In his Dec. 10 op-ed, “The Frank Sinatra we remember,” George F. Will suggested that Frank Sinatra “unquestionably was the greatest singer of American songs.” He may be right. Unfortunately, he muddied his notion of Sinatra’s legacy by comparing the lyrics of “Summer Wind” by Johnny Mercer with Mick Jagger’s lyrics to the Rolling Stones’ mega-hit “ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
Will cited 12 complete lines from “Summer Wind” and only two lines from Jagger’s lyrics co-written with Keith Richards. Not fair evidence.
Will seems to have a hang-up about rock-and-roll music. He recently mocked John Lennon as a songwriter, vilifying him for his lyrics to “Imagine,” now a worldwide anthem of hope [“Dump Trump for Christie,” op-ed, Nov. 19]. And now he uses the Stones to say that this kind of popular music is not worthwhile. I guess Will hasn’t heard the lyrics of popular American songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen, among hundreds of others of similar stature. (Notably, part of the Paris tragedy was the attack on a popular rock-and-roll venue, its patrons and the band onstage.)
Praise be to Sinatra’s musical artistry, but praise be to all the great American rock-and-roll, soul and blues songwriters who have come to define our times, inspire millions of people throughout the world and continue to extend the tradition of the Great American Songbook.
Chris Murray, Washington
Sadly, George F. Will’s disingenuousness and logical fallacies with respect to popular culture know no limits.
In the wake of his crude deconstruction of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” he has now compared Mick Jagger and Keith Richards’s 1965 “ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with the Johnny Mercer adaptation of “Summer Wind” sung by Frank Sinatra in 1966.
Jagger and Richards were 22 and 21 years old, respectively, at the time of their first big hit; Sinatra, who never wrote songs, was 50 and able to command a stable of the finest songwriters of his era. Will’s comparison is neither equivalent nor fair, but it is in keeping with the mean-spirited animus he consistently maintains toward the Vietnam generation.
Comparing the plangent lyrics of “Summer Wind” with anything written by Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, or with the mature works of Lennon-Paul McCartney or Jagger-Richards, would be equitable.
Bob Feldmann, Annapolis
George F. Will quoted lyrics from two types of music: raw 1960s rock-and-roll and an orchestrated romantic ballad. Will’s areas of expertise are politics and baseball. Both are competitions.
Certain members of older generations have always tried to claim musical superiority over the following generation’s music. But music is not a competition. There are many styles of music to appreciate. All it takes is open ears. And an open mind.
Kurt Gibbons, College Park