James Kaplan’s Sinatra: The Chairman takes around a thousand pages to get us from his Academy Award for From Here To Eternity in 1954 to his death in 1998. Kaplan’s previous volume, Frank: The Voice (2010), used up almost 900 pages to get us from Frank’s birth in 1915 to ’54. The combined 1,900 pages of the two books isn’t long by the standards of, say, Robert Caro and LBJ, but it’s got to be a record for any singer or actor. If some publisher eventually put both volumes in one big package, they ought to call it “Sinatra by the pound.”
If you ever wanted to know exactly what Frank Sinatra was doing on every single day of his life, Kaplan is your man. The Chairman is rich with fascinating detail, much of which I’d never heard. Sinatra had to scrap plans for an album of Italian songs; except for a few choice words, and, presumably, some hand gestures, alone among the great Italian-American pop singers of the ’40s and ’50s, he didn’t speak the language. (So much for the Italian love songs Johnny Fontaine croons at Connie Corleone’s wedding.)
When he was alone he listened to his favorite composer, Giacomo Puccini; Ralph Vaughan Williams was a close second.