Michael Shmith reviews 'Sinatra' by James Kaplan

Michael Shmith reviews 'Sinatra' by James Kaplan

Sinatra: The Chairman

by James Kaplan

Sphere, $32.99 pb, 979 pp, 9781847445292

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith

Michael Shmith was arts editor of The Age from 1985 to 1993. He was the paper’s opera critic from 2010 to 2017. He is also the

...

Just in time for the Frank Sinatra centenary – 12 December should be a gazetted public holiday – comes the thumping second part of James Kaplan's monumental biography. Taken together, Volume I – Frank: The Voice (2010, 786 pages) – and its behemoth successor, Sinatra: The Chairman (979 pages), comprise a formidable and scrupulously detailed account of the rise, fall, and resurrection of Saint Francis of Occhi Azzurri.

As the song goes, that's life; and Sinatra's life, from 1954 to his death in 1998, was one lived in full. But Volume II is a bit of a slog. By the time I reached the end of this positively Wagnerian tome – admittedly, more ring-a-ding-ding than Der Ring, but still unsparing of its subject's flaws – it took more than two fingers of Jack Daniel's to bring me round. More of this later.

It has been five years between volumes, and how fitting to divide such a labyrinthine, conflicted life between them. In effect, Kaplan has been dealing with two Sinatras. For proof, look no further than the pictures on the respective covers. Frank: The Voice is the rapier-slender model: fedora-topped, scrawny neck poking out of an unbuttoned shirt collar with tie askew, head cocked to the right, carefree expression. Sinatra: The Chairman shows the darker side: no longer the boy singer, but someone more worldly-worn, though clearly executive material in his charcoal jacket, striped shirt, and button-down collar securing a narrow black tie. He is hatless (toupée presumably fixed firmly in place) and looking down to the right with a serious, almost perturbed expression.

Read the rest of this article by purchasing a subscription to ABR Online, or subscribe to the print edition to receive access to ABR Online free of charge.

If you are a single issue subscriber you will need to upgrade your subscription to view back issues.

If you are already subscribed, click here to log in.

Leave a comment

Please note that all comments must be approved by ABR and comply with our Terms & Conditions.

NB: If you are an ABR Online subscriber or contributor, you will need to login to ABR Online in order to post a comment. If you have forgotten your login details, or if you receive an error message when trying to submit your comment, please email your comment (and the name of the article to which it relates) to comments@australianbookreview.com.au. We will review your comment and, subject to approval, we will post it under your name.