Historical Figures: Frank Sinatra

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in 1915, in Hoboken, New Jersey. His father was a bar manager, prizefighter and fireman. His mother was an influential local politician. He did poorly at school, ending up in a series of dead-end jobs.

Frank Sinatra

Big break

Sinatra got his first break in 1935, with a group called the Hoboken Four. They won a radio talent competition and toured the country but, before long, Sinatra struck out on his own. A succession of gigs with small dance bands followed until, in 1939, he landed a contract with big-time bandleader Tommy Dorsey. Once he had gained national exposure with Dorsey, his unique vocal style, innovative phrasing and good looks quickly turned him into a huge star.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Sinatra also established himself as a talented actor, wining an Oscar for his portrayal of the tragic private, Angelo Maggio, in the 1953 classic, From Here to Eternity. Critically acclaimed roles in The Man with the Golden Arm and The Manchurian Candidate, as well as appearances in a string of popular musicals and action movies, cemented his position as a great movie actor.

All-time greats

Everyone wanted to be Frank Sinatra's friend. His closest showbiz buddies were Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin. The trio were at the centre of a hip gang of performers and socialites known as The Rat Pack. Rising Democratic Party star John F Kennedy was even part of this in-crowd. But Sinatra had some shadier contacts, too. He was known to associate with top gangsters such as Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana, who liked to be seen with showbiz people.

Sinatra's mob links may have lost him some fans, but not many. For millions of people around the world, he was one of the all-time great entertainers. Among more than 1,400 Sinatra recordings spanning half a century are scores of classic songs. Where would we be without I've Got You Under My Skin (1956), Come Fly with Me (1958), Strangers in the Night (1966) and My Way (1969)?