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Was Frank Sinatra Dangerous?

“Dangerous” is an overused term in show business. As overused as the opposite quality tagged on artists and performers: “genius”. Both are often used to describe someone with a “bad attitude” difficult to interview and whose performances required a bit of heavy thinking and drinking.

Frank Sinatra certainly had a few anger management issues, especially when faced with reporter’s microphone or camera; but his music was anything but “difficult”. Largely aimed at the emotions not the intellect; it goes down as smoothly as his trademark two fingers of Jack Daniel’s and a splash of water.

So was he “dangerous”? He certainly was to parents of the 1940’s bobbysoxers who swooned at his deep blue eyes and “bad boy” reputation. He was also a danger to Bing Crosby’s dominance as a crooner.

Crosby’s bass-baritone had been the beneficiary of the shift from acoustical to electronic recording; meaning singers no longer had to sing over a blaring brass section to be heard.

In the 1930’s Bing Crosby was the most popular voice in music, but then Sinatra arrived with a style that showed none of Bing’s paternal, pipe smoking crooning. Sinatra’s style was cigarettes and whisky. It was Sinatra who set the stage for Elvis and the other “bad-boy” bands that followed. Sinatra had 20th Century sex appeal that made parents, and the authorities, nervous.

Sinatra’s popularity and his background in “street politics” were enough for the FBI to open a file on him in the 1940s. That file grew to over 2,000 pages, including his rumored connections with organized crime. But his anti-racist, liberal politics, and close friendship with Jack Kennedy, was almost as controversial.

The danger and the gift of Frank Sinatra was the ability to understand people who had been too close to the fire: that was Frank Sinatra.