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Why Sinatra Matters

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  547 Ratings  ·  51 Reviews
In this unique homage to an American icon, journalist and award-winning author Pete Hamill evokes the essence of Sinatra--examining his art and his legend from the inside, as only a friend of many years could do. Shaped by Prohibition, the Depression, and war, Francis Albert Sinatra became the troubadour of urban loneliness. With his songs, he enabled millions of others to ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published May 14th 2003 by Back Bay Books (first published October 1st 1998)
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From the outset, the author states that he knew Sinatra personally and that this relationship would colour the tone of this book. This jettisoning of any attempt at impartiality immediately makes a mockery of the book's title. The fact that Hamill is a huge fan of Sinatra's body of work doesn't help. The author believes his subject to be important for personal reasons, so any attempt to prove Sinatra's importance to anybody else is for all intents and purposes doomed to fail from the start.

This works as a eulogy or paean, but you get very little of the title's promise.

It has a strong beginning. You see how the immigrant experience, being an only child with two busy parents in a neighborhood of big families and the influence of the World War II shaped him, but none of this shows why he matters.

There is one paragraph on how his songs of "tender and tough" defined a "new model for American masculinity (p. 97), but this is not developed.

There is some biographical info here, the only n
Carla JFCL
Dec 07, 2010 Carla JFCL rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a wonderful book, for a die-hard Sinatra fan like me. Anyone who has an interest in either music or history of the Prohibition/Depression/Jazz eras, or insight into immigration to the United States from Europe in the late 1800s/early 1900s would also enjoy it. It's not a "biography" in the classic sense, but rather the personal recollections of someone who knew and liked him. I especially enjoyed the section toward the end of the book where the author analyzes Sinatra's music; as a sing ...more
Christopher Rodriguez
Let me first say that I love Sinatra and I don't know much about history.

With that said, I loved reading about his life through the perspective of Pete Hamill. He writes in a way that focuses on the romance of FS's life. The challenge of an Italian singer coming out of the depression and as an American that was not able to serve but wished he could, even if only to prove to the other men in his generation that he was one of them. Or as FS might say, dem. The struggle of a man in love with the n
Lucero Arebalos
I'll first write out what I liked about the book. I liked the history. It was a bit of a more in-depth history lesson told by people who were there. Mr. Hamill tries to explain through historical reasons why Frank Sinatra was the way he was. Why he was angry, why he was connected to the mob at one point, and so on and so on.

Now, what I did not like about the book (and what ruined it for me really) was that Mr. Hamill placed Frank Sinatra on such a high pedestal. He wrote about him in such a way
May 29, 2016 Elsabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
History, the story of an era and that of a very interesting man told by n brilliant writer- just the thing for the making of another reading experience to make my life happy!
No doubt about it, I love the writing of Pete Hamill and I can't believe the joy of getting to know what Sinatra and life was like in the 1900's.
Of course our author is the expert on NYC, and here he colours the picture of the apple with the hues of music and the celebrities of the day.
Michael Barcas
Aug 14, 2014 Michael Barcas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be in the library of any Sinatraphile. Not gossipy; in the sense, not a white coat's assessment of Sinatra's psyche. A portrait of a man alone-had it all, lose it, and gaining it with massive success + revenge. Pure class. Good with Tennessee Whiskey and LPs (Columbia, Capitol, Reprise, or bootlegs.)

I read this when I was college ('08) FEB. 14, 2014. [There's a heartbreak) Instead of shotgun (kill) or jumping off Sta. Cruz Bridge (Manila), I chose insomniac reading and listened
LeAnn Swieczkowski
Nov 28, 2015 LeAnn Swieczkowski rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sinatra fans and history buffs
Recommended to LeAnn by: Don't recall
I don't recall anything I read about this book the first time so I had to reread it. With a title like, "Why Sinatra Matters" I had to recall what Pete Hamill had to say. So I took the book off the shelf and read it again. I'm so glad I did. Especially during the 100th anniversary of his birth. Its amazing that Hamill could fit so much history into this little book (only 180 pages in a small format). Hamill discusses Sinatra's grandparents and parents during their immigrant years and the discrim ...more
Richard Stueber
Jan 13, 2013 Richard Stueber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slender volume telling the story of Frank Sinatra and why he was important not only to music but also to the flow of American culture and life. There are lots of other books about Frank, but this would be a good place to start. The songs from "In the Wee Small Hours" said that in spite of loss, abandonment, defeat - you could get through the night. And Saturday night is the loneliest night of the week.
Leonardo Donofrio
Jan 16, 2016 Leonardo Donofrio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first 30 pages of this book captured more the essence of Sinatra than some of the other 300 page biographies out there, and the portrait of him drinking and swapping stories with his cronies in the smoky wee small hours, with the obligatory juke box playing in the corner, was an utter joy and set the tone perfectly. Hamill actually spent time with Sinatra, in after hour saloons, riding in the back of cabs, and the snippets of conversation he remembers imbues the book with the indomitable per ...more
Mar 23, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The opening, exquisitely written chapter makes it worth it, as Hamill recalls an evening at Frank's table in an after-midnight gathering at a bar, when Frank raised the question: Fitzgerald or Hemingway? And offered his answer. I also appreciated the carefully chosen epigraphs for each section.
Oct 15, 2013 Rich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only a history of one of the great singers of our time, but also some fascinating heritage information about Italian immigrants in NYC and NJ. All around fascinating...
Gail Klein
Let me start by saying I am a HUGE fan of Pete Hamill. Maybe I expected something different but I was somewhat disappointed by this book. The book is a creative narrative of Sinatra's life but I was left with a very mediocre feeling about this man's life. I think the first half of the book where Hamill talks about Frank's youth and influences were enjoyable and a clear picture of him was drawn. As the book continues and as Sinatra's career wavers, the pictures of him get a little more fuzzy and ...more
Victor Caamaño
May 20, 2016 Victor Caamaño rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Pete Hamill is an amazing writer. I felt like I was back in Brooklyn, drinking in "an old man's bar" with the stink of old scotch in the air. I had a marvelous though brief encounter with Sinatra. He was kind, generous and scary. And his eyes were so blue. Hamill took me on a brief journey through Jersey to Italy and back to Jersey, and Las Vegas. I learned quite a bit about the Italian American story, a topic I never appreciated before. I highly recommend this book. A fast and oh so pleasu ...more
Royal Dun
Feb 03, 2014 Royal Dun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the second time i read Pete Hamill's tribute to Sinatra. In the decade since my first reading, age has enhanced my appreciation for the people and events of my life. I grew up in the 50's and 60's and Sinatra was in his comeback. I fondly remember the Sinatra's music, acting, and comedy buts with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Joey Bishop during the Rat-Pack era. Hamill's book gave me a great insight into the early life and career of Old Blue Eyes.

