07 January 2009

Loyalty and Innocence

Yesterday, at the Hartford Armory, I gave a talk to a local "Red Hat" ladies club on Frank Sinatra by focusing on songs he recorded and things he did in January. (I always try to have a different selection of songs when I speak -- even if I'm going over the same territory again and again -- and, with Sinatra's long career, it's quite easy to do.)

One song was the Sammy Cahn special lyric for the first Reagan Inaugural Gala (1/19/81), "Nancy (with the Reagan Face)," based upon the Phil ("Sgt. Bilko") Silvers lyric in honor of the birth of Frank's eldest child in the early 40s, "Nancy (with the Laughing Face)."

Sammy was a life-long Democrat (unlike Sinatra who became a Republican in the early '70s during his brief retirement and stayed). Indeed, in 1972, Frank campaigned with the Vice President and actually sang "THAT'S why Spiro is a...CHAMP."


Anyway, Democrats were quite angry at Sammy Cahn for his willingness to aid the opposition by writing this special material for Frank, but he always placed his loyalty to his dear friend Francis Albert over that to a political party. I applaud that sense of priorities...besides if anyone voted for Nixon/Agnew in 1972 because of the really awful Cahn rewrite of "The Lady is a Tramp," then the McGovern campaign must have had real problems!

I also played a brief snippet from the Kennedy Inaugural Gala that Frank produced twenty years earlier (1/19/61) and was struck by the very partisan nature of all the talk by Kennedy and Sinatra alike. Clearly meant as a true victory party in a way that would seem quite unseemly and not terribly presidential now, there was no "now's the time to come together." It was, rather, "We beat 'em!"

Ah, the glories of a time BEFORE 24/7 news coverage -- when not every event had to be played before a world-wide audience, when every emotion had to be played close to the vest.

As I was driving to the talk, I was listening to Sinatra's recording of "(You and Me) We Wanted it All" which contains a wonderful lyric as he recalls the time when he and his lost love were still together and happy. He longs for the days of innocence (and ignorant bliss):

...Back when we were dumb.
How did we become so smart
and learn to break each other's heart?

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