Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Review: The American President - Part II Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson had the belief from early in his life that he was destined by God for greatness.  After securing the nomination in 1912 and hearing from a Democratic leader that the man thought he deserved some of the credit for Wilson's win, Wilson said, "Whether you did little or much, remember that God has ordained that I should be the next President of the United States. Neither you nor any other mortal or mortals could have prevented that."

What a scream he must have been at parties.

Author William Leuchtenburg considers Wilson's calling Congress into special session after his inauguration in 1913, "one of the more dramatic departures in the history of the presidency. To urge the necessity for tariff reform, he appeared before Congress in person - the first chief executive to do so since John Adams." While some traditionalists at the time complained about Wilson's 'stunt', Leuchtenburg said overall it made a positive impression on the nation and that it was, "an enduring contribution to the strength of the Executive Office." H.W. Brands writes, "This return to long-abandoned practice...was one of the hallmarks of the Wilson presidency, and one of his lasting contributions to American governance.." Wilson kept that Congress in session for eighteen straight months - something that had never happened before, not even during the Civil War.

Leuchtenburg considers Wilson's ability to secure his signature domestic outlook - the New Freedom - as a great example of presidential leadership. Leuchtenburg notes, "By dynamic leadership, Wilson had won enactment of the entire program of the New Freedom. He had given the country its first coherent banking system and had secured the first antitrust law since adoption of the original Sherman Act of 1890. In the difficult terrain of tariff reform - where [Grover] Cleveland had balked, where [Theodore] Roosevelt had feared to tread, where [William Howard] Taft had been all but impaled - Wilson had succeeded beyond every expectation....Above all, Wilson had demonstrated what many reasonable people had long doubted - that the Democratic Party could rule."

Yet, even with his domestic successes, the odds were long for Wilson's reelection in 1916 - the Democrats were the minority party. Wilson had only won in 1912 because of the Republican split between Taft and Roosevelt. Leuchtenburg notes, "The candidate of a reunified GOP in 1916 figured to be the likely victor. On Election Night, the New.York Times pronounced [Republican nominee Charles Evans] Hughes the winner, for he had swept almost all of the Northeast and the Midwest, running strongly even in former Democratic bastions....[thinking he was defeated], Wilson got set to carry out a plan he already had in place...he intended to resign at once and install [Hughes] in the White House, so that there would be no discontinuity in national leadership." For days, the election results were in doubt. As Leuchtenburg explains, "Finally, in California, a margin of less than 4,000 out of 1,000,000 ballots pushed Wilson over the top, making him the first Democrat since Andrew Jackson to win a second consecutive term in the White House." Despite this, it still took Hughes close to two weeks before he would concede the race.

Of course, Wilson's second term was dominated by World War I and the aftermath. While largely considered a failed term, Leuchtenburg points out that Wilson's, "success in ending [the war] as quickly and as deftly as he did stands as one of his greatest achievements." It was Wilson's demand for surrender from Germany rather than "peace negotiations" that ended the war when it did. As Leuchtenburg notes, "Wilson's firm stand, and his indication that he would look favorably on a [German] Republic, helped precipitate the abdication of the Kaiser on November 9, 1918."

Wilson's eventually futile effort to create a League of Nations with the United States as a charter member marred his second term.  Wilson's stubbornness in demanding that his entire plan be adopted, and his unwillingness to compromise, are widely considered his biggest failures. But Leuchtenburg also cites a political mistake often overlooked in the study of the League: Leuchtenburg says that Wilson made, "a grave mistake: he asked Americans to keep Democrats in power [in the 1918 mid-term elections] as evidence of their support of his conduct and prosecution of the war. His statement was an egregious misstep for a man who had spent a lifetime studying political behavior...that the party in power can almost always expect to lose votes in a mid-term election...Wilson's appeal for confidence probably neither lost nor won him votes [at the polls], but it had colossal consequences. He had all but invited Republicans to regard him as their enemy, and the miscarriage of his challenge meant that he would be bargaining with the great powers [in France] in a few weeks [at Versailles] having been, by his own reckoning, disowned. Furthermore, any treaty he did negotiate would have to get by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whose chairman, as a consequence of the elections, would shortly be his implacable foe, Henry Cabot Lodge."

