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Celebrating his way

ANUSHA NARAIN
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Music Frank Sinatra, whose birth anniversary was celebrated yesterday, was the king of comebacks. We doff our hats to Ol’ Blue Eyes’ indomitable spirit

“You know that old thing, live fast, die young? Not my way. Live fast, sure, but die young?  Die old!  That’s the way,” Sinatra didn’t say this but he might as well have because he sure lived by the philosophy.

Francis A. Sinatra lived to a ripe old age of 82. The younger geniuses, suffered from the Elvis syndrome ( a person’s inability to handle success), got high and burned out, but Ol' Blue Eyes was not going to join 27 club. The leader of the Rat Pack was way too cool to give in so early and easily. He lived a full life, in his own words “I would like to be remembered as a man who had a wonderful time living life, a man who had good friends, fine family.”

 Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915. He started his career as a singer with Columbia Records and reached an iconic status as a singer and actor by the mid-forties. He starred in hits such as It Happened in Brooklyn , Anchors Aweigh and On the Town . He was the Elvis, the Beatles, the Michael Jackson, the Justin Beiber of the forties and also a well-established actor.  And as everything that goes up must come down, Sinatra’s star also began to fade by the late forties.

And by the early fifties along came Elvis to steal his fans. On the personal front he had his heart broken by Ava Gardner. Now this was when he could have gone down. The story was following the oft-repeated pattern. Talented boy with humble beginnings makes it big, gets carried away, indulges in excesses and then one day realizes he is not the hottest thing anymore and goes into a downward spiral ending in death.     

Here however, there was a twist in the Sinatra tale. He picked himself up and got back in the race and saw a second coming. In the second phase he went on to immortalise the character of Angelo Maggio ( From Here to Eternity ), for which he won an Oscar. He recorded hugely successful albums such as Only the Lonely and In the Wee Hours of the Morning ; and his magnum opus, Strangers in the Night .

“Sinatra had been flattened,” writes noted music journalist Pete Hamill. “Men often saw the world in sports terms. One thing they knew about prize fighters, for example, was that you never knew what a fighter was made of until he had been knocked down. Second-raters stayed down and took the count. The great ones always go up. Sinatra got up.”

“Frankie was the quintessential comeback kid,” says Divya Abhishek, a die hard fan. “He was the John Travolta of yore, the Boris Becker of the entertainment industry. He didn’t make a comeback just once but several times. I think the enormous drive he had to succeed, and his strength of character was the reason he lived a long, productive and full life.” Another slump in his career sent him into retirement in 1972. He was not staying down. With a little help from his long-time pal Gene Kelley, he was back to performing and continued to do shows until just before his death in 1998.  Sinatra remained as steady as a rock while others crumbled. So what was his secret? Where did he get all that ability to handle success? Was it his swagger, his ‘my way or the highway’ policy, or was it his will to live? According to Anil Fredrick Kumar, a counsellor at Karnataka Theology College, self-awareness was the key to Frank’s longevity. “When you know yourself and your intentions well enough, there is a good chance you won’t be swayed by public opinion; consequently you wouldn’t have to spend a whole lot of time dealing with life-eroding emotions such as fear, anger, and guilt.” 

“Death couldn’t touch The Chairman of the Board,” says Jessica Pinto another Sinatra fan. “He was not faint hearted, he had the chops to build a long life of consequence while others squandered it.” Sinatra would have turned 97 this year. The legacy of his dogged spirit remains. His bluest eyes still shine.

ANUSHA NARAIN

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