Why I don’t mind turning forty…

Wee_small_hours_album_cover_high_definitionIn the early 1950s, Frank Sinatra was dropped by Columbia and was considered a has-been due to waning sales and shredded vocal chords. He landed at Capitol, and began a series of albums with arranger/orchestra conductor Nelson Riddle. Most people know the early teen idol Sinatra, the crooner the bobby-sock girls swooned over, or they know the bloated icon who sang “New York, New York” and “My Way” and other late career classics that sounded old the day they were released (to give you some perspective, the former competed on the charts with Donna Summer and The Knack). The records of the late 50s and early 60s were the ones that made Sinatra the greatest interpreter of popular song in the 20th century. He spun through the tin pan alley songbook with a feeling for lyrics that haven’t been matched by any male singer (though several ladies compete), and realized ideas that had lasting impact on popular music. The gem of these recordings was a curious thing Sinatra had in mind, a coherent collection of songs with a theme, a concept album — which is to say, the idea that an album could be more than a bunch of songs, but have a meaning of its own. This was truly the turning point of his career, and the reason he was not lost among the other teen idols and crooners and a footnote on music history. He was forty years old, had been at the top of the charts, and wildly successful… but his career was just beginning.

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