Sinatra’s Century is a recently published book, written by David Lehman. The full title of the book is: “Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World”. As you know, this year marks the 100th birthday of the legendary singer Frank Sinatra. The importance of this year brings many new books, events, products and unreleased music to us, and Sinatra’s Century is one of the additions to remember his legacy.
First, let’s talk about the physical book itself. The cover features a black and white photo of Frank Sinatra, singing on the stage. This photo is from his performance in Sands Hotel and Casino, in 1965. It is a spectacular choice. The back gives information about the content of Sinatra’s Century, and David Lehman. The papers of the book are soft, and the text is comfortable to read. At certain pages of the book, there are photos printed on the page, but these photos do not look high quality and resolution because pages featuring the photos are not glossy paper. However, the book I have is the uncorrected proof, which is not for sale. So the final print for readers may differ. Please keep that in mind. As far as I see, on the final edition of the book, there is no text on the back cover, but another photo of Frank Sinatra.
Moving to content, Sinatra’s Century consists of 100 notes, and the book is about 290 pages long. These are very short notes, each with its own theme. A typical note is 3-4 pages long and can be about Sinatra’s birth, his big band years, Ava gardner, Rat Pack, Bing Crosby, Kennedy, Frank Sinatra’s death, movie career, Marilyn Monroe, mafia connections, saloon songs, David Lehman’s opinions, or anything else. The topics cover almost anything you may want to learn about Frank Sinatra, and are shortly kept with the most important parts. The notes also include many quotes of Frank Sinatra or people who knew Frank Sinatra. For the most part, these quotes are very interesting and sometimes quite funny.
Having described Sinatra’s Century and what it is about, I will now move to my personal opinions. The book is a good read. Sinatra’s life is distributed to 100 chapters quite fairly, so you get a taste of everything. And most importantly, you don’t get a chance to get bored thanks to the dynamic structure of the content. Different content at every chapter and the shortness of the chapters keeps you fresh and your interest high; and you don’t get tired while reading since every line doesn’t have a factual information that you have to keep in mind.
A “personal” book on Frank Sinatra is a bald move. The trend among Sinatra books is that if you are from the Sinatra family, you write a memoir, and if you are not, you write a well structured, informative biography. Sinatra’s Century is a combination of both. It gives you biographical information about Frank Sinatra, but with a personal touch and feeling. Like “Why Sinatra Matters”, but more extensive.
At one chapter, David Lehman talks about how Frank Sinatra changes the lyrics and I really like that observation. I had made a list for “The Lady Is A Tramp” 3 years ago, and was glad to find similar content in the book. I liked that he devoted 1 of the 100 chapters onto it, as it is definitely worth mentioning, but mostly ignored by many book writers. I think one reason for that is that most book writers don’t really dive into live performances of Frank Sinatra, and stick to the studio recordings instead.
Here is one paragraph from Sinatra’s Century to show what David Lehman thinks of Frank Sinatra:
“What does Sinatra stand for? Above all, genius as a singer and performer. He had the ability to give a song its definitive exposition, even to make it seem like an extension of his own personality and experience. Excellence of phrasing is the consensus regarding his spot-on musical timing. His respect for the meaning of a lyric is matched by his intuitive grasp of the melodic and harmonic possiblities.” (Sinatra’s Century, by David Lehman)
When a poet with a good vocabulary explains Frank Sinatra, the result is highly satisfactory.
All in all, Sinatra’s Century by David Lehman is a great book for anyone who would want to learn about Frank Sinatra’s life and music. The book does not clinically investigate every bit of Frank Sinatra’s life, but connects you to the legendary singer and enriches your image of Francis Albert Sinatra instead. The book clearly shows the many different sides of the complex man, from weakest to strongest, and presents you a man, with his rights and wrongs.