One of the greatest gifts ever given by entertainers to their appreciative audiences were V-Discs released at the beginning of World War II and featuring Frank Sinatra as well as other prominent Big Band Era musicians and singers.
The specially made V-discs, 12-inch, 78 rpm vinyl records for military personnel only were, according to one solider, "…the next best thing to a letter from home."
Sinatra, along with other popular singers like Bing Crosby and Billie Holiday, were delighted to participate in the "V" (for victory) project that lasted from October 1, 1943 until May 1949.
But no other artist came close to matching Sinatra`s sheer output of V-disc recordings. Those records were the only ones that the musician`s union allowed Sinatra to release from 1942-1944 during the session musician`s strike.
Over its 6-year run, the V-Disc program produced 900 unique discs containing 3000 separate recordings and shipped more than 8 million discs to soldiers stationed overseas.
For Sinatra, the V-discs had special meaning.
Sinatra had always wanted to be a Marine. But when 1941 rolled around and the time came for Sinatra to enlist, he was classified as "4-F" at the Newark Induction Center because of a punctured eardrum he suffered during a Hoboken street fight when his opponent hit him with a bicycle chain.
Since Sinatra couldn`t serve, he took special pleasure in knowing that his records provided hope and comfort to the thousands of troops around the world who were fighting the Nazis.
The giving part of Sinatra`s character is much less well known than the myths, which followed him to the day he died, that he was a rude, crude bore.
To be sure, if you were to ask any of Sinatra`s three ex-wives or the dozens of A-list Hollywood stars he bedded, some might express reservations.
And Sinatra did have Mafia friends—although much more was made of that than it merited.
In the nearly ten years that have passed since Sinatra died in May 1998 what has become ever more evident is his generosity and kindness.
Former editor of Metronome magazine and author of The Big Bands, George Simon, wrote that after interviewing dozens of Sinatra`s friends and associates he found that what was emphasized repeatedly was Frank`s: "…deep sense of loyalty, his intuitive consideration for the feelings of others…and his generosity and numerous acts of kindness, for none of which he ever expects or even wants recognition."
Confirming Simon`s findings, Pete Hamill, author of the essential Why Sinatra Matters wrote: "He was wonderful with children, including my two daughters. He was funny. He was vulnerable. I never saw the snarling bully of the legend…(he was) an intelligent man, a reader of books, a lover of painting and classical music and sports, gallant with women, graceful with men."
If you don`t believe either Simon or Hamill, then I hope you will trust me on the subject of Sinatra.
Years ago in the Lodi News-Sentinel, I wrote a column about a chance encounter my father and I had with Sinatra in a Beverly Hills` men`s clothing store.
My father, gushing embarrassingly, told Sinatra how much his songs meant to him. Before too long, Sinatra offered Dad two tickets to his upcoming performance at the Palladium.
A Christmas song you will hear over and again this season is Mistletoe and Holly, one of the few tunes written by Sinatra and featured on his album A Jolly Christmas.
When you listen to it, think about the real Sinatra—the "Chairman of the Board" who, as told to Simon, had "intense integrity and rapturous respect and reverence for other talented performers."
JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: Even if you care nothing for Sinatra (unimaginable to me) or if you are not of the age when his music would be meaningful, read Why Sinatra Matters for its insights into immigration then and now.
Hamill, frequently an apologist for illegal immigration, nevertheless provides a crucial portrait of the differences between yesterday`s Italians and many of today`s illegal aliens.
For the Sinatra family, simply getting off the boat was not enough to become American. During Sinatra`s youth, Italians were regarded less favorably than Mexicans today. Certainly, the media demonstrated no favoritism or fawning toward Italians. Social services were not available to Italians or other Europeans regardless of circumstance.
But through a combination of talent and hard work—especially on his English language pronunciation during his budding career as a crooner—Sinatra rose to the top—not once but a second time after his success in the 1940s tanked.