On November 18, 1918, Wilson startled the country by announcing he would head up American delegation to Paris personally. No president had ever left the United States by crossing an ocean. Inexplicably, Wilson did not select one United States senator [the Senate would need to ratify any treaty] and only a token Republican to the American delegation. Leuchtenburg makes an interesting suggestion - Wilson could have chosen Taft as a delegate. Leuchtenburg concludes, however, that Wilson wouldn't do that because, "he wanted total control in Paris and refused to acknowledge that, to get the peace treaty ratified, he would need bipartisan support."

Subsequently, in March 1919, Lodge announced that Republicans already had the votes needed to block the treaty -  and this was even before it has been signed. Wilson was defiant. For Wilson, "It seemed inconceivable to him that the United States Senate, in order to avoid membership in the League, would go to the extreme of rejecting the peace treaty altogether."

Thinking he could bypass the Senate and go directly to the American people, on September 3, 1919, Wilson began his ill-fated three-week tour of the country to muster support for the Versailles Treaty. Leuchtenburg notes, "Again and again on his mission, he spelled out in a Manichaean mode what would ensue if the Treaty was not ratified." While his audiences were ecstatic in their support, Leuchtenburg says Wilson's words actually hardened the opposition in Washington. "Instead of attempting to coax senators to his side, he lashed out at them, and more than once descended to demagoguery."

Wilson's subsequent stroke and incapacitation have long been cited as one of the great traumas in the functioning of the American presidency. John Milton Cooper, Jr. wrote, "Wilson's stroke caused the worst crisis of presidential disability in American history. Out of a dynamic, resourceful leader emerged an emotionally unstable, delusional creature." And Leuchtenburg agrees, writing, "From October 1919 until the end of his term in March 1921, the United States did not have, in any meaningful sense, a president....Laws took effect without his signature because he could barely achieve a scrawl. Major events transpired - race riots that claimed more than a hundred lives; the Palmer raids launched by Wilson's attorney general, who ran roughshod over civil liberties during the Red Scare; the thorny reconversion from a war to a peace economy - with no input from the president, or, sometimes, even any recognition that they were happening." As an example, Leuchtenburg cites the Volstead Act [to enforce the 19th Amendment]. "Wilson's' veto of the Volstead Act enforcing Prohibition [which was quickly overridden] was actually prepared by Wilson aide Joe Tumulty and sent up to the Hill bearing the name of the president, who knew nothing about it."
Incredibly, Wilson considered a third term. Leuchtenburg notes, "Despite his affliction, Wilson actively sought re-nomination for a third term in 1920 and seriously expected that the Democrats would give it to him. He even made notes on the membership of the cabinet he planned to appoint in his forthcoming administration. He had no comprehension of how many Americans despised him or of what an albatross he had become to the party."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: The American President - Part I Roosevelt & Taft

William Leuchtenburg is one of our national treasures. At age 93, he continues to contribute immensely to American historiography. His latest offering, The American President - From Theodore Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, is an epic tome of over 800 pages, chronicling each of the 20th-century presidents and the evolution of the American presidency under their individual tenures. As Leuchtenburg says at the outset, the book, "explores how the American presidency in the 20th-century became a very much more powerful institution than it had ever been before, and how that aggrandizement was brought about by the men that inhabited the White House."

Leuchtenburg's style, throughout the book, is to present the facts as they are believed to have occurred; provide the reader with samples of the historiography from both sides of interpretation of those facts; and to then provide his own belief. It is a style that wonderfully encapsulates Leuchtenburg’s 60+ year career in historical research, and provides the reader with multiple opinions from which to draw.

According to Leuchtenburg, for most of American history the presidency has been presented as a, "continuous tale, with each succeeding administration adding another chapter. By contrast, I perceive a great divide - with the 20th-century presidency markedly different from what preceded it." Initially in his earlier scholarship, Leuchtenburg had cited the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt as marking the beginning of this change. Since then, however, Leuchtenburg has reassessed his thinking. While initially considering that, "the creation of the Executive Office of the President in 1939 during FDR's second term [had] produced the big fault line....In the years since my first volume appeared I have come to conclude that the disjuncture came not in 1933, or 1939 but in 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt succeeded William McKinley."

