On Sinatra's Singing Style

While coming across the following passage in
Broadway Babies Say Goodnight  , I discovered another reason why I like Sinatra's singing style.

The author mentions the blue-eyed one in his discussion of Broadway's lack of melisma:
Broadway lyricists are not melisma men. They like songs to follow the cadences of speech, a note per syllable and long notes for important syllables. This is a good rule: in Sinatra’s almost 60-year recording career, he’s given melismas the bum’s rush, won’t go near ‘em, thinks they’re cheap and phoney. Today, in pop songs, with Barry White and Mariah Carey and a zillion others, we’re awash in melismas: is ‘love’ a more emotional word for being stretched out to ‘lu-u-u-u-u-u-urve’? This is fake soulfulness.
So that's why I get a little annoyed with the hooting, hollering, bellowing and groaning in some ballads. It totally takes you out of the moment and you're just listening to verbal gymnastics.  Sinatra sings a straight forward rendition of "Blue Skies" with the Dorsey band below. It's my favorite cover of the song. Yes, the band belts out a great deal of virtuosity (which I enjoy), but Sinatra's singing is beautifully unembellished.

As much as he largely avoided stretching a syllable too long, Sinatra was not above making up a lyric now and then, especially as he ... Aged? Became famous? Got bored?

In one version of Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," Sinatra turns this:

Oh, I'd love to climb a mountain
Or to reach the highest peak
But it doesn't thrill me half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek

But it doesn't boot me half as much
as dancing cheek to cheek

It's a little more in the vernacular, a bit more violent, like he just got kicked down by love - which is the opposite of the soaring rhetoric about heights in the previous lyrics. But it's so Sinatra - straight and to the point.

Or what about in "Goody, Goody," a breakup song where the singer is delighted that the ex has gotten the axe from the new lover? Instead of

And I hope you're satisfied
You rascal you

Sinatra sings

And I hope you're satisfied
'Cause you got yours

It's a little coarser, a little meaner, but it works. And it's so Sinatra.


  1. Would you welcome a comment from me, Java? I have been unforgiveably absent from your wonderful blog, but I hope you will forgive me anyway! I LOVE Sinatra. The clip you provided is such a great example of his voice and style. I know he was famous for and well loved by musicians for his phrasing of songs. I don't think it was until he got older that he started changing some words, probably in the 1960's. Whatever he does, I think he's great. And to me, the best examples of his singing and personality are in Pal Joey. I could listen to those songs a million times -- I probably have.

    I'll have to have a little time to catch up with you, but I will!

  2. Yes, I'd welcome a comment from you. Come right on in!

    I don't think I've watched Pal Joey all the way through. Kim Novak frightened me as a kid [probably the Hitchcock association], so I steered clear of her films for years. Now I have another reason to watch - Sinatra's voice. Thanks for the recommendation.


  3. Be sure you do see it. It's ridiculously romantic, so of course I love it! LOL! He sings "If they asked me, I could write a book" - "There's a small hotel" - and best of all, his quintessential performance of "The Lady is a Tramp" - best version of all.


Thanks for your contribution to Java's Journey.


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"Java's Journey: A really fun, informative well-written blog that explores all of the things - and I mean all - I love about classic films."-- Flick Chick of A Person In The Dark Email: java-rush@hotmail.com


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