How exactly did Frank Sinatra revolutionize singing?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by sgtmono, Dec 13, 2013.

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  1. sgtmono

    sgtmono Seasoned Member Thread Starter

    I've been a longtime fan of Sinatra's recordings, and I've always appreciated his general awesomeness.

    However, I never felt I fully understood or appreciated his influence on pop music. I've heard people say things like "Sinatra invented pop singing" but I could never wrap my head around that. I know Sinatra was a pioneer of concept albums, and I get that he went from being a crooner to singing in a more commanding full voice. But how exactly did he change the face of singing as we know it? (assuming it's not hyperbole to say so).
  2. bumbletort

    bumbletort Forum Resident

    Baltimore, Md, USA
    I think one major revolutionary element is the 'persona' he developed--it imbues the performances with a kind of worldliness and world weariness. This persona is almost a kind of film noir 'character'--my opinion is that it was not an 'act' in a very essential way. Others did similar things, but they don't seem as grounded in a kind of literary archetype (some other artists pulled from downright tragedy). But I think Frank actually believed this romantic (not talking in the Don Juan sense here, more Gatsby) character to be himself in some performing sense--used it to imagine the world of his songs and to lend their expression a heightened reality. It's almost a kind of 'realism'. There's nothing else quite like him at that point, imho. And I think that aspect is one of the revolutionary things about him. Oh, and he could sing a little, too.
  3. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    His style of legato style phrasing was unique. Ya dig baby?:D
  4. Stone Pony

    Stone Pony Well-Known Member

    It's all about his phrasing.

    Play any Sinatra song and try to sing along with him..... start to finish. One thing will be certain, he will leave you somewhere.
  5. pdenny

    pdenny 17-Year SHTV Participation Trophy Recipient

    For starters, actually enunciating his "t's" and "d's" at the end of words :winkgrin:
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  6. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    I don't think he changed the face of singing. He was a great singer, and he kind of got greater the less great his voice was (until the very end when his voice was truly gone), because he was such a great storyteller and conveyed such attitude (great pop singing is often as much great acting as it is great vocalizing). And as others have mentioned his phrasing, very much influenced by the horn players he worked for -- especially Tommy Dorsey, was brilliant and beautiful and influential. But "revolutionary"? I don't think so. Louis Armstrong revolutionized pop singing in the 20th century; Bing Crosby. You could even make a case that a guy like Lou Reed more "revolutionized" pop singing, by making pop safe for, sort of, for want of a better phrase, "anti-singing." Sinatra was brilliant, beautiful, one of the greatest and one of my favorites. A guy that my father loved, that I love, and that my daughter loves -- that kind of multi-generational appeal is rare. And supremely influential, no doubt. But I dunno about Sinatra as "revolutionary" stylist.
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  7. zebop

    zebop Well Known Stranger

    I think Frank is especially interesting because he sang with a certain masculinity all the while covering some emotionally vulnerable stuff.
  8. Ricko

    Ricko Well-Known Member

    Will Friedwald's "Sinatra! The Song Is You" is a 560-page treatment on the subject if you want to get really deep into his art and craft. I can't recommend it highly enough.

    He revolutionized singing inasmuch as he took the crooning of Crosby to a significantly higher level by incorporating jazz and blues and nifty microphone technique; and then turning out a uniquely personal style that convinces you he's singing to you and for you, rather than singing at you.

    He was the consummate craftsman: what seems so charmingly easy was the result of a man's dedication to technically perfecting his style and his instrument. Little was left to chance and talent. :)
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  9. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident

    Exactly. And his breath control is unmatched in jazz and pop singing.
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  10. Catch22

    Catch22 Forum Resident

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  11. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    This was key in how revolutionary he was. He watched Tommy Dorsey and copied how he breathed out of a small rounded part of his mouth while playing.
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  12. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident

    Listen to the second bridge in "There's No You" from the "Where Are You" LP. He sneaks in a couple of breaths, but there is a seamless, breathtaking - pardon the pun - transition into the final stanza. When you try singing it yourself breathing at the same points, you instantly realize what a master he was.
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  13. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    His incorporation of jazz and blues was a by product of the composer/type of song he was singing and not his own invention.
  14. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Forum Resident

