A biography that reads like a novel. . . . Kaplan does a nimble, brightly evocative job of tracing the development of Sinatra’s art, and his remarkable rise and fall and rise again.” —Michiko Kakutani, “Top 10 Books of 2010,” The New York Times
“Fascinating, superbly written. . . . Whatever you think of Ol’ Blue Eyes, he led an incredible life, and his adventures make great reading. This book is biography at its best.” —The Dallas Morning News
“Marvelously thoughtful. . . . A propulsive narrative that never flags.” —Los Angeles Times
“Jim Kaplan’s great gift is his own voice, in peak form—stylish, seductive, and richly resonant—that stands up to Sinatra’s powerful baritone. This is a perceptive, passionate biography.” —Bob Spitz, author of The Beatles
“Just when you think you know all the stories . . . along comes James Kaplan’s Frank to tell us more. . . . Sinatra lovers will be enthralled.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“[Readers] will be carried along by the undeniable pleasure of reading Kaplan’s page-after-page-turner, dense with details of long-forgotten trysts and tiffs, career and emotional highs and lows, movie- and record-business shenanigans. . . . A classic.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Monumental. . . . Nobody has spun the old yarns with the raconteur’s touch and attitude that Mr. Kaplan brings to the job. . . . Illuminates the incredible-but-true origins of a 20th-century phenomenon.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Riveting. . . . The book does music history a huge favor by reminding us that from his days with Tommy Dorsey to the twilight of his Columbia years, Sinatra was a singularly incandescent vocal phenomenon.” —Stephen Holden, The New York Times
“This is biography at its very best—the story of a fascinating character brought to life as never before through superb writing, impeccable research and penetrating insight. It is a terrific book.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals
“With its neat dramatic arc, Frank: The Voice could be the template for the ultimate Sinatra biopic.” —Newsday
“The answer to ‘what is there left to say about Sinatra’ is staggeringly answered in James Kaplan’s new book. This story has never been told with such incisiveness, care, research and respect. With so many new revelations, you might never really know who Frank Sinatra is until you read this book.” —Michael Feinstein
“Kaplan is skilled at painting a scene, and he turns readers into ‘flies on the wall.’ . . . The music comes alive.” —The Seattle Times
“James Kaplan succeeds not just in bringing Frank Sinatra alive in all his complexity, but in revealing in detail how he consciously, deliberately, and painstakingly transformed himself into a triumphantly successful entertainer and a national icon.” —Michael Korda, author of Ike
“A very enjoyable book that will surely enthrall Sinatra’s most serious fans. But it will also attract a whole new generation who will understand how the man who drove Bobbysoxers to the heights of emotional intensity became the sound that most likely will be considered the most important marker for the postwar era and the beginnings of the pop music phenomenon.” —Bookreporter.com
“Sinatra was to 20th Century stagecraft what Churchill was to statecraft: the towering presence of the age. In this lyrical narrative, suffused with a mastery of popular culture, Frank is back—this time as a major figure in American history.” —Jonathan Alter, author of The Promise: President Obama, Year One
“At every step of the journey, Kaplan does a good job of capturing what he feels is Sinatra’s fragile ego, contradictory impulses, and—when possible—separating fact from fiction.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“At long last, we have a biography of Sinatra worthy of the man . . . a pop innovator whose influence remains incalculable, whose art remains undiminished. James Kaplan tells this story with the authority of a writer who inhabits his subject from deep inside. The pages fly by on the wings of song.” —Gary Giddins, author of Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams and Warning Shadows
The story of Frank Sinatra's rise and self-invention and the story of his fall and remarkable comeback had the lineaments of the most essential American myths, and their telling, Pete Hamill once argued, required a novelist, "some combination of Balzac and Raymond Chandler," who might "come closer to the elusive truth than an autobiographer as courtly as Sinatra will ever allow himself to do." Now, with Frank: The Voice, Sinatra has that chronicler in James Kaplan, a writer of fiction and nonfiction who has produced a book that has all the emotional detail and narrative momentum of a novel…Mr. Kaplan writes with genuine sympathy for the singer and a deep appreciation of his musicianship, and unlike gossipy earlier biographers…he devotes the better part of his book to an explication of Sinatra's art: the real reason readers care about him in the first place.
The New York Times
…Kaplan can tell a story. His passion for Sinatra keeps the narrative flowing; he's equally fascinated by his subject's seamy and artistic sides; and he evokes period atmosphere well. While adding nothing new to our understanding of Sinatra's singing, he offers a fair synthesis of what's already been said.