Hamill writes from his personal asso
Pete Hamill and Frank Sinatra make a great pair. As a sometime singer, I have learned, like Frank said and Pete tells us, that your instrument is not so much your voice as it is the microphone. I learned from this book that Frank kind of invented the album -- the idea of a long, connected musical experience. I already knew, but enjoyed reading about, the brilliance of Nelson Riddle. If anything I've said here so made you feel a pang, you should read this book.
Jan 31, 2016 Christina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved it. Pete Hamill is a great author and did a fantastic job of bringing to Sinatra to life. I really enjoyed learning about the influence of immigrants on the music industry and further how Italian and Irish immigrants united American people through their song. I never knew the difference between Sinatra's WWII tunes and Bill Cosby's WWII tunes.
Richard Wheeler
May 01, 2012 Richard Wheeler rated it liked it
In many ways this is a fine remembrance. But it focuses so heavily on the milieu in which Sinatra grew up, and the impact of all these prejudices and traditions, that one might assume that Frank Sinatra himself played only a minimal role in what he eventually became, the finest male vocalist the nation has ever had. What is almost absent here is the way Sinatra consciously shaped his life, employing his own independent will and genius, making choices that led to greatness. This trendy environmen ...more
Todd baron
Parts of this book fascinated me. The discussion of why it's important to remember his push and struggles as purely American . By the end I wasn't so engaged tho. The facts then started to feel less important. I wanted more mythology. No matter. The voice I grew up with and abandoned was and is one of the most memorable and moving. The book is a solid good read.
Linda Taylor
May 30, 2016 Linda Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pete Hamill is starting to become one of my favorite authors! Loved this little book about Sinatra. My interest for Sinatra and his music and movies comes from my father and I bought this book for him, but knew I'd want to read it too. Hamill has a great way to write history and the book does as much to tell about Sinatra as it does the times during which he lived: the story of Italian-American immigrants, Prohibition, the World Wars, and the depression. I also loved hearing about the musicians ...more
Anna Fenoglio Tift
Loved this little book! About Sinatra, but also Italian-Americans of that generation. Hamill knew Sinatra which was a nice touch.
Garrett Cash
I read this a long time ago, I remember thinking it was interesting but not being crazy about Hamill's tone.
May 10, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written (although kinda slight) essay on Sinatra's early life and recording career up to his initial work with Nelson Riddle. Never really does justice to the thesis as to "Why Sinatra Matters" but still pretty enjoyable.
May 10, 2015 Ellyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
interesting - lots of detail about his music, but it wasn't what i thought it would be about. i do love Pete Hamill's writing, though.
Jan 11, 2016 Cathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book! When I reviewed this book for my Book Club Members, they were so taken with the way Pete Hamill portrayed the subject that they elected to add it to our Book Club Monthly list for February.
Jun 13, 2016 Alexis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and different view of Sinatra.
Nov 13, 2013 Pmacke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music
any day is a little better with a sinatra song or anecdote ... this is a breezy review of why sinatra will always be cool, and the main reason? the music, over 1300 recordings according to hamill ... another interesting note hamill makes is that sinatra is one of the very rare examples of an entertainer/icon, that first appealed almost exclusively to women, but then became super relevant and iconic to men ... you need to spend a lonely night with frank
Oct 30, 2012 Kay rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sweet little book about Sinatra's impact on both music and the italian American experience in the early and middle parts of the 20th century. Since I have always been a huge fan of the Chairman of the board and have seen many of his movies, I knew most of the songs and movies tha Hamill described. I finished this by flashlight since we have no power so I could not get out my collection of Sinatra CDs but I will listen to some soon.
Todd Johnson
Maybe this book resonates differently when read in 1998. At this point, the history of Sinatra's life is well covered territory. That leaves us with the premise of why Sinatra matters. I think the book fails at laying out these reasons clearly upfront and paying them off through the story of his life. These elements are in the book, they're just not organized in an order that supports the title.
Jul 17, 2013 Carter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful little elegy written shortly after Sinatra's death. Hamill is a great writer, a great New Yorker, and the book is especially sharp in explaining the social context from which Frank emerged -- how he was shaped, and how he shaped the lives and times of the first generation American-born urban youth, and the impact of world wars, the Red Scare on his career and personal life.
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Pete Hamill is a novelist, essayist and journalist whose career has endured for more than forty years. He was born in Brooklyn, N. Y. in 1935, the oldest of seven children of immigrants from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He attended Catholic schools as a child. He left school at 16 to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a sheetmetal worker, and then went on to the United States Navy. While serving in t ...more
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“the voice was deeper, richer, with more timbre,” 0 likes
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