Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Top 10 Sinatra Songs of all-time!

I see in this week’s ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY that they rank the top 50 Beatles songs. Wow. I didn’t know you could do that. I thought it was impossible to judge “She Loves You” against “A Day in the Life” and decide which is better but hot damn, you CAN!

So here for the first time (as chosen by me) is the DEFINITIVE list of the top 10 all-time best Frank Sinatra songs. This was not easy to accomplish because between 1940-1964 Sinatra recorded every song ever written. But still I have narrowed them down and have selected the very best of the best. See if you don’t agree.

1. ONE FOR MY BABY – the greatest torch song EVER, sung with such underplayed emotion it rips your heart out every time.

2. BIM BAM BABY -- Sinatra’s gift was his interpretation of lyrics. He was never more masterful than singing “Hey now, take a mip mack mop, and a brim bram broom/And klim klam clean up the rim ram room/ Cause your bim bam baby`s coming home tonight.

3. I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN – Backed with a swinging Nelson Riddle arrangement, this record is 50s perfection.

4. MAMA WILL BARK – Another masterpiece of lyric interpretation. “Ow, you out there/This is for keeping me awake every night, hah/ Well, take that! Yelp! And take that. Yelp. And take that. Yelp. Yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp. Hot dog, woof.

5. MRS. ROBINSON – Frank bails out that hack lyricist Paul Simon by improving several of the stanzas. “Jilly loves you more than you will know” and my favorite addition: “How’s your bird, Mrs. Robinson?” Oh, and I'm reminded by a reader: "And you'll get yours Mrs. Robinson / Foolin' with that young stuff like you do / Woo woo woo..."

6. BANG BANG – Sinatra covers that big Cher anti-war Russian folk song by turning it into a haunting ballad. Someone should digitally merge both versions. Now THAT’S a duet!

7. THE KIDS ARE TWISTING – It's the record that started an entire dance craze.

8. L.A. IS MY LADY – Unlike those pale tributes to New York and Chicago this is the one Frank is famous for. There’s little wonder they play it at Dodger Stadium. What is curious is that they only play it when they lose.

9. SATISFY ME ONE MORE TIME – No one can sing a love song like Frank. Gals, how can you hear these words and not swoon? “Let’s smother each other in a good old stranglehold.” Or.. “Compromise me, vandalize me, have a ball”.

10. I LOVE PARIS (LIVE VERSION) – Not many people can improve on Cole Porter lyrics but then most people aren’t Sinatra. “Holy Christ, how I love Paris”.

Did I miss anything? I don't think so.


amyp3 said...

New York, New York.
You know, the version they play if the Yanks beat the visiting team.

(Not that I'm saying you've ever heard it there. And not that someone from MI has any Yankee-love either.)

gottacook said...

Because I first heard Sinatra as a preteen listening to Top 40 radio in the late 1960s (when real variety was still possible within one station's playlist), I'm partial to his singles from that brief era, especially "Cycles," along with "That's Life" and "It Was a Very Good Year."

Aurora said...

My Way!!!

I love it!

Mel Ryane said...

Yup. One For My Baby makes me weep every time. It's melancholy at its best. It'll never be dated...unfortunately. It's how it goes...it's hard to be a person. So, on the day it's all so overwhelming, listen to Frank and you're not alone.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I have a soft spot for "They've Got An Awful Lot of Coffee In Brazil." No idea why Frank dropped it from his repertoire in later years.

Mike McCann said...

Did you miss something? YES YOU DID. "That's Life." Sinatra knows about graduating from The School of Hard Knocks -- with a PhD in Attitude.

Unknown said...

I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN live at the Sands with the Count Basie orchestra is my fave over the album version. "Run for cover...run and hide..."

ZING! WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART...so silly, but so perfect and I really do believe the strings of his heart went zing.

Another great shout out to Jilly is on the duet of ME AND MY SHADOW with Sammy Davis Jr. Lots of other references to current events in there too.


THE LADY IS A TRAMP...again, I like the Sands version..."she likes the free, fine, wild, knocked out coo-coo, groovy wind in her hair.

I'm gonna go spin some Frank...

mac said...

Summer Wind. Been in love with that ever since "The Pope of Greenwich Village."

DwWashburn said...

