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Frank: The Voice [Kindle Edition]

James Kaplan
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $19.95
Kindle Price: $10.99
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Bestselling author James Kaplan redefines Frank Sinatra in a triumphant new biography that includes many rarely seen photographs.

Frank Sinatra was the best-known entertainer of the twenti­eth century—infinitely charismatic, lionized and notori­ous in equal measure. But despite his mammoth fame, Sinatra the man has remained an enigma. As Bob Spitz did with the Beatles, Tina Brown for Diana, and Peter Guralnick for Elvis, James Kaplan goes behind the legend and hype to bring alive a force that changed popular culture in fundamental ways.

Sinatra endowed the songs he sang with the explosive conflict of his own personality. He also made the very act of listening to pop music a more personal experience than it had ever been. In Frank: The Voice, Kaplan reveals how he did it, bringing deeper insight than ever before to the complex psyche and tur­bulent life behind that incomparable vocal instrument. We relive the years 1915 to 1954 in glistening detail, experiencing as if for the first time Sinatra’s journey from the streets of Hoboken, his fall from the apex of celebrity, and his Oscar-winning return in From Here to Eternity. Here at last is the biographer who makes the reader feel what it was really like to be Frank Sinatra—as man, as musician, as tortured genius.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews Review

Peter Bogdanovich Reviews Frank: The Voice

Peter Bogdanovich is an acclaimed director, producer, writer, actor, film critic, and author. He has directed over 25 feature films, including international award winners The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc?, and Paper Moon. Read his review of Frank: The Voice:

There has never been a book of this kind or quality about Frank Sinatra. Like the formidable novelist he is, James Kaplan has somehow managed to get inside the man and the legend, to such a degree that you feel you are living Sinatra’s life with him, almost day by day. Yet it is the fastest read.

From his violent, deforming, traumatic birth, through his Hoboken childhood with a super-dominating mother and a weak father, through the heady, unprecedented bobby-sox years, his young marriage to the virtually saint-like Nancy, their three kids, his numerous--almost serial--infidelities, through the tumultuous affair with Ava Gardner--detailed as never before--through the much-frowned-on divorce, the suicide attempts, rivetingly onward through the near total collapse of his career, and right up through the miraculous comeback with the Oscar for From Here to Eternity,this book tells it all with the freshness of the first time, in the most engrossing and evocative prose. There is compassion and candor, and a profound sense of real lives being lived.

Sinatra the musician has never been taken as seriously or chronicled with such sensitivity and depth; it has never been as clear how very much the singer had to do with all aspects of his recordings and performances. This is a warts-and-all work, with a staggering amount of research to back everything up, revealing Nancy Sr. in all her grace, and Frank in all his moods, but it is never salacious or malicious, only honest, forthright and civilized. Nobody can be prepared for the life of a phenomenon--which Sinatra was--the first show business phenomenon of the 20th century, long before Elvis or the Beatles, and far more complicated and multi-layered. Being very human, Frank did the best he could with it all, and James Kaplan has done a magnificently resonant chronicle of the first half of an incredible journey. It leaves you hungering for the second volume!

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this riveting and fast-paced biography, Kaplan, coauthor with Jerry Lewis of Dean and Me, chronicles Sinatra's somewhat unlikely meteoric ascent to success, his failures, and his rebirth as a star of song and screen. With exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, detail, Kaplan engagingly re-creates the young Sinatra's childhood in Hoboken, N.J., where young Frank was born, in 1915. By the time he was 12, Sinatra was singing for quarters on top of the piano in the bar in his father's tavern. At 21, Frankie joined a group that became known as the Hoboken Four, and everyone soon recognized Sinatra's great vocal gift. Kaplan expertly conducts us on a journey through Sinatra's early years with Tommy Dorsey and his long solo career; Sinatra's first marriage to Nancy Barbato and his more famous marriage to Ava Gardner; and through Sinatra's movie career and his rebirth in the early 1950s. Although Sinatra's career often faltered in the late 1940s, his partnership with Nelson Riddle and the release of the song "Young at Heart" in 1953 began Sinatra's comeback. Kaplan's enthralling tale of an American icon serves as an introduction of "old blue eyes" to a new generation of listeners while winning the hearts of Sinatra's diehard fans. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2805 KB
  • Print Length: 802 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0767924231
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (November 2, 2010)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003F3PMFM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #201,168 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
101 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex Life of an Icon November 9, 2010
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a unique study of Frank Sinatra. The author, James Kaplan, begins with Frank's upbringing in New Jersey and tells of the lifelong influence of his dominating mother, Dolly. Frank was loved and abused at the same time. Dolly would treat him as a little prince and because of her political connections and powerful personality would open doors for him. At the same time, she would physically and psychologically bully him and leave him vulnerable.