In looking at those men, Leuchtenburg examines the good and the bad. Examples of the former included times when, "Teddy Roosevelt battled vested interests to preserve the nation's domain, when Woodrow Wilson sought to create a New World Order, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt acted for the welfare of the impoverished one-third of a nation, when Harry Truman promoted the Marshall plan for a beleaguered Europe, when Lyndon Johnson called upon Congress to grant long-overdue recognition of the civil rights of African-Americans, when Ronald Reagan spoke so movingly to the sorrow over the Challenger disaster..." Of course, Leuchtenburg notes, "the dark underside of presidential power cannot be ignored. Too often, presidents have lied to us. Too often, they have wasted the lives of our children in foreign ventures that should never have been undertaken. They are both the progenitors and the victims of inflated expectations, and when they overreach, they should be checked."

I’m dividing these reviews as Leuchtenburg does by chapter, and will be issuing these over the ensuing days:


The work opens with the assassination of William McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in September 1901. Leuchtenburg notes that, in some ways, it was odd that McKinley was even a target, as the presidency was still considered a minor position at that point. For example, as late as 1901 the president, "had no control over the budgets of cabinet officials who ran the major departments. They answered not to him but to chummy congressional committee chairmen with whom they had colluded."

Still, there are some who argue that McKinley should be considered - not the last of the 'irrelevant' 19th-century presidents - but as the first of the strong executives of the 20th century.  They point to his success in the Spanish-American War as the first example of modern presidential authority. Leuchtenburg disagrees. "The reach of McKinley's tenure...fell considerably short of that of 20th-century presidents...Furthermore, he had only a tenuous grasp of foreign affairs, for he had never been abroad, and he was an active commander-in-chief largely because he had made such poor cabinet choices that he could rely upon neither his Secretary of the Navy nor his hopelessly incompetent Secretary of War"

Instead, Leuchtenburg argues, "McKinley made his greatest contribution to the growth of executive power inadvertently, when he took on Theodore Roosevelt as his running mate in 1900." In another of history's great ironies, McKinley's assassin, Leon Czolgosz, thought that by killing McKinley he was striking a blow against government.  Leuchtenburg writes, "Instead, his violent deed put in place of McKinley a far more dynamic leader - the rambunctious, ambitious, pugnacious Theodore Roosevelt - a succession that significantly altered the course of the American presidency."

Roosevelt made it clear from the very beginning that his ideas on the presidency differed greatly from any of his predecessors, and did so publicly in his first annual address to Congress in December 1901. Of that address, historian H.W. Brands has written, "Whatever readers made of the portents of Roosevelt's message, there was no mistaking the tone. This wasn't McKinley speaking; this was someone new, someone self-confidently assertive, and someone with a far grander sense of the public purpose than anyone who had ever held the presidency."

Roosevelt demonstrated this early in his tenure by intervening in the Anthracite Coal Strike.  Conservatives were shocked that a president would interject himself into a mediation between management and labor.  Leuchtenburg writes that by settling the coal strike, "He prepared the way for future presidents to assert a right to intercede when a domestic conflict endangered the national interest....By becoming the first chief executive to exert the power of the national government - not to crush a strike but to bring about a fair outcome - Roosevelt added a new dimension to the presidency." Leuchtenberg argues that Roosevelt saw the government, "as a mediating force among all elements in society."

Another major mark on the presidency cited by Leuchtenburg was the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.  Leuchtenburg notes that, "the president converted the Monroe Doctrine from a warning to European powers against intervention in the Western Hemisphere into an announcement that the United States reserved exclusively to itself the right to intervene....a dangerous precedent of U.S. patriarchy had been set."

Roosevelt's friend and hand-picked successor, William Howard Taft, had a different view of the office - although Leuchtenburg says it would be wrong to put him in the category of 19th-century presidents who sought to minimize the position.  Of Taft, historian Alan Brinkley has written, "He was a man of considerable intelligence, talent, and integrity. But he was temperamentally unsuited for the intensely political character of the presidency; and his uneasiness with the demands of the office seemed to evoke all his worst qualities - his tendency to procrastinate, his excessive legalism, even a kind of physical and intellectual laziness."

