The influence of Frank Sinatra was brought home to me in one of my more intriguing memories about music. As I was sitting at church one Sabbath while I lived in Southern California, a fellow singer in the congregation sang a version of Sinatra’s hit “My Way” only with slightly edited versions as “God’s Way” to looks of horror and disappointment and surprise in the faces of the congregants who expected a special music performance that was less wordly and more biblical in nature. As for me, the influence of Frank Sinatra on my blogging has been largely through the witty and urbane titles in Sinatra’s sophisticated pop oevre  . It might seem a bit puzzling to think of Frank Sinatra as a rock & roll musician, since he did not release any material in rock–his entire career was spent in the worlds of sophisticated pop, much of it recorded a decade or more before the start of the Rock & Roll era. Frank Sinatra was even known to be critical about rock & roll music (though he would certainly not be alone in being critical of its Hall of Fame). Given the snub of a deserving contemporary in Pat Boone due to concerns about his legitimacy , on what grounds does the case for Frank Sinatra’s enshrinement in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame rest?
Frank Sinatra’s Contribution
Given that Frank Sinatra was not a rock & roll musician and released a great deal of music that is outside of the Rock & Roll era , his contribution will not rest (as is the case of so many artists) on the question of hit singles and record sales. It should be noted, though, for the record, that were his album sales and chart data from 1954 onward only taken into consideration, he would still merit inclusion on those grounds alone with eight top ten singles (including a couple of #1 hits) as well as at least twenty-three gold albums, seven of which went platinum, and one of which went triple-platinum and another one double-platinum, a very high achievement for his era . Even with that taken off of the table, though, Frank Sinatra’s case for induction rests on two grounds. The first is that his sophisticated pop remains viable as a model for successful pop musicians, many of whom (like Michael Bublè, have had successful cover versions of existing Sinatra hits more than seven decades after Sinatra began recording). The second undoubted contribution that Sinatra has provided is the way in which he provided the template for the singer as being dominant in a band, an aesthetic achievement that is directly responsible for the role of dominant singers in bands as diverse as Jeff Lynne , Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, and Jim Morrison. Not all of these bandleaders had the same sort of dominance in their bands as Frank Sinatra did, but all of them became the face of their band in an undisputed way, which is largely thanks to Frank Sinatra’s success at breaking the dominance of big band leaders over their vocalists in the 1940’s.
Another Way of Looking At Frank Sinatra’s Contribution
Besides the fact that Sinatra’s songs (a small list of the most essential include Fly Me To The Moon, Come Fly With Me, New York, New York, Strangers In The Night, Somethin’ Stupid, All Or Nothing At All, Learning The Blues, Dolores, There Are Such Things, People Will Say We’re In Love, Five Minutes More, Mam’selle, Young At Heart, I’ve Got The World On A String, Three Coins In The Fountain, Love And Marriage, All The Way, My Way, and literally dozens of others) are an enduring part of the American pop song book, besides the fact that his songs are covered by artists as important to contemporary rock & roll history as Celine Dion and Michael Buble, the fact is that Frank Sinatra’s whole career carries with it major cultural undertones. As already mentioned, there was the shift from a bandleader-dominant model to a singer as bandleader and frontman, a shift in culture that prefigured band tensions in bands as diverse as Van Halen and Chicago  and Journey, and there is also the undoubtable cultural importance of Frank Sinatra in the fact that a fictionalized portrayal of him ended up in a Godfather movie. In addition to this, there is the fact that Frank Sinatra (and his rat pack associates, most of whom were better known as actors) played a major role in desegregating Los Vegas and the hotels of New York City. Sinatra’s egalitarian racial views are yet another aspect of his general worthiness of induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame aside from his considerable musical merits.
Why Frank Sinatra Is A No-Brainer For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame
Let’s recap the essentials: his music is enduringly popular and an essential part of our Great American Songbook, his lead singer-oriented band was a major influence in the way Rock & Roll band politics has endured to this day, and he happened to play a major role in desegregation in the music industry in Los Vegas and New York City. If he is not strictly a rock & roll musician, he is an essential “early influence,” albeit one whose influence extended far beyond the Big Band era from which he marked a decisive and personality-driven break that presaged the importance of leading personalities to rock & roll music.
Verdict: Put him in as an early influence, along with Nat King Cole (!) and the rest of the worthies that are already there. If nothing else it will get fans of sophisticated pop music to spend a bit more time in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to listen to any of his many excellent songs.