'98's Best: 'Chairman Of The Board' Frank Sinatra Dead At 82

The original teen-age heart-throb suffered a fatal heart attack in Los Angeles.

[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at

1998's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally ran on Friday, May 15.]

Frank Sinatra, one of the 20th century's most popular singers and the

man whose monumental fame presaged that of rock 'n' rollers Elvis Presley,

the Beatles and Michael Jackson, died Thursday in Los Angeles from a heart

attack. He was 82.

Although Sinatra was critical of rock 'n' roll for decades, he was

respected by scores of rock musicians. In 1994, U2 singer Bono explained

rock's fascination with the singer as he presented Sinatra with a Lifetime

Achievement Grammy Award. "Rock 'n' roll people love Frank Sinatra because

Frank has got what we want: swagger and attitude," Bono said. (Click here for Bono's speech.)

"Frank Sinatra was the 20th century," Bono said Friday (May 15) in a prepared

statement. "He was modern, he was complex, he had swing and he had

attitude. He was the boss, but he was always Frank Sinatra. We won't see

his like again. He was the big bang of pop ... the man invented pop music."

Sinatra, known fondly as "Ol' Blue Eyes" and the "Chairman of the Board,"

was pronounced dead in the emergency room of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

just before 11 p.m. PDT. Rumors of ill health had swirled around the

singer since he suffered a previous heart attack in January 1997.

During a 1995 80th birthday tribute to Sinatra, rock songwriter Bruce

Springsteen dubbed him "Patron Saint of New Jersey" and attested to his

cross-generational popularity by saying, "You sang out our soul."

Francis Albert Sinatra was born Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J. A 1933

performance by crooner Bing Crosby was said to have inspired his own

singing career, and by 1939, Sinatra was performing with Harry James'

orchestra. He soon joined trombonist Tommy Dorsey's ensemble, and what

would become one of the most famous careers in American music history took

flight.

The man who was publicly friends with Presidents Kennedy and Reagan and who

was privately reputed to have close ties to mobsters was also

well-regarded as an actor.

But Sinatra will forever be remembered as a unique voice, a singer who

wrested control over lyrics the way a jazz musician interprets a melody.

On 1950s hits such as "I've Got You Under My Skin" (RealAudio excerpt), "The Lady Is A Tramp"

and "Witchcraft," Sinatra imparted the emotion of the songs' lyrics with

expert precision, throwing his weight behind particular words, sometimes

jumping in front of the beat, sometimes waiting behind it.

In 1943, the Chairman lit out for a solo career, in the process setting the

hearts of millions of bobby-soxers afire. Over the next five decades, he

recorded more than 200 albums, working with such talents as Nelson Riddle,

Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. He also was known as the

ringleader of Hollywood's "Rat Pack," which included singing partners Sammy

Davis Jr. and Dean Martin. No matter how the tides of culture turned,

Sinatra maintained his commitment to traditional popular song, and he was

beloved by his legions of fans for doing so.

While the most famous era of his career spanned the 1940s and '50s, Sinatra

recorded some of his most well-known numbers in later years. "My Way" --

the signature tune that spoke to Sinatra's revered and sometimes feared

determination -- was recorded in 1969. In the 1980s, "Theme from New York,

New York" became Sinatra's trademark salute to his adopted hometown.

Sinatra returned to the spotlight in 1993 with the first of two

Duets albums. He did not work directly with his partners

-- including Bono ("I've Got You Under My Skin") and Aretha Franklin ("What

Now My Love") -- for the album (their parts were recorded without Sinatra present); the album debuted at #2 on Billboard's

200 albums chart and quickly went platinum. The disc's 1994 sequel

collection featured songs with the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, Stevie

Wonder and Willie Nelson and earned a Grammy for Traditional Pop Vocal

Performance.

Over the years, music proved to be just one of Sinatra's talents. When his

singing career took a downturn in the early '50s, he vaulted himself back

to acclaim with his Oscar-winning performance in "From Here To Eternity"

(1953). Although Sinatra made several musicals (including "Anchors Aweigh"

in 1945 and "High Society" in 1956), he was also well-regarded as a serious

dramatic actor. He earned another Oscar nomination in 1955 for "The Man With

The Golden Arm" and received additional accolades for his role in "The

Manchurian Candidate" (1962).

In 1961, Sinatra became one of the first popular singers to found his own

record label, Reprise. While he sold his controlling share in the venture

two years later, he recorded numerous albums for the imprint, which

continues to operate today with such artists as Neil Young, Chris Isaak and Green Day.

At the same 80th birthday celebration where Springsteen honored Sinatra

with his rendition of the Chairman's "Angel Eyes," Bob Dylan also saluted

Ol' Blue Eyes with "Restless Farewell," an original song with an air

similar to "My Way," which Sinatra had never performed live since recording it

more than 30 years before.

"The dirt of gossip blows into my face, and the dust of rumors covers me,"

Dylan sang. "But if the arrow is straight and the point is slick, it can

pierce through dust no matter how thick / So I'll make my stand and remain

as I am, and bid farewell and not give a damn."