Yet, Leuchtenburg argues, Taft achieved many progressive goals: an eight-hour day for federal employees; a commission to explore workmen's compensation; and support for legislation to expand the authority of the Interstate Commerce Committee. Indeed, Leuchtenburg notes, "Taft launched twice as many antitrust suits in four years as 'trustbuster' Roosevelt had in nearly two terms."

Taft's view of the presidency was not strict constructionist but it also differed from that of his predecessor and his successor. While Taft acknowledged that a president could draw upon implied powers, and he found no fault with Abraham Lincoln's far-reaching actions during the Civil War, he also believed that, "our President has no initiative in respect to legislation given him by law except that of mere recommendation, and no legal...method of entering into the ...discussion of ....proposed legislation while pending in Congress.  The true view of the Executive function is...that the President can exercise no power which cannot be fairly and reasonably traced to some specific grant of power or justly implied...There is no underfunded residuum of power which he can exercise because it seems to him to be in the public interest."

As Leuchtenburg concludes in this chapter on Roosevelt and Taft, "Taft was fighting a losing battle, because his successor [Wilson] had come to take a decidedly Rooseveltian view of the powers of his office."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review: Sinatra - The Chairman, By James Kaplan

The final installment in James Kaplan's two-part biography of Frank Sinatra, Sinatra: The Chairman, weighs in at 883-pages. Volume I, Frank: The Voice [2010] was a not-too-shabby 800-pages. Yet, of 1,683-pages, a mere 35-pages cover the years 1973-1998. While I'm not advocating that Kaplan should have done a three-part tome, perhaps a little less Mafia, fewer whores, and a few less Sinatra temper-tantrums might have allowed him to devote say, 100-pages to the last 25 years of Sinatra's incredible life. 

Clearly, by 1973, Sinatra was firmly established as a legend and - had he died that year - would have still gone down as one-of-if-not-the-greatest of all time.  Still, there is much, much more to mine out of Sinatra's last quarter-century than 35-pages. While Kaplan touches on some of those moments [the great comeback from 'retirement' in 1973; hitting the pop charts at age-64 with "Theme from New York, New York"; his marriage to Barbara Marx; and his declining health], there's more depth available there.  For one thing, the relationship between Frank and Barbara could be a volume in and of itself. The man who had been 'The Chairman' was - during much of his marriage to Barbara Blakely Marx - simply second-in-command.  By the end, he was her prisoner [if you believe Tina Sinatra's memoirs].

Still, having lodged that lengthy complaint, let me say that Sinatra: The Chairman is still every bit as valuable to Sinatriography as Kaplan's Frank: The Voice.  The second volume opens in the spring of 1954. By this time, Kaplan argues, Sinatra had grown up, "[in] his own particular way. His oaken baritone on the Capitol recordings, rich with sad knowledge - or, on up-tempo numbers, with swaggering authority - was a sea change from the tender Voice that had soothed America through the war." And Ava Gardner, "would be his muse for years after they broke up - specifically and crucially, the great Capitol years. 'Ava taught him to sing a torch song,' Nelson Riddle famously said. 'She taught him the hard way.'"

Among many troubling accounts in the book are the rumors of Sinatra's relationships with underage women. The first was in 1954 with the not-yet-16-year-old Natalie Wood. On this one, Kaplan isn't so sure. "God only knows what went on..." between them, he writes. "Wood appears to have been something more than a conquest where Frank was concerned.  He was a man on the cusp of middle age, almost certainly nostalgic for the days when he had made all those bobby-soxers swoon. Surely on some level, Natalie Wood reminded him of those girls and their idolatry."  Kaplan concludes, "A complex emotional bond formed between them, one that would continue as Frank and Natalie stayed friends, and now and then lovers, until she died at age forty-three in 1981. The second instance of such sordid activity occurred in 1968, when Sinatra dated a 15-year old stripper named Diane McCue. This one, Kaplan says, has multiple confirmations.

Not to suggest that Kaplan lingers just in the tawdry. Indeed, Kaplan carefully delves into the good and bad.  Kaplan writes, "With Frank Sinatra, the sublime and the ridiculous, the exquisite and the coarse, alternated so quickly and frequently that it's useless to try to reconcile them. He wasn't one thing or the other; he was both, and then a moment later he was something else again. The man who went to significant expense and effort to send a Sicilian-style message in granite to Dorothy Kilgallen [Sinatra sent her a real tombstone with her name on it after she wrote a negative column], the man who, when human relations called, periodically had his valet dial him up some professional company, was the same man who envisioned a new album that would combine Nelson Riddle's unparalleled arranging gifts and the rich and delicate sound of the classical string quartet [the Hollywood String Quartet] Frank had come to revere [resulting in the album Close to You]."

