Frank Sinatra Jr., Singer Who Followed in His Father’s Footsteps, Dies at 72
By ELI ROSENBERGMARCH 17, 2016
Frank Sinatra greets his son Frank Jr. backstage at the Driftwood Lounge after the younger Sinatra’s performance with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in Las Vegas in 1963. John Cook/European Pressphoto Agency
Frank Sinatra Jr., who followed in the footsteps of a father who had largely been absent from his life growing up, pursuing a singing career of his own, appearing in nightclubs and later touring with the elder Sinatra as his musical director, died on Wednesday in Daytona Beach, Fla., while on tour. He was 72.
Mr. Sinatra had been scheduled to perform on Wednesday night at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach; his show, “Sinatra Sings Sinatra,” featured his renditions of his father’s famous songs, with orchestral accompaniment, stories and videos.
His career echoed his father’s from the start — he even sounded remarkably like him on stage — though it never reached the stratospheric heights of stardom Frank Sr. had known. At 19, Frank Jr. was singing with the Tommy Dorsey band, a version of the ensemble the elder Sinatra had sung with more than two decades before.
“Young Mr. Sinatra has taken careful note of every aspect of his father’s singing,” The New York Times wrote in 1963. “He knows — and projects — the inflections, the shading, the phrasing that his father used.”
Mr. Sinatra in 1971. He never had a hit record, but he continued to perform in Las Vegas and elsewhere.Las Vegas News Bureau, via European Pressphoto Agency
Later that year Frank Jr.’s name was in headlines nationwide when he was kidnapped at gunpoint from a casino in Nevada. He was freed, unharmed, a little more than two days later, after his father paid $240,000 in ransom.
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Three men, Barry Worthington Keenan, Joseph Clyde Amsler and John William Irwin, were convicted of the kidnapping, despite defense lawyers’ claim that it had been a publicity stunt. “The criminals invented a story that the whole thing was phony,” Mr. Sinatra said in an interview with The Guardian in 2012. “That was the stigma put on me.”
Unlike Nancy Sinatra, who reached the top of the pop singles charts with “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ ” in 1966, Mr. Sinatra never had a hit record. But he continued to perform in Las Vegas and elsewhere, releasing a handful of albums and making occasional television appearances.
He appeared as himself in two episodes of “Family Guy”; last year he sang the national anthem at Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers games.
He began touring with his father as the elder Sinatra’s conductor and musical director in the late 1980s. He had seen little of his father while growing up, and he said the role allowed them to form a bond, if only in his father’s last years. (Frank Sinatra died in 1998.)
Frank Sinatra Jr. and his band perform “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” in Las Vegas in 2010. Brian Jones/European Pressphoto Agency
“When I came on board, Sinatra was already 72,” he told The Guardian. “He was slowing down.”
Franklin Wayne Sinatra was born on Jan. 10, 1944, in Jersey City. His mother, the former Nancy Barbato, was Frank Sr.’s first wife. The two had met before he became a star — “the nice girl from the neighborhood his mother was determined he would marry,” as The Daily News of New York described her in 1998, adding that it was “a marriage made in Hoboken, not heaven.”
Frank Jr. — the “Jr.” was part of a stage name; his father’s full name was Francis Albert Sinatra — was the second of three children born to the couple, who divorced in 1951.
Besides his sister Nancy, Mr. Sinatra is survived by his mother; a son, Michael; and another sister, Tina Sinatra. Mr. Sinatra was married for two years in the late 1990s.
In an interview with The Daytona Beach News-Journal shortly before his death, Mr. Sinatra said he was not bitter about not having repeated his father’s success.
“I think in my generation, when I came along in the early ’60s, the type of music that was in vogue in society in those days had moved on to another kind of music,” he said. “I was trying to sell antiques in a modern appliance store.”
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