I could do with the music printed on the page. So this innate ability remained a party trick, for the most part. I was physically awkward as a youth, and it's funny to me now to realize learning real keyboard technique probably would have helped with that. Instead, parents and teachers assumed there was no point in trying to extract grace from something clumsy. I can read music now but I can't look at a page of it, the way some can, and automatically hear what is there. It's like closing my eyes and knowing the chair is printed yellow, but not grasping the warmth of it.

My son is very naturally graceful, but also even more stubborn. He's taught himself music, and his hands perform in a way mine never did, but he doesn't share the love of it all with me. Maybe someday he will want to.

B. Words

A good turn of phrase thrills my mind and heart. If I could not read words on a page, I would turn into despair. I stopped reading new books for awhile a few years ago, because I was having trouble seeing, and my particular combination of farsightedness and presbyopia, while not terribly uncommon, made the use of reading glasses strange and difficult at first. When I got progressive lenses a couple years ago, I began again to read all I could get my hands on. I can't not read stories. I've never been the least bit interested in reading about how to do things or what something looks like or means, but I love stories about people and what they think or do. So I mostly read fiction, and some biographies, but I also read song lyrics. When I write poetry, I feel most successful when it attains a lyrical quality. That's just like heaven to me. And in my head, the tangled web of song lyrics is just as broad and extravagant as the musical sounds one, although it isn't quite what I'd like because I've never been one of those people who naturally pull out Shakespeare and Wodehouse quotations at just the right moment. It's multiple choice, rather than short essay access.

I love the shapes of words as we speak them, which is probably partly why I cringe when I hear them mashed together in slang without regard for the dissonance in tone that often creates, and even though I read rapidly, I subvocalize nearly everything I see. So words are sound to me, more than they are pictures. I do like the pictures they form, though, and as a natural speller, I am soothed by the arrangement of letters into coordinated meaning. I didn't read early, like many of my very special internet friends, but I unlocked the code nearly all at once. It was a mystery, and then it wasn't. I took great joy in teaching my children to read, that is, the four of them who were taught. They learned at different ages, and by different techniques, and I loved figuring out how each of them saw the letters on the page, and how best to help them know what it all meant. My other two children learned to read simply by having been read to, and that in itself is  technique and learning style, as well, that they both later employed in other ways.

I want to add as a side note that my six children learned to read in three (but kind of four) basic ways. They were all read to every day when they were young. They saw their parents reading. They were and are surrounded by books, and had many trips to the library and bookstore. Their TV time was limited and controlled in the early years. And now, some of them are avid readers while others are not. There isn't one path to follow to "grow a reader." Remember that next time someone unctuously says "parenting win!"
C. Musicians and Singing

I love how some people must be musicians. It worried me for a few years that people maybe weren't learning music and how to play instruments and exploring the history of it all. Now I know that of course, they still are. Some people need to, and they do whatever they can to serve that need. When you hear a published song, think about the "dah-di-Doo-doo-doo-doo-Doodoodoo" that the vocalist begins it with. (Did you hear Robert Smith when you read that? If so, we have to meet.) Anyway. it's not there by accident. Maybe it was an accident the first time he or she sang it. But there's a reason it stuck and got added to and recorded. It was in that person's head, throat, and mouth, and needed to be formed with tongue, lips, and teeth. It satisfied a need. Glenn Miller had to spend endless sleepless nights figuring out how to marry a need in his head with what he was composing and directing from a page. Dave Grohl has to keep making bands because he has to write and play. And Trent Reznor and Gary Numan and Thomas Dolby and David Byrne. And Carlos Santana. They create and invent and discover other people to do it with. The great female singers are always looking for material to express those sounds inside them that must come bursting out in joy and passion and romance and sometimes anger and sadness. We will always seek them out and feebly but joyfully attempt to sing along. This happens all over the world, all of the time. It's a huge part of who we are.

My youngest kid thinks there's no music in his head. In our family, music is a part of both waking and sleeping consciousness, so it's not easy to understand. I think, actually, that he resonates to symphonic music, but he expresses no need for it, and doesn't understand why the rest of us do. I can't explain it to him. It's just there. I don't fault him for being this way, of course, but I find him a curiosity. He is different from the rest of us in general, though. He is here to simply be in the middle of whatever living is happening to go on. He is naturally content with life just unfolding however it will.

And yet, he always wishes he could naturally play an instrument. He doesn't want to learn how, he just wants to know. Any instrument would do, as long as the knowledge was instantly there, you see. He enjoys hearing me sing, but has little interest in the differences between songs. Just the fact of them, and of my singing them, is enough for him, like part of his satisfying landscape.

I used to sing all the time. Then I was too sad for too long to do much of it, and now I'm out of the habit. I think that's a problem, but it isn't as easy to fix as to just say, "So start singing more again." I do sing along to some of the music I listen to, but I am a more active listener than in my youth, and have found a new contentment in that.

I still barely perceptibly rock back and forth nearly all the time when I'm sitting, keeping the beat to whatever's in my head. I've always done that, and when my husband first kept calling attention to it, I transferred the beat to my thumb, but now I just let it go naturally again. Who is anyone to question that, after all?