Perhaps the greatest gift of the two volumes - this second one in particular - is Kaplan's meticulous detail of all of Sinatra's recording sessions and the singles and albums that resulted, up to his 1971 'retirement'. A sampling: "No Sinatra album [before In The Wee Small Hours] had set an emotional ambience so strongly as this one would. The first two albums of his Capitol period, Songs for Young Lovers and Swing Easy! had each sustained a mood, but more simplistically: you could call them concept albums, if you wanted to cite concepts like 'romantic' or 'upbeat'. In the Wee Small Hours was a far more complex piece of work." Frank would later call it his "Ava [Gardner] album".

'The Rat Pack' was actually not originally the grouping we now think of [Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop].  The first Rat Pack was born in the mid-1950s, and began in the living room of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Sinatra idolized Bogart. When Sinatra had been down on his luck, Bogie and Bacall took him in and made him a part of their circle. One night, with a group that included Bogart, Sinatra, Judy Garland, David Niven, Spencer Tracy and others, Bacall famously said, "I see the rat pack is all here." Bogart loved it and proposed they form a club, the Rat Pack. Bacall, in her memoir, recalled, "In order to qualify [for membership], one had to be addicted to nonconformity, staying up late, drinking, laughing, and not caring what anyone thought or said about us." On December 15, 1955, the New York Herald Tribune reported on the formation of the Holmby Hills [the Bogarts' neighborhood] Rat Pack, and that officers had been elected: Frank was Pack Master; Garland first vice-president; Bacall was Den Mother; and Bogart Rat-in-Charge of Public Relations, etc.

Shortly thereafter, Sinatra began a habit that he'd repeat over the next decade-and-a-half: bedding the widows of his friends. In perhaps the most famous case, Sinatra began a relationship with Bacall shortly after Humphrey Bogart died in 1957. He would do similar 'duty' with the widows of dead friends more than a few times over the next 15 or so years. The relationship with Bacall was serious enough that - after his divorce from Ava Gardner became official in mid-1957 - Sinatra and Bacall were engaged. He wanted to keep it secret, however; when she confirmed it to a reporter, he broke off the engagement and didn't speak to her again for years.

No Sinatra book would be complete without an analysis of his relationship with the Mafia [addressed in Volume I as well].  But, Kaplan cautions, "The myth has arisen that Frank Sinatra's unfortunate reverence for the Mafia...meant that he was all but a made man. In fact, while his mother's North Jersey connections had helped get him a couple of singing jobs early in his career, and a few of his wiseguy friends steered some work his way during his down period [but only some; not enough to turn his fortunes around],  Sinatra's Mob associations had far more to do with mutual admiration than affiliation. The gangsters liked his singing, his flash, and [at times] his unrepentant unruliness; he liked their power, their toughness, their swaggering style.  Growing up in an era when power was largely in the hands of white Protestant men, a time when Italian-Americans were just a half-step up the social ladder from African-Americans - and, like black people, were seen as simple, happy, and musical - Frank viewed the Mafia as a kind of unelected elect, an alternate aristocracy. He idolized them all his life, much as a small boy might idolize cowboys or soldiers."

The second Rat Pack - the one we know- actually preferred to be called The Clan [despite the racist proximity to 'The Klan'].  The first Clan was Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine from the set of their movie, Some Came Running [the first of nine Sinatra/Martin movies] in summer/fall 1958. Then, in October 1958, Dean and Frank spontaneously walked from the audience up to join Judy Garland on-stage in an unrehearsed act during her performance at The Sands. Kaplan writes, "The evening had all the hallmarks of the Rat Pack era to come: genial sadism and coerciveness, combined with boozily uncertain entertainment value that shimmered away the morning after, leaving only the dull ache of a you-had-to-be-there hangover. And Sinatra was always in charge." Indeed, Kaplan, writes, "this second Rat Pack was a cult that grew around a man [Sinatra] who welcomed worship and demanded fealty."

