The Voice Lives On - by Dan Rather
He was one of them - one of just a few who define an era, a style, a pinpoint in time with just one name. One name that summarized a life's work, and a century's voice. Sinatra.
As the tributes pour in and the superlatives flow on, it may be time to remember why Frank Sinatra captivated us so. Why that voice, that manner, meant so much to so many.
He lived a complicated personal life, clouded by rumor and innuendo, by whispers and outbursts. That was certainly part of the Sinatra allure: the journey from the streets of Hoboken, to the stages of New York, and Las Vegas, and Hollywood, attracting wives and hangers-on and one or two shady characters along the way.
But the heart and soul of Sinatra went deeper than that. We know that because wherever we were, he was there with us.
He was there as the bread lines formed and lonely men looked for work. He was there as the soldiers marched, and the USOs became crowded with desperate and frightened couples clinging to each other on the dance floor. He was there when the soldiers came home, and factories filled, and a nation swelled with high hopes. He was there when those hopes exploded and the flags burned, and the music and the melodies no longer belonged to him.
But something of him belonged to America. It was Sinatra who sang to us when we fell in love, or fell apart, when we wanted to dance, when we wanted to give in to despair. It was Sinatra who became the troubadour for our troubled century - who made his music our music.
Sinatra endured changes in fashion and fads, endured even as that celebrated voice lost its luster. He changed from singing moody ballads to singing jaunty tunes, and carried his audience along for the ride. And what a ride it was.
Sinatra aged, but remained ageless. Early images of him were of a gawky kid with the big bow ties and a heavy microphone. In the autumn of his life, the public saw a weary warhorse with dim eyes but a yearning to give voice to whatever was on his mind, or in his heart.
His was a world of strangers in the night. Of cities that never sleep, of witchcraft, and love and marriage. A world as real as a shot glass, as foggy as a dream.
In the end, he left us a legacy of music and memories, to revisit again and again, as near as the radio, or the stereo. Sinatra is gone, but The Voice lives on.
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