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A Thought for Today
Is it possible to be of better service to
the world than to fill it with song?
Next Wednesday is the
anniversary of Frank Sinatraís birth and itís coming up on four years
since he left us Ė of course he never has and never will. Frankís favorite
toast was always ďMay you live forever and may my voice be the last one
you hear.Ē The odds on the first half of the toast are what they are, but
the chance that Sinatraís voice will live forever is as sure a bet as
youíre likely to encounter in this life or probably the next.
Hereís what I wrote for December 12, 1998.
THINKING ABOUT SINATRA
This is Frank Sinatraís first
birthday Somewhere Else. Now that heís there, Iíll bet it suits him fine.
He liked visiting places he hadnít been to and learning, always finding
out for himself, something new. For all his steadfastness, need for home
and family and the immense joy and happiness familiar things gave him,
Frank never lost his sense of adventure. A creature of habit, you bet. He
liked things just so and wouldnít settle for the shoddy or sub standard in
any form, but Ďhis wayí always included being open to discovery. He had
what the French call "luxe d Ďesprit" [the luxury of the moment], in
To the end, learning was part of his regimen. I never knew him not to be
reading a book or recommending one to a friend. Frank knew my appetite for
reading was as great as his and I have shelves of books he either
recommended or sent as gifts. One Christmas a truck pulled up with 4 or 5
large cartons from FS, the single word on the card, "Enjoy!". Books, all
books, history, geography, philosophy, the newest novels and photographic
books and several old and rare editions by authors we both favored.
Another year on my birthday he sent first editions of books by poets I
admired, some Iíd introduced him to. I have a typewritten copy [with
pencil and inked corrections] of "The Summer Wind", signed by Frank and
Johnny Mercer, with the inscription "We thought youíd like this." Johnny
brought it around one day and said "Here, Kid, from The Chairman and the
guy on the bench."
He didnít stop reading when he took up painting, but his tastes moved from
novels and politics to more thoughtful meditative tomes. I got him a
translation of Michelangeloís poetry that he loved, even committing a few
lines to memory. This from a guy who didnít like memorizing the lyrics to
new songs. Not that he needed to. Everybody knows that Sinatra created and
recreated more standards than any singer in the history of popular music.
He didnít have to worry about the fashions of the day in music, but he
did. He concerned himself with the direction pop music was taking and
reveled in the realization that his audiences in later years was a healthy
mixture of all ages and musical persuasions.
When Frank found out I was putting together an exhaustive musical history
of the songs of World War II, he called and said, "Donít leave me out of
it". I had just about all the permissions I needed but mentioned I was
having trouble with certain 1940ís sides Frank had made for Columbia. A
few days later David Kaprilic, head of Columbia at the time, called and
asked how he could help. It opened up a dialog that gave me access to
sides by Sinatra and all the other artists on the label I needed. A few
years later when I was starting on the second set of the project Frank got
in touch with David Sarong at RCA. Rocco Langinestra, that labelís
president, called and pledged his support. No contracts, no hassles, no
lawyers. I got complete cooperation. One day not long afterward a heavy
bundle arrived at the house from Sinatraís office, it included V Discs and
air check tapes covering the whole of the forties. I was overwhelmed. When
I called to thank him, he said "For these you need my permission, and you
We shared a love of toys and gadgets, one of his prides was an elaborate
train set that had all the tunnels, bridges, under and over passes, hills
and valleys that the geography of his train rooms could occupy. When he
found out I was into computers he got me a prototype of the Mac IIFX
months before it was released to the media or general public. That year
while I was touring in Germany I picked up a real miniature steam engine
for one of his favorite trains and sent away for a wooden hand painted red
caboose. "Jesus," David Janson told me, "He was so excited I thought youíd
given him Boardwalk and Park Place."
Frank was crazy about his friends and loved to include us in his schemes
and dreams. When he yelled "Come out and play," for me the answer was
always yes. Whether it was salooning, a Chief Sinatra spaghetti dinner, a
flight of fancy or a flight across the continent it was Frank and it would
be fun. The only thing that keeps December 12, 1998 from being a complete
bummer for those of us who loved Frank as the nicest, most considerate,
courageous and dependable friend we ever had is the fact that we know heís
off on a new adventure. See you soon, Frank. In your case never soon
enough. - Love, Rod.