According to Kaplan, the idea of the Rat Pack, "was born at a hinge of time in the American consciousness, a moment between the conformism of the 1950s and the chaos of the 1960s, an eye blink when the horrors and heroism of World War II were still in recent memory (and nuclear fear underlay every diversion), when compensatory excess, in the form of sex, alcohol, and cigarettes, was winked at and 20th century ideals of manhood had not yet been subverted by the androgynous aesthetic of rock 'n' roll."

Yet it was an act. Sinatra and Martin were not a team off-stage. Kaplan writes that, while there was mutual affection, "Sinatra and Martin...weren't teaming up on the golf course or in after-hours hijinks - but the act took an instant and powerful hold on America, or at least that part of America that paid attention to star behavior, which was much of America." The relationship between Sinatra and Sammy Davis was more intricate. Frank loved Sammy and vice-versa, but Kaplan points out that there was a clear pecking order - "Frank was the sun and Sammy the moon. Frank was the leader, Sammy the acolyte. This had partly to do with Frank's age and unexampled status in show business and partly to do with his domineering personality, but it was a function of Davis's personality as well."

So, Kaplan concludes, "The Rat Pack was an idea, even more than it was a reality. And though Frank, Dean, and Sammy were three real men, their respective myths tend, to this day, to jostle reality aside. Throw in Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford as window dressing, or ballast, and you've got a sharkskin-suited, skinny-tied, chain-smoking, chain-drinking, Dionysian parade float."

The unbelievable chapters detailing the John Kennedy-Sam Giancana-Judith Campbell Exner-Bobby Kennedy-Marilyn Monroe saga are extremely troubling. They could also fill up a week's worth of blog entries.  In a nutshell: Joseph Kennedy asked Sinatra to have Giancana pour enough money into the JFK campaign to secure the election for him; Sinatra complied and Giancana and his organization came through; Joe Kennedy's stroke in late-1961, however, put Bobby Kennedy in a powerful position within the Kennedy, family and Bobby hated Frank Sinatra; Sinatra eventually fell out of favor with both the Kennedys and Giancana - the latter very nearly contemplated taking out a contract on Sinatra's life. But Sinatra's voice saved his life, Kaplan writes, "And Frank knew it. And so he could continue to rub shoulders with Giancana and other hoodlums, doing small favors for them when it was convenient and doing nothing for them if he preferred. Sinatra's relationship with the Mob was a transaction, conducted in the counterfeit currency of the underworld: the gangsters got to bask in his aura, and he in theirs; each side pretended to do things for the other, and neither did much." As for the rest of the tale, well, a lot of people had sex - and I haven't even touched Marilyn Monroe [which might make me the only one who didn't].  Camelot indeed.

Perhaps the most disturbing story in either volume comes from a tale in mid-summer 1962. It involved a cocktail waitress at Cal-Neva that Sinatra used to date, Toni. She had gone on to marry a deputy sheriff, Richard Anderson, after her relationship with Sinatra ended. Even though she was now married, Sinatra still would make moves on her. Anderson finally told Sinatra to stay away from his wife. One night shortly thereafter, Anderson was waiting to pick up his wife and was standing in the kitchen when Sinatra came in, leading to a fight where Anderson hit Sinatra so hard that the performer could not go on for the next couple of days. Kaplan writes, "In retaliation, Sinatra had Anderson suspended from the police force. Two weeks later, the deputy sheriff and his wife were driving to dinner when a car moving at a high speed in the oncoming lane forced them off the road. The Anderson's car smashed into a tree, and Richard Anderson was killed instantly. His wife, thrown from the car, suffered multiple fractures. The other car - a maroon convertible with California plates, according to an eyewitness - never stopped, and the driver couldn't be traced." Sinatra was never officially implicated in the accident.

Kaplan does a fabulous job in analyzing Sinatra's relationships with many of his arrangers - Nelson Riddle, Gordon Jenkins, Billy May, etc.  But Kaplan argues that Sinatra was tighter with Quincy Jones than with any of the others. "Tightness with Sinatra almost invariably came about at his initiative, on his terms, and as a result of his needs. In this case, the intimacy indisputably had to do not on only with Jones' formidable skills and genuine personality but with the color of his skin. Ever since Sinatra was an unknown singer prowling the jazz clubs of 52nd Street, he had been crazy about the style and the genius of the great black musicians he'd seen and heard there....Now he [Sinatra] was in the same league as his [black] idols, but some part of Sinatra would always remain both an aspirant to blackness and an outsider.....Because of Sinatra's fascination with black culture and jazz, and because of Quincy Jones' gift for agreeableness without sycophancy, the arranger was able to work with Frank on a nearly even footing and to be a friend as well: an unprecedented situation, and one never to be duplicated."

