Francis Albert “Frank” Sinatra – Ol’ Blue Eyes

Frank Sinatra made his recording debut with the Harry James band on July 13, 1939, singing “Melancholy Mood” and “From The Bottom of My Heart.” Bandleader Harry James had heard Sinatra sing on a radio broadcast from the Rustic Cabin roadside café and invited him to record with the band. Sinatra’s first radio broadcast was with “The Hoboken Four,” also known as “Frank Sinatra and the 3 Flashes,” on the Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour talent competition on September 8, 1935. The group won.

Frank Sinatra, Application for the Major Bowes’ Amateur Hour, Annotated form, 1935. Memory Gallery C. American Treasures of the Library of Congress. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

Tommy Dorsey saw Sinatra perform with James’ band and hired the young man away to perform with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. In 1942 Sinatra left Dorsey, making his solo debut in New York City on December 31, 1942.

Frank Sinatra, Liederkrantz Hall, New York, N.Y., ca 1947. William P Gottlieb, photographer, 1947. William P. Gottlieb Collection. Music Division

From the outset of his solo career, Sinatra was a teenage heartthrob. He had an innate musicianship that allowed him to remain faithful to a song’s lyrics and feel, while deftly infusing it with his touch of jazz phrasing. “The Chairman of the Board” was almost as admired for his professionalism as he was for his undeniable talent.

The more than half-century span of Sinatra’s singing career afforded a broad range of audiences the opportunity to develop a great appreciation for his music. He appealed to audiences young and old and performed for presidents from both ends of the political spectrum including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.

Throughout Sinatra’s career, composers wrote songs specifically for him. Jule Styne collaborated with lyricist Sammy Cahn to write ballads for Sinatra. Styne wrote songs for the Sinatra vehicle Anchors Aweigh (1945). Sinatra recordings of three songs written by Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen won Oscars: “All the Way” (1957), “High Hopes” (1959), and “Call Me Irresponsible” (1963). Van Heusen composed over seventy songs for Sinatra.

Sinatra began to work in film in the 1940s, first in musicals and then as a dramatic actor. He won an Academy Award for his performance in From Here to Eternity (1953) and was nominated for an Oscar for his gripping portrayal of a heroin addict in The Man With the Golden Arm (1955). He appeared in more than thirty other films including Guys and Dolls (1955), High Society (1956), Pal Joey (1957), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Von Ryan’s Express (1965). In 1983 he was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. Sinatra continued to perform until February 1995. He died on May 14, 1998, in Los Angeles, California.

City of Hollywood, Los Angeles, Calif. West Coast Art Co., c1912. Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division

Click on the image of the city of Hollywood for a closer view of the town around the time of Frank Sinatra’s birth. To learn more about the development of the film industry, the cause of Hollywood’s boom, search Today in History on the term film; also search the motion picture collections to view information about films.

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John Parker

John Parker was born in Lexington, Massachusetts, on July 13, 1729. Parker played a prominent role in the first battle of the War for Independence as leader of the volunteer American militia known as the Minutemen.

Statue of Captain Parker, on the green at Lexington, Mass. c1902. Detroit Photographic Co. Photochrom Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

On the night of April 18, 1775, Parker received warning of the approach of the king’s soldiers under Major John Pitcairn. Parker assembled about seventy volunteers to face the British. In the ensuing skirmish on Lexington Green on April 19, eight Americans were killed and ten were wounded.

The Minutemen followed the British forces to Concord, sniping at them as they retreated. According to legend, the colonists adopted “Yankee Doodle” as their theme song.

Line of the Minute Men Memorial, Lexington. c1900. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

Captain John Parker’s words, spoken as the British Redcoats approached the town, are engraved on the Line of the Minute Men Memorial.

John Parker had served as a soldier in the French and Indian War, participating in the fighting at Louisbourg and Quebec. In peacetime, he made his living as a farmer and a mechanic and held various small-town offices.

Little is known of Captain Parker’s activities in the months following the opening battles of the Revolution. He did not participate in the Battle of Bunker Hill, possibly due to the illness that led to his death on September 17, 1775.

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