I know that music is very subjective, but I never got Sinatra. And it's not that I don't like some of the older singers -- Dean Martin, Perry Como, Bing Crosby are all very good. But Sinatra and Tony Bennett are two of the old timers that I never really understood how they got so many followers.

But like I said, music is very subjective.

Bob said...

According to Wikipedia, Jim Croce died in an airplane crash, but I'm pretty sure that it was Sinatra's version of "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" that actually did him in.

wv: sessist - Woman-hater who's been punched in the mouth by a feminist.

Lairbo said...

A good voice, yes, but he recorded a lot of really lousy songs. And, while this is also true of Roy Orbison, at least Orbison wasn't a loathesome thug.

Too much phony sentiment, too many strings and too much open contempt for any music that wasn't his.

Jonathan Schwartz can drone on all he wants about Sinatra's genius. I just don't see the appeal.

CLR said...

"She's Such a Groovy Lady" deserves an honorable mention.

Mike Barer said...

Fly me to the moon--let me play among the stars--

Anonymous said...

What, not a single song from his album of Rod McKuen songs? Where's "A Man Alone"? And what about "Bop! Goes My Heart", and "I Wouldn't Trade Christmas"?

Tim W. said...

Am I the only one who took the list as a joke?
Should I not have?

Pat Reeder said...

I wrote an article for the late, lamented "Cool & Strange Music" magazine about "Mama Will Bark," Sinatra's worst celebrity duet, and that's really saying something. It was done with TV's early cantilevered cutie, Dagmar, from Jerry Lester's "Broadway Open House," the precursor of "Tonight."

That dog of a tune was A&R head "Sing Along With" Mitch Miller's idea. Years later, he reportedly spotted Frank in an airport and came up to him with hand outstretched. Frank snarled an unrepeatable and physically impossible suggestion and added, "Keep walkin'."

Still, Miller refused to take full blame, saying that Frank had the ultimate veto power. I figure that meant if he didn't want to record a song, he could just call his friend, Vito.

Pat Reeder said...

BTW, speaking of hubris, MSNBC has an article posted listing all the Beatles' albums in order of quality. They rank "Sgt. Pepper" at #7. You must admit that's a pretty good discography when the album many critics consider as the greatest or most important ever released is only the 7th best thing you ever put out.

(Best Show)Watch said...


Two things

1) I’d like your permission to (re)print your article on The Clone Wars for our website

2) I was hoping we could use your ‘scribing’ talent for our website.

The Best Shows Youre Not Watching (dot) com [all one word]

The Clone Wars is one of our featured shows. We’re hoping to round up a few people who can occasionally contribute perspective (via an article/blog) on the shows – maybe a recent episode, future direction, plot shortcomings etc.

What’s in it for you?
Primarily a larger audience back channeled to your blog. We don’t pay but the site has a lot of promise and we're pretty excited about getting it off the ground. Let me know what you think.


Dave said...

Sinatra's greatest recording -- and, hence, maybe the greatest popular song ever recorded -- is the version of "One For My Baby" on the "Duets" album.

Even with the handicap of Kenny G, it's a devastating record. Frank's voice is all but gone, so all he has left are the pain, the hurt, the regrets, and the longing. They're palpable and it's like listening to/watching a Greek tragedy. As great as Frank is, he never approached those heights anywhere else.

VW: exesardy - the former spouse of the owner of a New York theatrical restaurant.

Dave said...

Almost forgot. The version of "Violets for Your Furs" on the "Sinatra '57" live album is an absolute gem; especially for the warm nostalgic intro he gives it and the sense of his visiting someplace he loved and hasn't been in a long time.

"All I Need is the Girl," from his album with Duke Ellington. Just a perfect marriage of song, arrangement, orchestra, and singer.

Fridwulfa said...

"Love means love" with Rosemary Clooney. "It was a very good year"... It's hard, the man DID record every song ever written. He even has a version of "Granada".

But since the Beatles gave you the idea, you should have mentioned his "Something" version.

Anonymous said...

Sinatra was one of the few people who could act well, as well as sing well. Unfortunately this meant he had a bad case of actor's (huge but fragile) ego, hence the Shatneresque repertoire choices.

WV: slogi = famous European brand og g-string.

Anonymous said...

My favourite Frank Sinatra/Elvis Presley "mash-up", done the right way.


Anonymous said...


