Sinatra: Behind the Legend by J. Randy Taraborelli

Having had a life-long fascination with Marilyn Monroe, I’ve found myself interested in those who were inextricably linked to her. Frank Sinatra is one such character. I’ve read a couple of biographies about Sinatra but I was really interested to read J. Randy Taraborelli’s biography after reading his fascinating insight into Marilyn Monroe previously. Truth be told, I mithered my better half to get me this book for Valentine’s Day, which he did, and I thought it would be gracious to read it before the next Valentine’s Day comes and goes! With that in mind, it has been my first book of 2017.

Taraborelli charts Sinatra’s life in wonderful bite-size chapters from his birth to his death, leaving no stone unturned, to find out the truth about Ol’ Blue Eyes, his friends, his women, his links to the mob and his often-violent temper. I’d read a lot of what is recounted in this book in previous biographies but Taraborelli seems to dig a little deeper and tells some anecdotes I wasn’t aware of.

This is a balanced biography that doesn’t glorify Sinatra where it isn’t deserved (he had a reputation for being a nasty piece of work at times) but shows a huge respect for his contribution to music, film and for that wonderfully unique, never-replicated voice that could portray a myriad of emotions with every carefully orchestrated word. Sinatra was a man of flaws, a vile temper, a man who could compartmentalise his life to extremes, cutting people out without a second thought and caring little of how his actions affected others.

Yet he was revered, by his family, his peers and his fans. Generous in many ways, those closest to him accepted him for what he was and learned how to handle him. His support for those who he felt were being persecuted illuminates his determination to right some of the worlds wrongs but which often made him unpopular in the eyes of some. Sinatra was a man of integrity and pride. He would be a best friend or worst enemy – nowhere in between.

Taraborelli does a fantastic job of showing Sinatra’s multi-faceted personality – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. For the most part though, whilst not excusing Sinatra for his bad behaviour, he leaves the reader wishing they could have known the “Chairman of the Board” and surmises just how much he was influenced by others along the way.

Undoubtedly, Sinatra could be cruel. His treatment of Lauren Bacall was harrowing to read but likewise was the many encounters he had with second wife Ava Gardner, who was toxic to Sinatra, yet seemed to be the true “love of his life”. I wonder how much of his life choices were determined by his feelings for Miss Gardner and whether their union was ultimately Sinatra’s major downfall.

Taraborelli has done a lot of research to corroborate the many claims made about Sinatra and has done a wonderful job of bringing it all together to give a rounded view of the life of a true Hollywood legend. I enjoyed reading this book from cover to cover and whilst it is a chunky book to read, it needs every last page to give the reader the true picture of the man behind that amazing voice.