When I was a kid, hearing September of My Years along with so many other Sinatra classics, I always thought of this as an old man’s album. As in, the final thoughts of a man on his death bed, looking back on a long and eventful life.
‘What is This Thing Called Love?’ is a Cole Porter tune written for the 1929 musical Wake Up and Dream. It was first performed by Elsie Carlisle, and you can listen to that version here.
The song has been recorded by plenty of artists over the years, and was particularly popular with jazz musicians in the 30s, in versions both fast and slow. Billie Holiday put her indelible stamp on it in the 40s.
That got me interested, during these pandemic times, in creating a definitive playlist of my favorite songs. This is an exercise fraught with peril and subject to repeated second-guessing, but that’s also what makes it fun.
Narrowing such a list to ten songs proved impossible, so I kept at it until I had close to 30, then pared back to 25, which feels like a good number.
#8. Guys and Dolls – 1955
(#23 on the AFI list)
Frank Sinatra fared well in my rankings, with his two AFI-recognized films placing at #11 (On the Town) and now #8. Sinatra’s film career is almost as impressive as his singing career, with multiple comedic and dramatic roles, an Academy Award (for 1953’s From Here to Eternity), several films as a producer and one as a director.
Sinatra is a treat in Guys and Dolls, but it’s his co-star Marlon Brando who really made this film for me. Brando as a song-and-dance man is not something I expected to encounter during this project.
#11. On the Town – 1949
(#19 on the AFI list)
On the Town… also known as the movie where a 34-year-old Frank Sinatra pretends he has never been to New York.
The directorial debut of Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, this film is an adaptation of the stage musical of the same name. Kelly, Sinatra and Jules Munshin play three sailors on a day of shore leave in the Big Apple, and Betty Garrett, Ann Miller and Vera-Ellen play their love interests.