You forgot a Rotten Sinatra classic, 1977's disco version of "Night & Day" with Cole Porter's body turning over in his grave providing the back beat.

An actual Sinatra classic:

"Come Rain or Come Shine" from the 1961 album "Sinatra & Strings" is one of the great tracks ever recorded.

Anonymous said...

"What do they play at Yankee Stadium after they lose?"

"New York, New York."

"What do they play after they win?"

"New York, New York LOUDER."

As a baseball guy, I don't know if you watch YES (or what Bob Raissman calls "Al-Yankzeera"), but Paul Simon discussed Sinatra's "Mrs. Robinson" cover on "Centerstage" with Michael Kay.

At first, Simon's nose was bent out of joint about the liberties Frank took with the lyrics specifically mentioning "Jilly....)

Simon sent a cease-and-desist letter to the record company. A scared flunky contacted Simon and asked him to reconsider to save the flunky from Sinatra's wrath. Simon gave in, and now appreciates the fact that one of his songs got the full Frank treatment.

That initinal coolness/eventual affection paralleled Joe DiMaggio's feelings toward "Mrs. Robinson."

thomas tucker said...

Tim W.- my thoughts exactly, but you beat me to it so you get the prize.
Don, tell Tim what he wins.

Michael said...

Not making a pick but remembering a moment. The night Sinatra died, we were listening to a Dodgers broadcast. Back then, Vin didn't simulcast--he did the first three and last three on TV and the middle three on radio. He came over to radio and was rolling along when he said that Sinatra had died that day, then said, "If you think you know romance, you need to listen to 'Songs for Young Lovers' by Frank Sinatra, with Nelson Riddle conducting." Only Vin could have woven it into a ballgame. And I guess now we know what Vin likes!

A New Yorker reporter interviewing Sinatra once said something to him along the lines of, you're the guy we listen to to get in the mood, but who do YOU listen to? Sinatra said, "There could be only one. Bennett."

rms said...

"BANG BANG – Sinatra covers that big Cher anti-war Russian folk song by turning it into a haunting ballad. Someone should digitally merge both versions. Now THAT’S a duet!"

Now you've done it. I'm cringing at the result already!

wv:tiestel - what someone will have to do to get me to listen to this Cher/Sinatra duet

Jim said...

God, I miss Phil Hartman

Tim W. said...


I'm still waiting for Don to tell me what I've won. I've got things to do and can't wait here all day.

Mary Stella said...

I love Sinatra's music. He was my parents' favorite singer so I'm pretty sure his songs were imprinted on me while I was still enwombed.

Say what you want about the man's personality, but he bailed out our hospital with a benefit concert back in the 70s. That was back in the days before managed care and HMOs when some hospitals treated people even when they couldn't pay. So, the Sinatra concert was a blessing. Quite the event in Atlantic City's old Convention Hall.

Kate Coe said...

What about It Happened in Monterey?

And you're kidding about LA is My Lady, right? I'm tempted to agree with Tim, except I like One For My Baby (but Astaire's version is better.)

Tom Quigley said...

I always thought that not teaming up Sinatra with Aerosmith was an opportunity lost: "Walk this way -- hey, hey! Talk this way -- yeah, yeah! Walk this way -- whoa, whoa! Talk this way -- just lay me a smooch -- right there!"....

Dana Gabbard said...

One night I was eating at an Italian place (Maria Italian Kitchen's on Flower in downtown L.A., off Wilshire) listening to the Sirius radio they have playing Seriously Sinatra, which Frank's kids both dj shows on. An announcer comes on and says "Here is one you don't hear often" and plays Sinatra's attempt to sing Barry Manilow's I Write the Songs. To have that gorgeous voice tumble through the schmultz and horrible lyrics--I said to myself "Now we know why you don't hear it much..."

jimhenshaw said...

No "Summer Wind"???

And you still have your thumbs?

A. Buck Short said...

But can you name the top two NANCY Sinatra songs of all time? Hint, Hooray for Hazlewood – the Nelson Riddle of Sinatrettes everywhere. And wait a minute Mr. announcer-person, did Frank sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game?” Or was that Gene Kelley? Or Esther Williams. Either way, I never miss a Jules Munshin picture.

