In what would have been Frank Sinatra’s centenary year on 12 December, BBC Radio 2 celebrates one of the bestselling and most influential musical artists of the 20th century with a season of special programming.
* Four brand new BBC Radio 2 documentaries looking at the life of Frank Sinatra
* Featuring Angie Dickinson, Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds, Kim Novak, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., and the late Eli Wallach
* Presenters include Paul Gambaccini, Leo Green, Guy Barker and Jamie Cullum
* A Top 20 of the uk’s official Frank Sinatra chart countdown by Michael Ball and Care Teal
* Another chance to hear a special friday night is music night, and Frank Sinatra – The Dream Concert
Throughout November and December, BBC Radio 2 will broadcast a number of documentaries and music programmes, hearing from those who knew and worked with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, and featuring archive recordings from his concerts.
As part of the programming, there will be unique access to rare and previously unheard recordings of the legendary Sinatra on air in the 1930s and 40s, as Radio 2 explores the performer’s career as a radio star during the golden age of radio in the USA.
Hollywood actress Angie Dickinson presents a two-part star-studded retrospective of Sinatra, and is joined by Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds and Kim Novak to reflect on his prolific film career. Angie, who played Sinatra’s wife Bea in the iconic 1960s heist picture Ocean’s 11, asks what made Sinatra such a great actor on screen and what was the relationship between his screen and singing persona.
Angie Dickinson says: “I think Frank Sinatra is definitely an underrated actor – he was very much on top of Hollywood. I don’t think there’s a more perfect performance than [his] Maggio in From Here To Eternity, no one else could have done it that well or that uniquely. He brought himself to that role.”
Lewis Carnie, Head of Programmes for BBC Radio 2, says: “As Frank Sinatra remains one of the most popular performers with the Radio 2 audience, it’s fitting that we celebrate him as an artist to commemorate what would’ve been his 100th birthday.”
Leo Green and Guy Barker present documentaries taking a look at Sinatra’s tour of the UK in the summer of 1953, and how the stars recording career blossomed all over again when he was signed by Capitol Records in March 1953.
Listen to The UK’s Official Frank Sinatra Chart Top 20 countdown across Michael Ball’s and Clare Teal’s Radio 2 show (13 December), featuring the best of the icon’s solo performances and collaborations.
Plus there will be another chance to hear the documentary When Frank Met Billie, as Jamie Cullum looks back to 1939 when a young Frank met Billie Holiday; a Friday Night Is Music Night: a Sinatra Special recorded in May at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival; and the two-part Frank Sinatra – The Dream Concert.
Full programming details are:
Frank And The Golden Era Of Radio
Monday 23 November, 2200-2300
With unique access to rare and previously unheard recordings of Frank Sinatra on air in the 1930s and 40s, when radio was the epicenter of family entertainment, this programme highlights Frank’s permeation of popular culture as he developed as a singer, actor and comedian – becoming a superstar during America’s golden era of radio.
When Frank Met Billie (Repeat)
Tuesday 24 November, 10pm-11pm
A young Frank Sinatra met Billie Holiday in 1939 and was immediately captivated by her style and talent. In the year of Billie’s centenary (April this year), Jamie Cullum looks back to that meeting, and celebrates the interconnected careers of two of the 20th Century’s greatest interpreters of popular song.
Sinatra and Holiday’s very different lives and careers were inextricably linked. By 1939, Holiday was already an established star. Sinatra was an unknown singer from Hoboken. Twenty years later, Billie Holiday lay dying in New York’s Metropolitan Hospital and Sinatra was at her bedside. Legend has it that he left the hospital to buy her heroin but couldn’t get it past the police guards outside.
When Billie died, he locked himself in his room with her records and was inconsolable for days. A few months earlier, he’d told an interviewer that she was “unquestionably the most important influence on American popular music in the last 20 years. With a few exceptions, every major pop singer in the United States during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius.”
Jamie Cullum is a huge admirer of both artists and in this programme he traces the story of their relationship and celebrates their talent.
Sinatra In The UK, 1953
Monday 30 November, 10pm-11pm
Leo Green tells the little known story of Frank Sinatra’s tour of England and Scotland in the coronation summer of 1953. Damaged by public reaction to his marriage to film star Ava Gardner and a series of flop singles, Sinatra’s career was on the decline. He played two shows a night to half empty houses in places like Tooting and Ayr. No-one knew that the film he’d finished just before the tour, From Here To Eternity, would catapult him back to superstardom.
