My musical taste is pretty vast - I like it all from bad pop to sing along to (Yes I have Blamed it on the Rain, Been a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World and have seen The Sign and it did not open up my mind but it may have been looking to Tell me the Reason for Being Lonely). Yes I know shudder inducing to my musical friends but come on what is better than bad pop to sing along to, easily to memorized and just as easily forgotten until it comes on again.
Among these silly yet highly entertaining songs I like artists and songs that actually push musical boundaries and are still amazing 50 - 60 years after they came out. Music often sings my soul and can be as silly as I mentioned above or it can be an anthem of our souls, our direction and our collective pain. One of my favorite artists is someone that I actually liked to listen along with my Dad but not as much as I liked his Rat Pack buddy Dean, when I was younger. A man who I personally liked both vocals and looks more as he aged. An artist who I never tire of and who I have discovered and rediscovered because of the vast number of recordings he did.
I am talking about Frank Sinatra. A few years ago a close friend of mine, who I share both a love of music (sometimes we agree and sometimes we just don't get how the other can tolerate a song/artist), and of books told me to read a book called "Why Sinatra Matters". First of all it is written by a man whose writing I love - Pete Hamill - and who I would love to have dinner with, Frank as background music, while he regales me with awesome tales of the city that he lives in and writes about (NY, Pete, a writer and Frank - swoon, sigh post cigarette worthy moment).
It turns out the book is not a Star worthy juicy sex bits type of book, not that I expected it to be but just in case you were looking for that it ain't it. It is the story of a man who represents so much of what America means and what America is.
It is a land of hard working immigrants, it is a place that takes people in but then makes them work hard and harder because the person who came right before is hesitant to give up what they worked hard and harder for. The novel traces a man whose roots are those of the East coast, of labor unions who reminded us that workers should have basic rights, fair pay, vacations, protection from the people who may have forgotten that they are entitled to their profit but not at the expense of our humanity. Things many of us now enjoy even when we are non-union. Frank and his family were a long line of union supporters. They understood that being Italian came with prejudices as well as with all they would contribute here as they had for centuries as a people across the ocean.
The novel reminds us that good people do bad things - that marriages are sometimes held together by one of the people in the name of keeping up appearances and bitterness at having been done wrong. We see Frank with a love so intense that it burns you up to read about, what he and Ava had well it was what most can only read about but boy regardless of how it turned out how lucky were they to have shared it. Intense, passionate, unlikely to succeed because hell they may have been in the movies but they lived off script in real life. Happy endings not guaranteed.
The story is relevant for his fight to get a fair contract, a story of a man who stood up for his principles and for his friends. A man who in an age where it was ok to treat a man differently because of the color of skin chose to stand up to racism and remind us that with power comes great responsibility. Some times his friends were poor choices, the mob ties almost badly stereotypical but maybe that's why I liked him even more. He wasn't always a nice guy, he didn't always choose well but he always lived by a code of equality that many could learn from. I read and felt for him when a friendship with the Kennedy's, one that he saw for the potential it brought the country but also for the pure enjoyment he gave to things he was involved with, reminded him that those with certain ties would take your money, maybe even invited you to a party or two but will not hesitate to leave you at the back door if it didn't meet their needs.
So why this blog about Frank and this book now ?? Because as I watch the election process in the States Sinatra matters so much. We are the immigrants, the people who are discriminated against for the way we look, the judged by those who find righteous indignation while practicing cruelty under the guise of morality and we are the little guy. I do not want the government to replace the corporation but rather I want a measure in between - somewhere between having the ability to live the Rat Pack life and not just being part of the rat race.
Sinatra matters - because he sang a song that really says so much about who we are and who we should strive to be as Americans. As people who choose to live here. As people who were dragged here or kicked here and who no matter where we start think we can be the stars of our lives.
In the end the Chairman of the Board did it his way - regrets he had a few but then again too few to mention. We need to do it our way and our way is not the way to let those who point out that a media moment represents what we can do and what we can be. The viciousness during this election has not exposed our underbelly it has diagnosed a cancer - let's treat it and get on the road to recovery.
"I did what I had to do and did it my way"....that's the song I want at my eulogy -- that's the song we need to remind ourselves we are.