    Great example. I agree. He watched and listened to other musicians and used their techniques in his own way taking them to new levels and incorporating them to his vocal style.
  15. Tony Jonaitis

    Tony Jonaitis Forum Resident

    I agree 100% about "The Song Is You." In my top ten fave music books ever since it came out. Difficult to put your finger on his it his phrasing, swinging, or attitude? Anyway, we love him in our house, and Frank gets as much play as The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, The Modern Lovers, or Zappa!
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  16. Ricko

    Ricko Well-Known Member

    I said he incorporated jazz and blues into his style - I didn't say he invented it. Mabel Mercer was one of his influences. She didn't invent jazz either.

    If you want to split hairs over it, you're first going to have to prove that a singer with no feel for jazz can miraculously become a proficient jazz-flavored interpreter by virtue of a song which may or may not even have its origins in jazz. I'm assuming you're familiar with the concept of musical arrangement, and the necessity of a symbiotic relationship between arrangement and vocalist.
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  17. Brian DeWitt

    Brian DeWitt Forum Resident

    By the time he started recording for Capitol around '53, he was singing like he meant the words he sang. Less stylized than the crooners, more emotionally connected, real. He credited Billie Holiday as the source of his phrasing, and Tommy Dorsey.
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  18. EasterEverywhere

    EasterEverywhere Forum Resident

    Yes,you can hear Billie's influence in a lot of his classic Capitol sides.Many of the great jazz singers,and singers influenced by jazz,try to use their voice the way a horn player would.In this way,only Tony Bennett was his equal.Tony obviously listened to Frank,and a lot of the same jazz Frank did.

    Some "soul" singers like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye have this same quality,as do select Caribbean singers,like Alton Ellis,and especially The Mighty Sparrow,who could sound very much like Frank at time,as could Jim Morrison,think Riders on The Storm.All of these singers have said in interviews that Frank Sinatra was as much an influence on them as anybody else was.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2013
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  19. Brian DeWitt

    Brian DeWitt Forum Resident

    I agree.
  20. Sully

    Sully Forum Resident

    Verona, NJ USA
    From what I've read over the decades, the consensus is Bing Crosby revolutionized singing into what is now known as the modern era. Before Bing you would hear entertainers talk singing or yelling for effect, cantors singing into megaphones, stuff like that. The mere act of singing was treated more as an effect rather than a work of art. Although not a big fan of Crosby, I can appreciate this hypothesis, especially since his career began years before Sinatra's. Bing was there near the beginning of the record business. Even stuff we would take for granted, like microphones, were new back then.
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  21. kennyluc1

    kennyluc1 Forum Resident

    In order to appreciate what FS brought to pop singing you have to go back to the big band era 1939-1942 and listen to the other popular singers of the day who made up his competition.

    Listen to Bob Eberle, listen to Vaughan Monroe, listen to Perry Como. Every singer from that era was copying Crosby. Sinatra was completely original. Even than he was more modern

    sounding than any of his competition. Except for maybe Billy Eckstine...all big band singers were still singing 1932...Sinatra moved Singing forward.
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  22. rogerdodger

    rogerdodger Well-Known Member

    Frank, great singer but revolutionalized? Well, I don't recall him using feedback, distortion, wah-wah or talk box!;)
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  23. rockledge

    rockledge Forum Resident

    right here
    I think this is probably it. He had the big star image but without the seemingly unapproachable Hollywood image. I think he created the good looking regular guy that was good at something important image. Bigger than life but not so big he wouldn't stop and talk to you kind of thing. I suspect he also had the "clean cut bad boy" image similar to what Elvis enjoyed later.
    The guy was pretty much to teenage girls what Bobby Sherman was during the rock era. The guy started the whole teen idol image as well. Swing music was then what rock n roll became between 1955 and 1980. The guy was the top singer of swing. He was the Elvis of swing.
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  24. rockledge

    rockledge Forum Resident

    right here
    The stuff shirts at the label wouldn't release it.
  25. Hippie Saint

    Hippie Saint Well-Known Member

    Not to forget, the two handed tapping tecnique on the vocal chords.:)
    rogerdodger likes this.
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