Monday, March 5, 2018

Sinatra’s last performance

Here, in audio only, is Frank Sinatra’s last performance, from the Palm Desert Marriott Ballroom, Palm Desert, California, February 25, 1995. The occasion: a short performance for the closing of the Frank Sinatra Golf Tournament. Six songs: “I've Got The World On A String” (Harold Arlen–Ted Koehler), “You Make Me Feel So Young” (Josef Myrow–Mack Gordon), “Fly Me To The Moon” (Bart Howard), “Where or When” (Richard Rodgers–Lorenz Hart), “My Kind Of Town” (Jimmy Van Heusen–Sammy Cahn), and “The Best Is Yet To Come” (Cy Coleman–Carolyn Leigh). Sinatra is no doubt reading lyrics from teleprompters throughout. The orchestra is led by his son, Frank Jr.

My favorite moments:

~ in “I've Got The World On A String,” the choice Sinatra word marvelous (with mid-Atlantic prounciation) substituting for beautiful

~ the second chorus of “You Make Me Feel So Young”

~ the mid-Atlantic pronunciation of worship in “Fly to the Moon”

~ all of “Where or When,” with a singer sounding decades younger

~ all of “The Best Is Yet to Come”

That last song here sounds to me like the best of the six. The start is not promising — Sinatra asks “Who wrote this?” and misses his entrance. His pianist, Bill Miller, covers perfectly. I love the “aah” at 21:08 and the way Sinatra softens his voice in the final bars, before shifting to a growl. As in “Where or When,” he sounds like a much younger singer.

According to Jonathan Schwartz’s eyewitness account, “And Now the End is Near” (Esquire, May 1995), Sinatra was supposed to sing just the first four songs, a short set put together by Frank Jr. Thank goodness that the impromptu additions did not include “My Way” or “New York, New York.”

Years later, on his radio show, Schwartz said that he had asked an Esquire editor if the magazine would be interested in an article about what would be Sinatra’s last performance. How did Schwartz know it would be the last? “Trust me on this,” Schwartz told the editor. The event drew no other notice from the press.

Frank Sinatra died in 1998. On his gravestone: “The Best Is Yet to Come.”

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