Sinatra at Carnegie
Between 1944 and 1988, Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) made 70 appearances at Carnegie Hall. Most were in a singing capacity, of course, but he actually made his debut as a speaker. On the night of October 24, 1944, the Young Voters for Roosevelt Committee was holding a rally to help re-elect the President. Along with Jonathan Worth Daniels, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s last press secretary, Sinatra was a guest of the committee who took the mic to assure the Carnegie crowd that “Roosevelt in 1944 will make Young America’s dream a reality!” But that wouldn’t be his only participation in political life.
On January 27, 1961, he joined Sammy Davis, Jr., Harry Belafonte, Count Bassie, and others to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and help raise money for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A few years later, on the weekend of October 5th and 6th, 1963, he paired with Lena Horne to play benefits for both the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Foundation for International Child Health. All told, his efforts there netted the causes $50,000 and $100,000, respectively.
But perhaps what put his picture on the wall was a string of sold-out residencies. Between 1980 and 1985, he played two 10-day, one 9-day, and two 11-day engagements. In 1987, he returned with a 6-day run. Reviewing his latter stint, the New York Times‘ Stephen Holden remarked, “The most remarkable thing…is the emotional volatility he continues to project onto whatever songs he touches…. He may have performed the same song hundreds of times before, but his current interpretation springs directly out of the moment and situation at hand.”
For Sinatra’s final bow, he teamed up with Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Tommy Tune, and others to celebrate Irving Berlin’s 100th birthday on May 11, 1988. He sang two ballads then: “Always” (1925) and “When I Lost You” (1912). “‘What makes an Irving Berlin song special?'” he mused to the Times. “‘The answer is quite simple: Irving Berlin…. In a world where many make sausages, Irving made beauty.'”
So his last words at Carnegie were probably these, the chorus lines from “When I Lost You”:
I lost the sunshine and roses
I lost the heavens of blue
I lost the beautiful rainbow
I lost the morning dew
I lost the angel who gave me
Summer the whole winter through
I lost the gladness that turned into sadness
When I lost you
Photo by Rick Stachura. Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall. March 7, 2018.
Sinatra’s portrait. It’s near the entrance to the Blavatnik Family First Tier seats on the second floor.