-first published in Flight
||Debbie Armstrong o
Chelsea Brown o
Dave Brubeck o
Peter Buck o
Wally Cox o
Andrew Cuomo o
Alfred Eisenstaedt o
Lynn Fontanne o
Ira Gershwin o
Nikolaus Harmoncourt o
William S. Hart o
Tom Hulce o
Joyce Kilmer o
Don King o
Jonathan King o
Joyce Mathews o
Agnes Moorehead o
John Singleton Mosby o
James Naughton o
David Ossman o
Wil Shriner o
Ryan White o
JoBeth Williams o
life will always make a difference.
'One of a kindí is a phrase overused, but
not in the case of Sinatra.
A friend is forever.
In choosing a path, always
choose the most challenging. The easy road is crowded and boring in
FOUR SETS OF WORDS &
A POEM/SONG FOR SINATRA
||This is not
poetry or exactly prose. When I was writing "A Man Alone" for Sinatra I
wanted there to be some connecting words between the songs that helped
advance the story line. This was to be a personal album for me and for
him, so it was important to try and get inside this seemingly
inscrutable man who turned out to be a lot less complicated than some
biographers have intimated.
Frank was honest, romantic, only impatient with delay and incompetence.
Some people forget what an intuitive and intelligent actor he was
capable of being. He didnít change a word I wrote for him to speak. I
confess that I made changes later when some of these words were
reprinted in "In Someoneís Shadow." On the album, they are perfect,
because Sinatra, like any great actor, made them his own. Iíd love to
say that I directed him in these performances, but I canít. With the
exception of one paragraph, I made no suggestions at all.
Other than a couple of hundred books I made up for Frank to give away to
friends, this is the first time these words have appeared as they were
originally spoken and written.
- RM 12/11/98.
Out Beyond the
My window looks out over the park.
Every year Iíve moved another story up,
Iím almost close enough
To the roof of the sky
To touch it.
I could even move the clouds aside,
But no clouds come.
If they did,
Iíd welcome them,
For I have few visitors here anymore.
There must be highways somewhere,
Roads Iíve missed.
Something more than sky
Out beyond the window.
I can just about
get through the day
but the night makes me nervous.
Not for any reason
except maybe that it catches you
and follows you
the way a woman follows
when she wants something.
Iíve been in every kind of night
so I shouldnít be afraid
But for some reason
the night makes me nervous.
Some Traveling Music
How can you say something new about being alone ? Tell someone youíre a
loner and right away they think youíre lonely. Itís not the same thing,
you know. Itís not wanting to put all your marbles in one pocket. Itís
caring enough not to care too much.. Mostly itís letting yourself come
first for a while.
One day Iíll find an island, a think place. Go there with a mess
of records and a ukulele and just sit strumminí. I might even do some
thinkiní. About the women, and the towns Iíve left behind.
From Promise To Promise
I sometimes wonder why people make promises they never intend to keep.
Not in big things like love or elections, but the things that count. The
newspaper boy who says heíll save an extra paper and doesnít, the
laundry that tells you your suit will be ready on Thursday. . . and it
Love? Well, yes.. But like everything else as we go from day to day we
move from promise to promise.. Iíve had a good many promises now so I
can wait for the harvest and some of them to come about.
To catalog empty,
You need a big book.
the sky before the sun wakes up
The eyes of animals in cages.
Empty. The faces of women
Donít ask me about empty.
Empty is a string of dirty days
held together by some rain
and the cold wind drumming
at the trees again.
Empty is the color of the fields
along about September
when the days go marching
in a line toward November.
Empty is the hour before sleep
kills you every night
then pushes you to safety
away from every kind of light.
Empty is me.
Empty is me.
-From the album and the privately
issued book, " A Man Alone", 1969. Revisions for "In Someoneís Shadow",
In addition to the above spoken word selections, the songs for "A Man
Alone" consisted of the title song and a reprise of it written on the
recording date, "The Beautiful Strangers", "The Single Man", "Iíve Been
To Town", "Lonesome Cites" and "Loveís Been Good To Me".