The New York Times Book Review
Let's accept the implicit contention of Frank, that a big star needs a big book - this is the first of two projected volumes - something that can situate him both horizontally, in the expanse of his times, and vertically, down to the itchiest layers of his soul.
Is Kaplan's book that book? It certainly aspires to be. A hernial sound rises from each page, as if the author were hoisting a world of scholarship onto his shoulders, and to his credit, that labor produces a stream of insights. Kaplan really gets what made Sinatra unique. …
Above all, Kaplan grasps how unsuited - and at the same time, how perfect - Sinatra was for the job of American idol.
The Washington Post
In this riveting and fast-paced biography, Kaplan, coauthor with Jerry Lewis of Dean and Me, chronicles Sinatra's somewhat unlikely meteoric ascent to success, his failures, and his rebirth as a star of song and screen. With exhaustive, and sometimes exhausting, detail, Kaplan engagingly re-creates the young Sinatra's childhood in Hoboken, N.J., where young Frank was born, in 1915. By the time he was 12, Sinatra was singing for quarters on top of the piano in the bar in his father's tavern. At 21, Frankie joined a group that became known as the Hoboken Four, and everyone soon recognized Sinatra's great vocal gift. Kaplan expertly conducts us on a journey through Sinatra's early years with Tommy Dorsey and his long solo career; Sinatra's first marriage to Nancy Barbato and his more famous marriage to Ava Gardner; and through Sinatra's movie career and his rebirth in the early 1950s. Although Sinatra's career often faltered in the late 1940s, his partnership with Nelson Riddle and the release of the song "Young at Heart" in 1953 began Sinatra's comeback. Kaplan's enthralling tale of an American icon serves as an introduction of "old blue eyes" to a new generation of listeners while winning the hearts of Sinatra's diehard fans. (Nov.)
Singer and pop icon Frank Sinatra is hardly a neglected personage. While novelist and celebrity coauthor Kaplan (Dean & Me, with Jerry Lewis; You Cannot Be Serious, with John McEnroe) clearly respects Sinatra's enormous talent, the hagiographic tone common in Sinatra books is absent here, though he is not as negative as Anthony Summers and Robyn Swan (Sinatra: The Life). Kaplan covers Sinatra's life from his birth in 1915 until the resurrection of his career in 1954 (when he won an Oscar for his role as Maggio in From Here to Eternity). His youth, persistence in pursuing a singing career, relationships with women, work with bandleader Tommy Dorsey, the controversial reversal of his draft status during World War II, and relationships with musicians and mafiosi are all presented with panache and clarity. VERDICT While this book may be the fullest account of Sinatra's first 40 years, libraries will want to have other books—perhaps Richard Havers's Sinatra—for covering his career and more in-depth analysis of his music and films.—Bruce R. Schueneman, Texas A&M Univ. Lib., Kingsville
For better and worse, this ambitiously epic biography of Frank Sinatra (1915–1998) reads like a movie biopic.
Over the course of nearly 700 pages, biographer Kaplan (co-author, with Jerry Lewis: Dean and Me, 2005, etc.) brings his subject up to 1954, when his Oscar-winning role in From Here to Eternity revived a career that had been on the skids (with the likes of Eddie Fisher and Perry Como far exceeding his popularity). So, is there anything new to say about 'Ol Blue Eyes? Not really, as the author draws heavily from—and frequently provides commentary on—many previous Sinatra biographies, as well as those of other crucial figures in his life, including Ava Gardner, Lana Turner et al. The distinguishing features of Kaplan's narrative are its psychological focus on the domineering mother who shaped the singer's psyche and its attempt to craft a literary style that echoes Sinatra's. Thus the author describes Gardner in her first encounter with Sinatra as "curvy, fleshy in just the right places" and later as "a sexual volcano [who] ruled him in bed." The inscrutable smile of Nancy Sinatra, the singer's first wife, "reminded him of that chick in the painting by da Vinci." His response to the passing of FDR: "death was such a strange thing: it gave him the creeps." And his reaction to the playback of "I've Got the World on a String," his revitalizing triumph with arranger Nelson Riddle: "'Jesus Christ,' he breathed, almost prayerfully, his eyes wide and blazing. "I'm back! I'm back, baby, I'm back!' " Whether readers find that such stylistic flair enhances the narrative or compromises its credibility, Kaplan humanizes his subject, illuminating both the insecure man and the artistic genius.