Kaplan argues that Sinatra saw the rise of rock-and-roll with hatred and disgust: first because it effected his album sales and then because it effected his ability to relate to a larger and larger segment of the public, record-buying or otherwise. It explains, Kaplan argues, his relationship and marriage to Mia Farrow, as well as a change in his wardrobe from tuxedoes with monogramed cuff links to Nehru suits with beads, among other accommodations to the changing times.

The desire to once again reach the top of the charts led to one of Sinatra's most famous songs, "Strangers in Night" - a tune he absolutely hated but recognized immediately as a potential number-one hit. And Sinatra hadn't been to those heights on the charts in 20 years [with "Five Minutes More"] when he cut "Strangers" in 1966. Sinatra had always been someone who was more successful with albums rather than singles. But he hadn't even had a top-10 single since 1956 [with "Hey Jealous Lover!; another song he hated]. Yes, in 1966, Sinatra wanted a hit single. And "Strangers" did it. In July 1966, it overthrew The Beatles' "Paperback Writer" and Frank had his number one single.

But another problem with rock-and-roll for Sinatra was that the songwriters he had come to rely on were no longer producing as they once had. This led to Sinatra [and others in his genre] turning to popular music for tunes to record.  In some cases, the results were wonderful because it was Sinatra.  But, in others, not even a Sinatra or an Ella could save the end result.

One example of greatness, though, was Paul Anka's "My Way", written specifically by the songwriter for Sinatra.  Yet, for all the success Frank enjoyed with it, Sinatra was always ambivalent about the song,  Sinatra once said, "really ["My Way"] had nothing to do with my life whatsoever, I know it's a very big hit - and I love having big hits - but every time I get up to sing that song I grit my teeth; because no matter what the image may seem to be, I hate boastfulness in others. I hate immodesty, and that's how I feel every time I sing that song."  Even so, amazingly, Sinatra recorded it in just one take.

By early 1971, Frank was tired. And in pain; his right hand was the subject of numerous surgeries to try to correct a condition that made it very difficult to grasp a microphone.  So, on March 23, 1971, Frank Sinatra announced his retirement. It did not last. Two years later Frank announced he was coming back.  This led to one of the great examples of Frank's ability to make [or remake] his image. The title of his comeback album in 1973 was Ol' Blue Eyes is Back. Yet, Kaplan writes, nowhere in the mounds of his research of newspapers before 1973 can he find Frank Sinatra ever referred to as "ol' blue eyes." It didn't matter - overnight Frank Sinatra was ol' blue eyes, because he said he was. 

Sinatra's marriage to Barbara Marx on July 11, 1976, is clear demarcation in Sinatra's life. His daughter Tina - and, to some extent his daughter Nancy and son Frank Jr. agree - argues that it was Barbara Sinatra that had her husband performing concerts around the world long past the time he should have been in order to generate money to keep her in the style to which she'd become accustomed. As such, Sinatra did more than 1,000 concerts between 1976 and 1990. Even then, though, he was not done. He did 65 concerts in 1990; 73 in 1991; 84 in 1992, and 48 in 1994.  His last concert was February 25, 1995.

As to the quality of Sinatra's work over those final two decades, Kaplan writes, " the early 1980s the great voice began to alter and deteriorate. The cave-of-winds depths were still there, but the phenomenal breath control, the nearly freakish ability to sustain long notes, was not. The intonation, so glorious for so much of his career, now wavered. What he retained, what would stay with him almost until the very end, was his unparalleled feeling for lyrics, his way around a song's story...his sense of a song's essence was absolute."

In conclusion, the two-volume biography is very good, but not always pleasant reading. By page 1,683, however, you'll have a great appreciation for the life of Francis Albert Sinatra, whether you call him The Voice, The Chairman, or Ol' Blue Eyes.