Before teenage girls went crazy for One Direction or even the Beatles, there was Sinatramania. Frank Sinatra’s bobby-soxer fans — as they were known for their fashionable footwear — screamed and swooned and even caused riots at concerts in the 1940s, getting into fights over the iconic bow ties Ol’ Blue Eyes liked to toss into the audience. Through April 1, you can see some of the Swoonatra’s surviving bow ties (made by his first wife, Nancy), along with a dozen other items from the National Museum of American History’s collections. Celebrating the crooner’s centennial — he was born on Dec. 12, 1915 — “Frank Sinatra at 100” also features portraits, archival photos, sheet music, album covers and the trench coat and hat he wore on the set of the 1957 film “Pal Joey.” “Sinatra is timeless,” says John Edward Hasse, curator of the display. “He’s simply the best interpreter of American popular song this country’s ever had.”
National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW; through April 1, free.
‘Tips on Popular Singing’
Frank Sinatra wrote this book with his vocal coach in the early 1940s. Curator John Edward Hasse notes that the extremely rare book contains useful advice on every aspect of singing, from breathing to enunciating. “One of the tips is to sing a seven-note arpeggio to ‘let us wander by the bay’ in all 12 keys,” Hasse says. It’s an exercise Sinatra himself often used to warm up before concerts.
‘The Voice of Frank Sinatra’
By the mid 1940s, Sinatra already had several nicknames, including The Voice. “Sinatra had a real talent for understanding that singing was a full-body experience,” Hasse says, “bringing the emotion behind every word to life.” Although Sinatra was already well-known and had about a hundred singles under his belt, he didn’t release his first studio album until 1946. Aptly named “The Voice of Frank Sinatra,” the album topped the Billboard chart for seven weeks.
‘The Man With the Golden Arm’
“Sinatra will be remembered primarily as a great singer, but he was also a fine actor,” Hasse says, pointing out that the star’s singing and acting came from the same place. “When he interpreted songs, he was acting out the emotions of the songs through his voice.” Sinatra was nominated for an Oscar for his lead role in the 1955 noir “The Man With the Golden Arm.” (He lost, but he did win for his supporting role in 1953’s “From Here to Eternity.”)
Can’t get enough of the Sultan of Swoon? On Tuesday, Smithsonian Associates presents an evening program at the Hirshhorn, “Singer Frank Sinatra: He Set the Standard. Period” (6:45 p.m., $42), full of rare archival footage. The following weekend, you can see Sinatra, Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak in the movie musical “Pal Joey,” at one of six free screenings Dec. 5 and 6 at the National Museum of American History.
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