The biography unfolds and talks about Frank's young years of becoming a singer. It is filled with figures of the era - musicians, talent agents, gang members, struggling singers, song writers, and other figures fill the pages. The book teems with these figures as the 1930's and 1940's national politics made them popular. Frank would gravitate towards one figure, for example, Harry James, and then after he felt that he had nothing more to learn, he would choose another person, such as Benny Goodman. All around the talented performers were the temptations of beautiful women, drugs, and alcohol.

Frank vacillated between two types of women represented by his first wife, Nancy, and his second wife, Ava Gardner. While his first wife represented security and steadiness; Ava filled him with passion and obsession. These two women, along with his mother, allow the reader see why Frank was the sensitive, angry, rebellious, and haughty person that he came to be.

The author is also very good at describing how the music was made and how Frank made his unique songs. He describes Frank's watching and imitating other musicians to make his music better. Many times, the author will select a certain song and show how Frank and his orchestra got to its heart and made the song unforgettable.
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41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
This is a wonderfully written, marvelously entertaining full throated biography of Frank Sinatra. If for a moment you think reading 700 pages is more than you want to take on with such a flawed and hedonistic personality as Sinatra I can state categorically that you will turn the pages fast and find every one filled with entertaining insights. Kaplan's writing is conversationalist offering a style that is effortless, breezy, and always fun. (I had previously read Kaplan's fun book DEAN AND ME which he co-wrote with Jerry Lewis.) To my surprise this book only covers Sinatra through his wining of the Academy Award in 1954. There is no mention of a future volume 2 but it's hard to believe it's not in the works. Kaplan has a unique ability to explain both the business side and creative side of Sinatra's music (and of many other artist of the era). But its Sinatra's personal life, value judgments, relationships and self doubt and huge personal drive of ambition that takes center stage. He almost dies at birth and he is born to a strong willed Mother which are events that seem to overwhelm his self worth. Insecure, he trusts no one and maintains relationship so long as they enhance his ambition. The story of Sinatra's meeting and dysfunctional marriage to Ava Gardner is incredible. Gardner appears to have been a woman of extremely good looks, with insatiable sexual appetites, and like Sinatra himself so insecure that she could not control her self destructive impulses. Sinatra is her match in dysfunction as he pines and chases her across the globe. You begin to wonder how they had the energy to live such lives. Kaplan lays out the moves that Sinatra made that earned him is professional success, insights into his relationships with the mob, his huge career tailspin and ultimate career turnaround. Read more ›
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Sinatra bio ring-a-ding-dings! November 24, 2010
Stayed up until 1 a.m. to finish "Frank: The Voice," James Kaplan's swinging, zinging new biography of Frank Sinatra.

If you've read anything else on the Chairman of the Board -- and there's plenty out there -- forget it. This is it, king of the hill, A-No. 1, top of the heap.

Kaplan writes in a fluid, fun style, irreverent, sweet, sometimes vulgar -- much like its subject. Yes, you get all those naughty details about dalliances and "dames" (as Sinatra would have called them), but Kaplan doesn't forget that Sinatra was a singer, an artist, and the music is why he matters.

It stops in 1954, right after the "From Here to Eternity" triumph and Frankie's split with the stunning Ava Gardner. Here's hoping that means that part two isn't far behind.

Peter Guralnick gave Elvis his due in "Last Train to Memphis" and "Careless Love." Kaplan has done so here for Ol' Blue Eyes. This is the biography he deserves, a ring-a-ding-ding kind of gasser, as alive and kickin' as one of Sinatra's best singles.