D. Sinatra in My Head

The other day I read something in an essay that struck a dissonant chord in my head, and it's still bothering me. The author said that no matter how many times we hear a Sinatra song, we can't quite sing along with his same phrasing and timing.

I know Sinatra like I know how to breathe. When I'm listening to a song of his I haven't heard often, I can still tell when he's tipped his head, when he is grinning, when he has briefly closed his eyes. And I know I'm not the only one.

Okay, not to gross anyone out with thoughts of having sex with Frank Sinatra, but it's like this. Did you ever meet someone at work or school, and you connected instantly and intellectually, and a match was struck so that you both were charged with light and energy and could not wait to get your hands on each other only to learn that, after all, there was no true physical spark? I bet that happens these days as well with online dating. It's just that we're all compatible with some people and not others when it comes to physical union, just as we are with conversation. Sometimes amazing conversation leads to amazing kisses and embraces, and sometimes it doesn't. As you mature, you learn that you might not have a satisfying intimate experience just because the two of you can talk in rapid fire over a plate of scungilli anymore than you can tell just by looking at someone that they'd be great to kiss. Turns out, it really is just there or not there, with biology in charge of that part of the program. (Of course, if we are sensible, we'll just keep enjoying the conversations even after learning they best lead only to more of the same.)

But Frank Sinatra, when he sings, makes everybody think it's possible, with whoever they're with, and with him as well. Famously, Johnny Carson asked him in an interview, “When you're in a romantic mood…when you're trying to make out... Whose records do you put on?” Everything he put into the songs he chose to sing is everything we yearn for, ache for, thrill to. And Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Count Basie, they brought it all to life instrument by instrument and in "le tout ensemble," in grand and glorious coition. If you're all alone while listening to these guys, who is the object of your affection or desire?

Yesterday I thought I was going to go completely nuts listening to my neighbor power wash his driveway, and then another neighbor's driveway. On the other side, the old (I mean, really old) people were passively-aggressively blowing fallen leaves into our yard, as they have only conifers in their own. We are savages for not residing outside in autumn, picking up leaves one by one before they settle in or are blown elsewhere by the devilish wind. (You think I'm overstating the matter. I am not.) So all day long I listened to noisy motors performing barely necessary labor until I was just sick of it, until I remembered I could plug headphones into my ears and tune them out with better sound. It was not preferable just then to no external sound at all, but I found myself relaxing and feeling better about the world as I performed my own non-motorized tasks, and then realized it had been quite awhile since I did nothing but listen to good sounds filtering into my head that way. Always I'm listening to music while driving or cleaning or cooking or mowing the lawn, or I might put on a record in the evening and listen while puttering online.

But lying back with headphones in and doing nothing else for a few minutes is like being a kid again, only the recordings and headphones are so vastly improved, you hear things in an even more complete way. You hear the Charlatans enjoying that little extra half beat before they sing "arise, arise," and you hear Frank winking at the band…and if you learn the music this way, it will never leave you.

The music I know well, I know so well that if I never heard it again, I could still play it in my head in a full-blown concert of my own construction, from the first fingersnap to the last breath. I learned to play orchestral music at school in my youth, and I learned to enjoy many other varieties of music thanks to my parents and brothers, my husband, and most of my kids, but it's Frank Sinatra who filled my head with rich and intimate detail that I carry around with me all day every day. Every moment resides within me, and when a Sinatra tune is stuck in my head, it's never just a looping bit of bridge or chorus, but the entire piece, in real time, with full orchestration. And I hear the spaces between each syllable of each word, and every note on every line that was either written down or improvised, like knowing the individual hairs on the head of someone I love. I mean, I also hear Bobby, Dean, Peggy, Julie, Stacey, and Michael that way, and Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck and the Talking Heads, but it's mostly thanks to Frank that I do. I got it from my Dad? But he also got it from Frank...

When a song is playing actively in my head, the tinnitus fades to a manageable place in the background. That's partly why I never mind what other people distastefully call "ear worms." It's not that it's better than nothing; it's that there never is nothing. But if there was, I'd still be able to internally enjoy "that sly (slyyy) come-hither stare that strips my conscience bare," and learn to be satisfied with it.

liliales birthday countdown: music legacy part one

This is a compilation of six Google + posts, and so it's pretty long. I think it ends well. :-)

Related to a conversation last night and earlier, I'm going to share some snapshots of a few of my albums this evening, starting with some of my favorite old jazz and lounge stuff. This is an important part of the#lilialesbirthdaycountown because there is no "Lily Alice" without music, and it has always been so. This is music from my childhood, but it is more meaningful to me now. 

Starting with this guy here, someone I never truly appreciated until fairly recently, but who has always just been there, as part of the fabric. 
I liked him less than the other crooners because I preferred the lounge vocals to the jazz ones, and I still do. But now I have a sincere appreciation for both. My favorite of these LPs is Long Ago and Far Away, from 1958, and here's a cut from it, but my favorite album of Bennett's is actually Perfectly Frank, from 1991.


