#101: Frank Sinatra, "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955)

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Dear Frank,

How’s it going? How is the great beyond treating you? Who you hanging out with these days—Elvis, Mozart, Biggie? Regardless, I hope it’s a jamming time! I was writing to say thanks, which I am sure you get A LOT.  Is Morrison jealous of how many fan letters you receive?

Anyway, I was about 8 years old when I saw your last concert on TV. It was summer, the night before my family was leaving for vacation. I had already been tucked into bed when my dad very excitedly ran to my door and told me to come into my parents’ room, where they were watching your concert. It was the first time I saw you sing and I drifted off that night to one or your last televisions appearances.

At age 8, I was very familiar with you, Ol’ Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board, the Voice. No other artist was more revered in my house growing up then you. I was that kid in daycare who sang every word to “Chicago,” showing off to all of my friends, not quite understanding that they were more impressed by the latest Ace of Base hit. By the time I reached 12, my knowledge on you rivaled any middle-aged man, with facts on your four marriages (say hi to Ava for me), and those crazy Vegas Rat Pack days. Speaking of, can you ask Dean if he plans to write me back anytime soon?

These trivia tidbits came from one person in my house, and one person alone: my dad. His love for you came from a true admiration of talent and feeling of kinship. My dad is Italian, and loves being Italian. My dad saw you as the true Italian immigrant success story, which needed to be shared with everyone, including his children, as early as possible.

We had every one of your CDs, and when a new rendition came out, you bet it was on the list for dad’s birthday, Father’s Day, or Christmas. They were all displayed together in our CD cabinet as if they deserved their own special recognition. I used to ask my dad which CD was his favorite and on more than one occasion the answer was In The Wee Small Hours. I think for him this album showed layers of emotions that we didn’t always get from those typical big band songs or those Cole Porter classics. This album was bluesier and therefore felt darker, sadder.

I think my dad related to this more. He is a very emotional man, one who can be angry, laughing, and loving all in a moment. His complete honesty regarding how he feels leaves him vulnerable. The lyrics in this album epitomize this type of man. One who is honest about his emotions, no matter how sad, loving, or brutal, which ultimately creates strength and hope.

You hear this with lyrics like “unrequited love’s a bore and I’ve got it pretty bad, but for someone you adore it’s a pleasure to be sad,” in Glad to be Unhappy and “I cry my heart out, it’s bound to break, since nothing matters, let it break. I ask the sun and the moon, the stars that shine, What’s to become of it, this love of mine,” in This Love of Mine. Your tone and enunciation are so clear that the honesty and layers of hope ring out with an even greater force.

We had one of those five-disc CD players and whenever we had guests over, I got to pick out the CDs on the player and one of your CDs had to be on rotation. Knowing that my dad loved In the Wee Small Hours, it was constantly picked. I remember whenever the CD was played, red wine was inevitably flowing and my dad would start reminiscing about his childhood. He would tell my brother and I stories about growing up in a Sicilian neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama in the ‘60s. Going to school with only other Sicilians and living next door to other Sicilians.  These moments were honest and emotional for my dad, much like the lyrics you sing. He shared with us in a way that inspired us and gave us courage, even if the stories felt sad, much how you sing. For my dad, your music became a connection to a community he had left and was a bridge for his kids to understand his history and our shared heritage.

So even though I am writing this fan letter to you, perhaps the true fan letter should go to my dad; a man who is completely honest, never shying away from emotions and filling his kids with limitless courage. And obviously, not least of all, a man with a strong love for your music and an enthusiasm for sharing it.

So thanks Frank for being a generation bridge, a common love, and a great listen!

Marie Sicola

P.S. If you want to send a signed headshot, I would totally win for best Christmas present ever!