Brimming with wall-to-wall memorabilia, folks young and old got a chronological tour of a stellar career of a voice that charmed millions and a swagger that ruled the silver screen. From his early days at The Rustic Cabin in Palisades, New Jersey, to his radio debut in 1935 on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, it seemed from the start, this Hoboken kid was destined for musical immortality.
Indeed, there are so many individuals who reach celebrity stardom, yet most of them will never have a similar impact on the world around them. Often known as simply ‘the voice,’ this tribute paid due homage to a musical giant who used his voice to tread a path many of his time would dare not travel.
From Here to Eternity catapulted Frank Sinatra’s film career to unprecedented heights; however, he earned his first Oscar in a short film entitled, The House I Live In. The film itself challenged the issue of anti-Semitism, and for Sinatra who abhorred racial and religious intolerance, it was more than a performance — it was a statement.
Ballads resonated throughout the entire exhibit with deeply felt sounds and heart-tugging emotion, yet songs heard so many times over, like ‘My Way,’ had a renewed connotation when coupled with the life of one who harbored such a strong belief in racial equality. Discovering his insistence that African-Americans not be barred from places like his golf club in Rancho Mirage, California, Sinatra made clear that his way was the way of tolerance and inclusion.
His reverence for legendary African-American singer Ella Fitzgerald and his close kinship to Sammy Davis Jr., as one of the famed ‘Rat Pack,’ was paramount to Sinatra’s philosophy that life as well as art should have no racial boundaries. With such a cherished résumé for battling the racial and religious status quo, it is no wonder New York City made Sinatra its adopted son and that the center of the musical universe, Lincoln Center — who presented music, film screenings and lectures in association with the exhibit — would treat those of multiple generations to such an honored portrayal.
The centennial celebration also gave patrons a rare glimpse to a side of Sinatra few had witnessed during his lifetime. A collection of his personal artwork adorned the walls, and though he never sold a single one, he still managed to offer a piece of himself by giving them away to friends, children’s hospitals, and even fans.
Though many fans may know Frank Sinatra as the iconic crooner donning the black tux, and cupping a glass of Jack Daniels whiskey in-hand, the NY Public Library’s tribute to ‘old blue eyes’ reminds us all of a man whose humanity transcended the very height of his career, by showing the person amidst the persona. With this, there is little doubt that those fortunate enough to attend this extraordinary exhibit walked away understanding even more how this Hoboken kid of modest means took ‘New York, New York’ by storm and undoubtedly had ‘The World on a String.’
By Vincent Amoroso
Graduating from Kingsborough Community College with an Associate Degree in Liberal Arts, CUNY York College, with a Bachelors Degree in English Literature, Vincent taught in several New York City area middle schools, and high schools in the subjects of English, Math, and Creative Writing.