Long before Google made this kind of stuff easier, I spent several years tortured trying to remember the name of the movie in which Frank Sinatra sang “Young at Heart.” Until I finally realized the picture was “Young at Heart.” Some of us have decades like that.

Vermonter17032 said...

I want to know Nancy Sinatra's 10 greatest hits!

flem snopes said...

Great pipes on a Mafioso Thug Wannabe.

Never met a man his bodyguards couldn't beat up.

AlaskaRay said...

I just love Frank's disco version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Should be on everyone's 10 best list.


A. Buck Short said...

Just vamping until the sitcast at 2 Central. Although not being chat proficient I'll probably end up being just a voyeur. Or whould that be ├ęcouteur? Wait a minute, I think that means headset?

Anyway, I apologize if I've noted this before here, but Sinatra was also a marketing genius. He once mentioned that he thought Tony Bennett was "the world's greatest singer." After that there wasn't a dj on earth fishing for something to say introing a Tony Bennett track that didn't mention at least once that "Here's a guy Frank Sinatra called the world's greatest singer."

Hardly anybody ever mentioned Tony Bennett when introducing a Frank Sinatra number.

8 minutes to air?

Tom Quigley said...

Vermonter17032 said...

"I want to know Nancy Sinatra's 10 greatest hits!"...

Here you go, Vermonter 17032 -- Nancy Sinatra's 10 greatest hits:

10) Summer Wine

9) Some Velvet Morning

8) ----

7) ----

6) ----

5) ----

4) ----

3) ----

2) ----

1) These Boots Are Made For Walkin'

Unknown said...

what about "It Had to be You" (albeit a cover) or "The Way You Look Tonight"

c'mon Ken!!!

Joey H said...

Come Fly With Me

Dean Martin said...

I think you should have included all of the duets that Sammy and I did with Frank at the Sands. We had a B-A double L in those days.

Mike Barer said...

Nancy Sinatra songs? Any duet with Lee Hazlewood. Any duet with Frank.
I love duets.

Frasier Fan said...

I was beaten to the punch but I concur with Carrie that "She's Such a Groovy Lady" deserves an honorable mention. Even though Frank rejected it, it was a great song and it makes my heart go hidee, heydee!

Jeffrey Leonard said...

I used to love when Frank would come out on stage and before he would sing "Something" he would say, "and now a tune from the team of Lennon and McCartney". Only problem was that "Something" was written by George Harrison...oops!

Anonymous said...

ken, can you elaborate more on the role of sitcom creators in the process of the show vs staff writers?

assuming the creators aren't necessarily showrunners.

thanks a lot

VP81955 said...

As someone who owns both the Columbia and Capitol box sets (and who saw Sinatra in concert at the Kennedy Center in '83 and the Spectrum in Philly in '86), here's my top 10 (non-kitsch):

1. "Saturday Night (Is The Loneliest Night In The Week)" -- This is the 1945 Columbia version I'm referring to, perhaps the first post-Dorsey record that proved Frank could swing. Wonderful George Sirvavo arrangement.

2. "Can't We Be Friends" -- you could choose just about anytrack from "In The Wee Small Hours," but I like this one. Great vulnerability.

3. "Close To You" -- not "(They Long To Be) Close To You," the Bacharach-David hit for the Carpenters, but this, the title track from the 1956 Capitol album of the same name, both with a string quartet. Sublime.

4. "To Love And Be Loved" -- the theme for the film "Some Came Running," and a charming record made iat the peak of Sinatra's powers.

5. "If You Are But A Dream" -- the Columbia version (though the Capitol version is nearly as good). You may recall this being used in Woody Allen's "Radio Days."

6. "Stardust" -- from "Sinatra & Strings"...what makes this unusual is that Frank sings only the verse, making you view the song from an entirely different perspective. (He did the same with "MacArthur Park.")

7. "Like Someone In Love" -- from "Songs For Young Lovers," Sinatra's first Capitol album. Wonderfully intimate.

8. "That Old Feeling" -- the Columbia version, a song that makes you appreciate the beauty of the young Sinatra's voice...and Axel Stordahl's lush arrangements.

9. "Reaching For The Monn" -- from "Moonlight Sinatra," Nelson Riddle's last album with Frank, and a loving way to say adieu.

