BOB DYLAN AND FRANK SINATRA (Part 2)
When I think of Sinatra, I think of Vegas and jet-setting, glamour and riches. Sinatra was the king of kings in the entertainment culture in the mid to late 20th century. Johnny Carson, himself a star maker and big Hollywood light, drew a line between Sinatra and everyone else who appeared on his show. Carson was in awe of Sinatra and did not care who knew it. Frank was the man, the ultimate in cool, the ultimate in style and taste. Where Frank was, that was the place to be.
And his songs perpetuated the myth. At least some of them. Here’s a line from “Come Fly With Me: ” Come fly with me, come fly, let’s fly away. If you could use some exotic booze, there’s a bar in far Bombay. . . “
And there it is – pleasure, money, sophistication. Devil may care. He is in with the in crowd.
But Dylan’s tribute to Sinatra teaches us that not all of Frank’s work was that way. Take, for example, the song “Stay With Me,” recorded by Frank in the early sixties and that Dylan includes in this 2015 collection. That song, the theme from the movie “The Cardinal” is a soul searching ballad of humility and repentance. “That Lucky Old Sun” is a plaintive and heart-rending cry of a manual laborer, lost in the rush and grind of life. And Sinatra interpreted both songs beautifully and convincingly – as does Dylan.
Vocal quality is not the only great difference between Dylan and Sinatra. The image of Sinatra was of a man right at home amid the luxuries and complexities of high society. One of his nicknames was “The Chairman of The Board.” Dylan, on the other hand, was a twentieth century version of John the Baptist. A voice crying in the wilderness. A man who lived outside the city walls and ate honey and locusts and spoke of judgement to come.
How unusual and how interesting, then, is this very deliberate tribute. Dylan sees what he has in common with Frank. They are both singers. Both musicians. Both of them interpreters of lyrics. Both of them know a good song when they hear it and both of them know how to get a great song across.