In this programme, which features archive recordings made in the UK in 1953, veteran Sinatra fans who attended the concerts describe the shows and Leo Green considers what it must have felt like for the former teenage heart throb to watch his fanbase dwindling in front of his eyes.
Sinatra: The Comeback
Tuesday 1 December, 10pm-11pm
After a dramatic and near-fatal fall from popularity in the early 1950’s taking him from the Hollywood Bowl to the Opera House, Blackpool, Frank Sinatra won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the movie From Here To Eternity. His recording career blossomed all over again when he was signed by Capitol Records in March 1953, and what was described as “the greatest comeback since Lazarus” was underway.
The programme examines the several factors that led to Sinatra’s catastrophic decline at the start of the 1950’s (including the breakdown of two marriages, the first to Nancy, the mother of his children and the second to Ava Gardner, the love of his life), and the two important steps that led him back on the road to recovery.
The late actor Eli Wallach recalls how he turned down the part of Maggio in From Here To Eternity, opening the way for Frank Sinatra to give his great Oscar-winning performance and re-igniting his film career.
Capitol Records Executive Alan Livingston remembers when he signed Frank Sinatra in 1953 and teamed him with arranger Nelson Riddle. And we hear the background to that momentous pairing, and the real story behind those first Capitol sides.
Presented by Guy Barke, and featuring interviews with Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Eli Wallach, Billy May, Nelson Riddle, Quincy Jones, Johnny Mandel, and Neal Hefti.
Sinatra On Screen, with Angie Dickinson (two parts)
Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 December, 10pm-11pm
Hollywood legend Angie Dickinson presents a star-studded retrospective of Frank Sinatra the actor. Angie, who played Sinatra’s wife Bea in the iconic 1960s heist picture Ocean’s 11, is joined by Shirley MacLaine, Debbie Reynolds and Kim Novak, to reflect on Sinatra’s prolific film career.
In a cinematic career spanning over five decades, and just as colourful as his musical one, Frank Sinatra played sailors, nightclub singers, assassins, detectives, soldiers and heroin addicts. Angie asks what made Sinatra such a great actor on screen and explores the relationship between his screen and singing persona.
In Programme One, Angie reveals how Sinatra’s Oscar-win saw him rocket to the top of Hollywood and saved him from obscurity. Kim Novak reflects on appearing with him in The Man With The Golden Arm, the film Sinatra called his greatest achievement, and Shirley MacLaine recalls her time on the set of Some Came Running in 1958.
Programme Two opens with Angie’s stories from the Las Vegas while shooting Ocean’s 11. We also revisit some of Sinatra’s greatest roles in Hollywood musicals, his critically acclaimed turn in The Manchurian Candidate and his underrated later performances.
Friday Night Is Music Night: Sinatra Special (Repeat)
Friday 11 December, 8pm-10pm
To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra, Friday Night is Music Night looks at the The Sinatra Legacy. Guy Barker MBE leads the BBC Concert Orchestra, his big band and singers Kurt Elling, Clare Teal and Anthony Strong in a celebration of the songs, the style, and the sensation that was Frank Sinatra, recorded in May at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
Sunday Night with Michael Ball (7pm-9pm) and Clare Teal (9pm-11pm)
Sunday 13 December
Michael Ball and Clare Teal will count down the Top 20 of The UK’s Official Frank Sinatra Chart –compiled exclusively for BBC Radio 2 by the Official Charts Company to celebrate Ol’ Blue Eyes centennial year. Based on all-time sales of Sinatra’s physical singles and digital track sales from 1952 to 2015, the rundown features the best of the icon’s solo performances and collaborations.
Frank Sinatra – The Dream Concert – two parts (repeat)
Monday 14 & Tuesday 15 December, 10pm-11pm
Marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Kid from Hoboken, this ‘concert’ showcases the unique style of probably the greatest singing performer of all time. Frank Sinatra – The Dream Concert is a concert that never actually took place. Compiled from recordings of some of his best live performances with the great bands of the day, here are his classic songs from Witchcraft to My Way, this is Sinatra at his best – live.