If you love The Voice, don't miss this book.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Volume One! March 13, 2011
This is just a bit of a "heads up",if you are thinking of buying this book.I found it very, very, readable. AND THEN IT ENDED.In 1954!! Personally, I think Sinatra's life was at least as interesting in his later years,if not more so, and I had no idea that the book was not a full biography.I think this should have been called "Volume One".
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan is an outstanding biogaphy of Frank Sinatra (1915-98) the Hoboken Italian lad who became a national icon and is, arguably, the greatest singer of the American Songbook!
Frank Sinatra was born to poor first generation Italian parents in December, 1915. His father Mannie was illiterate and worked as a city fireman. His mother Dolly was a brilliant woman who spoke several languages. Dolly was also a midwife, abortionist and dabbled in local politics. She was a tough mother of whom her only child Francis Albert was frightened.
Frank began singing in local clubs in New Jersey and New York marrying the lovely Nancy Barbato. Nancy would have one abortion. The family were Roman Catholic. Nancy was a charming, intelligent woman who was a faithful wife and mother to the children: Nancy, Frank and Tina.
Sinatra hit the jackpot when he moved from being a band singer with Harry James to the prestigious Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Dorsey was tough on Sinatra who soared to fame with several hits in the late 30s and early 40s. Sinatra was 4-F during the
war as the result of a perforated eardrum and emotional instability. Sinatra was called a draft dodger by G.I's and others but was loved by the female bobby soxers who attended his concerts in great numbers.
Kaplan has done his research and is quite adept at analyzing Sinatra's style and song choices. The book is detailed in its account of Sinatra's business dealings with his record companies most notably Columbia and Capitol. Sinatra was a genius as a singer hiring great arrangers such as Nelson Riddle to get the sound the singer most desired. Sinatra's early idol was Bing Crosby.
Sinatra was a complex man who was moody and mecurial. Among the traits evident in this over 700 pages tome:
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 13 hours ago by James Ross Wade
5.0 out of 5 stars A real-life thrill ride
It's all here. The formidable mother and emotionally absent father ... the burning ambition ... the Big Band era ... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Noneofyourbiz
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but incomplete
It only covers the first part of his career and none of the RatPack days
Published 4 days ago by JMOregon
5.0 out of 5 stars Sympathetic, Unsensational view of a complicated character!
In honor of Frank's centennial I decided to read one or two bios. This and the one by John Lahr are both excellent. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Philip A Forbes
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Sinatra Biog I've read by far - packed with ...
Best Sinatra Biog I've read by far - packed with fascinating details but never gets dull - could have read another tome on his life by Kaplan straight after. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Nick Cambodia
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Tons of pages that do not add to the understanding.
Published 1 month ago by david barnett
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book arrived promptly. Thanks.
Published 1 month ago by Arthur J. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars This one is good and really allows one to feel the flavor of ...
A very helpful biography. In my experience, biographies of celebrities (including autobiographies) are very uneven in quality and accurate content. Read more
Published 2 months ago by william shapiro
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book on Frank Sinatra
Great Book. My dad loved it and he is 95 years old! A very easy read. Now we need the next part
of the story from 1954 on!
Published 4 months ago by Penelope
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 4 months ago by Chandler Grabowski
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More About the Author

JAMES KAPLAN has been writing about people and ideas in business and popular culture, as well as noted fiction (Best American Short Stories), for over three decades. His essays and reviews, as well as more than a hundred major profiles of figures ranging from Madonna to Helen Gurley Brown, Calvin Klein to John Updike, Miles Davis to Meryl Streep, and Arthur Miller to Larry David, have appeared in many magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and New York. His first novel, Pearl's Progress, was published by Knopf in 1989. His nonfiction portrait of John F. Kennedy International Airport, The Airport (1994) -- called "a splendid book" by Gay Talese -- remains a classic of aviation literature and New York storytelling. His second novel, Two Guys From Verona -- published in 1998 by Atlantic Monthly Press, and chosen by The New York Times as one of its Notable Books of the Year -- is being developed as a movie by Jeremy Garelick, screenwriter of The Break-Up and The Hangover. In 2002 Kaplan co-authored the autobiography of John McEnroe, You Cannot Be Serious, which was an international bestseller (and number one on the New York Times list). His 2005 book Dean and Me: A Love Story, co-written with Jerry Lewis and published by Doubleday, was a New York Times bestseller as well. In November 2010, Doubleday published Frank: The Voice, the first volume of Kaplan's definitive biography of Frank Sinatra. The book was also a New York Times bestseller, and was chosen by Times chief book critic Michiko Kakutani as one of her Top Ten Books of 2010. James Kaplan lives in Westchester, New York, with his wife and three sons. You can visit his website at

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I loved the James Kaplan book - was left wanting more - he needs to write the rest of the story, he does it so well. I must add that I have read every book on Sinatra available, as I admit to being a junkie on the man. Can't wait till the Barbara Sinatra version is released - I'm sure she knew... Read More
Jan 14, 2011 by Suellen G. Zimet |  See all 2 posts
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