Song of the Day #1,160: ‘For a While’ – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra’s Watertown is wonderful from start to finish, but I consider ‘For a While’ its first truly transcendent moment.

The song swells to life with an orchestral flourish before settling into an easy stroll over which Sinatra gives one of his most effective vocal performances.

I’ve read criticism of Sinatra’s voice on this album, and certainly he was on the other side of his best years when he recorded it, but I find these among his most heart-breaking vocals.

Just listen to his delivery of the first verse, as he so beautifully captures the fragility with which one picks up the pieces after a loss. In the second verse, he flashes “a smile to put them in,” hinting for the first time that this brave exterior is an act. It’s obvious to the listener that his socializing and his work are not really taking his mind off his troubles.

In the final verse, he finally acknowledges that it’s not him but everybody else who thinks he’s ready to move on.

This is one of the few Watertown tracks that stands alone apart from the rest of the album. In fact, Nina Simone’s version comes up as often as Sinatra’s in a Google search (I found this powerful live performance of the song by Simone that has me wanting to seek our more of her music).

Lost in day to day, turned another way
With a laugh, a kind hello, some small talk with those I know
I forget that I’m not over you for a while

A wave, an easy grin, a smile to put them in
With other lives to listen to and some work I’ve got to do
I forget that I’m not over you for a while

Days go by with no empty feeling until I remember you’re gone

People say to me, you need company
When you have some time to spend, drop around and meet a friend
They forget that I’m not over you for a while
They forget that I’m not over you for a while…

9 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,160: ‘For a While’ – Frank Sinatra

  1. Dana says:

    This may be the only song on this album that I think I have heard before. Perhaps because it was covered? Or maybe it just stood out when your family put on the album at some point. Either way, I can see why you would consider this a standout on the album.

    With regard to Sinatra’s voice, I think it could be argued that his somewhat weathered mature vocals fits perfectly with the tone of this album. I’m not sure a 25 year old Sinatra could have delivered these songs in the same way he does here, even though 25 year old Sinatra may have had a more expansive vocal range.

  2. pegclifton says:

    I agree with Dana that the seasoned voice fits perfectly with the tone of the album. I know that you Sinatra fans are out there, where are your comments?? ;0

  3. Kerrie says:

    Well, I’ve been reading along but haven’t joined the conversation yet because the timing for this musical journey is hitting a little close to home… That said, I agree that a younger Sinatra singing these songs would not have had the same impact. You can hear a touch of the weariness in his voice as he shares his pain in these songs. I think it’s a perfect album for his perfect voice.

    As far as this song, all I can say is, the writers captured (20+ years ago) what the last 2 1/2 months of my life have been like. I guess nothing is new under the sun… The good news is, melancholy aside, I am OVER him.

  4. Dana says:

    Kerrie, your last comment reminds me of that great quote from Friends, not necessarily appropriate in this context: “You’re over me? When were you….under me?”

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you are moving on. Goodbye and good riddance to that man….

  5. Clay says:

    To quote another Sinatra, “one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over [him].”

  6. pegclifton says:

    Goodbye and good riddance indeed! Put on those boots Kerrie 🙂

  7. Amy says:

    Whether you’re 20 or 60, the sentiments expressed in this song can make you feel weary. I agree that Sinatra’s voice is wonderful on this album, but I bet his younger self would tease out the angst of this moment.

    As for the fact that it’s hitting close to home for one of this blog’s most faithful readers, I might actually find some comfort there. Maddie was saying earlier today how she loves to listen to songs that touch on painful emotions she has experienced because they make her feel like part of a larger community. Why do people have a tendency to wallow in certain songs and films when going through painful periods? It’s probably cathartic on some level.

    So… here’s to the Watertown weeks signalling the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new one! Who better than Frank Sinatra to usher one through such a transition.

  8. Kerrie says:

    Thanks, everyone. I didn’t mean to hijack the SOTD in search of a support group, but I appreciate it anyway. 🙂

    And just so we’re all clear, the boots are already ON and I’ll be seeing “that man” in court on October 3rd for our first hearing. I’ll have a better sense of how the rest of this drama will play out when I see you all in Melbourne that weekend. Good riddance, indeed!! And, more importantly, I CAN’T WAIT to see you all!!! 🙂 xoxo

    As to Maddie’s (and, subsequently, Amy’s) comment, it’s so true that we look for communion with others who have gone through similar experiences during these situations. I am doing a good job wearing out my copy of “Under the Tuscan Sun” as much for my sense of sisterhood with the protagonist as for my unbridled hope for a happier time ahead (preferably also in Italy!). 🙂 I’ll try not to wallow too much, but I do look forward to the rest of this album.

  9. Arlee Bird says:

    I agree that Frank’s voice is in pretty fine form on this album. His delivery and phrasing couldn’t have been much better. This is another great song. Simone’s live version is much better than the studio version she recorded.

    Tossing It Out

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