Now this guy here, he's inextricably tied to memories of my mom. Also someone I didn't fully appreciate until later, but I remember watching him on TV, and I could see what the ladies saw in him, only I didn't like his sweat. 
I have since also come to appreciate there are times when sweat is a perfectly good thing. 

Would he have been my type if I were 30 years older? Doubtful. But I dig this cat, anyway. Here's a fun panty-catching cut from Live at Caesar's Palace:  

Next, you might assume that Frank Sinatra is my favorite singer. In a way, that's so. I admire his talent, energies and efforts, how he grew, and what he did for music. I never ever tire of him. 

But to me, the more perfect singer is Bobby Darin. If he'd been born a decade earlier, who even knows how much better his legacy would have been? It's depressing to speculate, though. 

Most of my Bobby Darin music is digital, but I have come across a few good LPs over the years.

A couple of his songs? What they do to me. Oh. Here's one I like better than Frank's version: It's what Dr. Wilson would call a "panty-peeler." 


















But as much as I swoon over Bobby and am turned on by Frank, if I were an adult during their heydays, the one I'd have probably been gooey about is Dean Martin. 

He was just so smart and funny and sharp. But also, a seemingly effortless singer. I like that. I even like his country sound. (And I'm not a great fan of Bobby's country stuff, much like I thought Bobby could do rock and roll in a way Frank never could.)

Back in the day, "Ain't That A Kick In The Head" was censored at first for being too racy? But I think this song is much more sexy (and I picked this video because it has bonus stuff at the end:)

My dad was into jazz, and that's something else I took for granted. He liked horns. (And sax, and clarinet.) So, big band and some swing, Dave Brubeck, Charlie Parker, Al Hirt, Herb Alpert and others, they were always around. The coolest, to me, was Stan Getz. (Yeah, he ended up kind of a mess. Moving along.)
Stan Getz did this cool bossa nova album collaboration series for Verve Records (and then they parted ways cause he wanted to do other stuff plus Gilberto's wife. Moving along.) I have four of them, and this tune is one of my favorites from Stan Getz With Guest Artist Laurindo Almeida:  

So then...Frank Sinatra. I can't quit him. He is like a drug to me, well, like booze, anyway. I don't drink too much, but if Sinatra was whiskey, I'd be in big trouble. 

Sometimes he does make me feel a little drunk, in the good way. Like sustaining that feeling which comes when you know you've had just enough and the train to Blissville will be arriving in about 20 minutes. 

Most of my Sinatra music is digital, but I have collected a few albums on vinyl, and there are 3 or 4 more I'd enjoy owning. Starting with In the Wee Small Hours, (and setting aside the endless compilations,) each LP is a piece of carefully constructed artistry. He basically invented the concept.
Which song to share here? Each one is a mood, a memory, an experience. Maybe this one, from an astonishingly perfect album, is the right one for tonight:  

Or this one:
or this one...


life and death and flowers and Frank

Earlier I compiled a list of the 20 Frank Sinatra songs I've been listening to most over the past year. It was one year ago this week that I began driving to the Lawrence Township community garden every day to start my plot, knowing I'd be leaving it after 3 months. I listened to these songs on the way there and back, up that old road in that old town, trying to collect joy in reserve for later.  Screen Shot 2012-04-04 at 1.27.25 PM

A year ago minus a couple days, my friend died. I was enriching soil and planting seeds and mourning her loss at the same time. At some point, I was gardening for her, for me. You know? It made a difference. The year before, my first community garden experience was a huge success. Beautiful and bountiful. There are photos on my flickr pages, linked to here. This time I wasn't going to see it finished, and I knew that going in. But I had to get it going anyway. I worked every morning, listening to music through my headphones, willing it all to come to life before I had to leave it behind. creating beauty through loss. Energy transference.

It did get going, of course, but then late July and August saw astounding record rainfalls there, so I suppose it all ended up underwater. I bet the flowers came out all right. 

Here where I am now, a year later, I have more space, more money, more everything I lacked before. But no ancient road to travel, no friend down the block, no sense of the pulling of the ocean tide. 

I still have Frank.

Nothing But The Best

And I have little lettuces and onions and leeks and tomatoes and peppers and lots and lots of flowers, too. 


You have to honor life, and the passing of it, by really using the energy you're given in the best way you can. Feeding the senses, feeding the soul. 

Let's Face The Music And Dance



I was looking at the Frank Sinatra tag a short time ago and saw this photo. It struck me hard, how Italian it was. At least, Italian-American. Completely. But when I went back to look for it to reblog, I couldn’t find it. So I Googled “Frank Sinatra eating a sandwich” and found it at My favorite website, really. Anyway. Molto Italiano. Hard to explain, maybe. But kind of awesome, to the aging 3rd generation.

It always comes back around to Frank

I've been listening to Squeeze today, and a lot of The Church lately, because we're seeing them in concert next month. And there's been a certain amount of Morrissey, as well. 

But then I keep coming back to this guy. Every syllable is home. 

Especially in this song. It gets me, right here. And there, as well. He's an old familiar lover who still has the ability to excite me because he knows just what I like and just how I like it. He knows I realize this. I can never quit him.