September 14, 2010

The Chairman of the Board

Earlier this month I participated in the Fifteen Albums Meme, which asked that users name 15 memorable albums without giving it a whole lot of thought. Like you, I had a very tough time naming only fifteen, and as soon as I'd posted my list and asked friends for theirs, wanted to make some changes. I plan to return in awhile and put together a better list, but first...

In consideration of things musical, I recently watched VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. During the five hours of programming, I often agreed with which artists made the list, although I also often wondered at the rankings. But as the hours wound down, and this artist or that didn't make the list - the omission of Paul Simon, left me dumbfounded, and I found it hard to imagine such a list without CCR, No Doubt, and James Taylor - I started to squirm.

By the time there were only five slots left and I did the math in my head, I realized one man would be snubbed, and wondered how in the world that man, who defined "cool" for two decades, the man for whom every artist who has since donned a fedora owes his existence and very likely his credibility - from Run DMC, Jay Z, Steven Tyler, Justin Timberlake, and Michael Jackson (all of whom made the list, btw), to Dave Navarro, Kid Rock, and Neyo (who didn't) - was overlooked. I'm speaking, of course, about Frank Sinatra.

Yes, he criticized rock 'n' roll (maybe that's why VH1 left him out), and his later covers of some pop music was most definitely not among his best, but by then he was, comparably, like "fat Elvis." Frank in his prime was a like a modern rock god. Girls fainted when they saw him the way they did when the Beatles came to town. John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Alicia Keys all consider Sinatra iconic, but U2's Bono, once quoted as saying Sinatra "invented pop music," makes the credible link, surprisingly, not just from pop, but to rock: "Frank Sinatra didn't care much for rock music. The feeling is not mutual. Rock 'n' roll people love Frank because Frank has got what we want: swagger and attitude."

If Bono is correct, then we also have Sinatra to thank for Mick Jagger and Billie Joe Armstrong, another two of my favorite artists who made the VH1 list.

Personally I like Frank's up-tempo songs more than his ballads because he was a wonderful jazz singer, but if you've overlooked the Chairman of the Board in the past, go check him out. His songbook is immense, and as iTunes has only fifty of his songs, you may need to look elsewhere. As a fan of musical comedy, I would be remiss not to mention how terrific his performances are in many a movie, yet mentioning my favorites in this particular blogging doesn't advance my argument today...but it was a different time.


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