10. "I've Got The World On A String" -- not only one of the greatest reconrds Sinatra ever made, but one of the most important: He cut it on April 30, 1953, only four weeks after his first session at Capitol, and it showed this was a new Sinatra, one to be reckoned with.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

If you've read this far, then you are a Sinatra fan.

Time well spent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbyboiib5hA

jbryant said...

I love Sinatra, but it's just about impossible to achieve familiarity with his enormous output, so I'm afraid I've never heard several of Ken's selections.

"One for My Baby" would top my list as well (and of course the entire Only the Lonely LP is stunning). I'll also toss kudos to "To Love and Be Loved," "I've Got the World on a String," "Learnin' the Blues," and one of his Jobim duets, maybe "Girl from Impanema" or "Change Partners."

To the haters: I can understand not liking any number of Sinatra's song choices or arrangements, or his attitude or personality, but it seems to me that the quality of his voice in its prime is one of the few objectively great things that have come along.

VW: How appropriate: "azing." If Frankie came from the old country instead of Jersey: "A-Zing-a Went-a da String-as of-a My Heart."

Buttermilk Sky said...

In "Till the Clouds Roll By" he wears a white tailcoat and sings "Old Man River." Unless I'm hallucinating. If not, I'd love to know if this ever found its way onto a CD.

Jonathan Schwartz would know.

Scott in Harbor City said...

Pennies From Heaven
All or Nothing at All
Come Fly with Me
In the Wee Small Hours
and for quirky, High Hopes and Nice 'n' Easy

Thomas Beck said...

I love his song "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else."

mrswing said...

This is without a doubt the weirdest Sinatra list I've ever seen... Putting some real classics in with a bunch of... bizarre choices (and even out-and-out stinkers).
Though Bim Bam Baby is one hell of a rockin' record (and silly beyond belief).

As for Sinatra never meeting anyone his bodyguards couldn't beat up - apparently master brawler Robert Mitchum once said that the man he'd like to fight least of all was Sinatra, because the only way to keep him from coming at him again and again and again was to kill him.

The bodyguards obviously helped, too.

Oh, and a serious suggestion for the most joyous Sinatra song ever?

TE said...

Actually, "Satisfy Me One More Time" (written by the late Floyd Huddleston, when he was still alive) is one of my favorite Sinatra records. Maybe not Top 10, but bawdy fun.

Points to you for even knowing it exists.

WP: laths. As in the old plasterers' proverb: "He who laths last, laths best."

akrotiri said...

There is no equal

Whenever I fall out with the wife I get her to listen to "More"

She makes up to me in a flash

What suberbly romantic lyrics and what can I say about the Count Basie arrangement....breathtaking

Listen to it on the Sinatra/Basie CD "It Might As Well Be Swing"

Anonymous said...

HA HA HA!! I stumbled upon this string 3 years after most the comments were made, but got the biggest kick out of the "Groovy Lady" comments! It was EXACTLY what I was thinking when reading through it. I LOVE that episode of Frasier - seemed to me Sinatra missed out on a good one. :-) I love that end scene - watching everyone enjoying it so much . . . . that episode truly makes MY heart go scooby-dooby!

Franksie said...

"Something Stupid" & "Don't Sleep In The Subway" My favorite under the radar songs

Dave Carlson said...

I like Carrie's comment about "She's Such A Groovy Lady" from Frasier. Such a good catchy song!

Susan said...

Frank Sinatra is such an enigma. So many different coats this man wears. I just fell in love with him. Although I watched him with Gene Kelly kicking it up in their musicals when I was a kid in the 60's I never really listened to much of his music. It was a different day and time when I grew up. I feel like I got screwed out of some of the best music ever. I fell in love with him almost 20 years after he was gone. To the guys that just don't 'get' Sinatra and what is so great about him, I can tell you. He has the most incredible voice you can't help but fall in love with the man. He had such swagger. He was totally irresistible. When he was funny he was totally endearing and when he was pissed that cloud of danger will give you goose bumps. Sigh. So even so many years after his death he was incredibly good at what he did he still has women falling in love with him. Although his early music is perfect and beautiful it is his music in the 60's that captures me. His body hums when he sings That's Life. You can see it start in his feet and run up through his body. His elocution and was flawless in his early years but I much prefer him when he started singing jazz, you can't really and truly sing jazz unless you sing from your whole self which includes his Jersey self. I love the bits and pieces of his accent powering through.