Frank Sinatra: Dark Songs for Enlightened People

My vinyl gets the most play in the wee short days of the New Year through early spring, and yesterday I spent the afternoon listening to Watertown on repeat. Of course with vinyl you can’t just set it and forget it; you have to pick yourself up to flip it or start it all over again. It’s a good preventive measure for becoming glued to one’s couch.

I first heard Watertown while driving up north to the Maine Wildlife Park two Novembers ago. I was surprised that it was new to me since I own most of Sinatra’s albums and have been a fan for decades thanks to my father, a life-long fan. Sinatra is the only artist who can bring me to tears and I love him for it!

“Dressed in memories, you are what you used to be…”

The common theme that runs through his darkest of albums is vibrantly alive in Watertown only the heart Sinatra shares is of a small-town variety vs the glam larger-than-life man. Both ache just as deeply so does it matter? This album has all of the beauty and sadness of a warm late fall afternoon in Maine. You know as you listen to the album that the hope of being reunited with his wife who left him alone with their two kids is all going to be blown away, like those past peak sepia-tone November leaves still hanging on…

Here are two reviews I wrote many years ago on Amazon for cherished Sinatra albums:

A Man Alone (Reviewed 2012): A Delicious Melancholy of Solace Found in an Empty Heart

The Voice singing the words of poet Rod McKuen is a brilliant marriage of a man with a heart doomed to a wistful solitude. The Lauras and Dindis about which he used to sing, those lovely ladies who filled him with hope for a true love that never quite made it but he would still try…the effort is gone. The women are now faceless strangers and none stand out, not even a friend, except for a man at peace with his lot in life.

“But no clouds come, if they did, I’d welcome them.’ Cause I have very few visitors here anymore. There must be a highway somewhere, roads I’ve missed, Something more than sky out beyond the window.”

Instead of wanderlust and looking to find the connection he craves, we’re left with a passive hope that assures there is still something out there. Clouds, once an unwelcome shield against a bright outlook have become companions. I’m reminded of an elderly man in a nursing home, only we know he’s still able and nursing his own failures of the heart.

But it’s not depressing or even blue. It’s a beautiful acceptance of hey, maybe this is my lot in life.

“Empty is a string of dirty days. Held together by some rain.”

Some of us just have hard luck.

“Always alone, at home or in a crowd, A single man off on his private cloud, ‘Cause in a world that few men understand, I am what I am, the single man.”

Before a broken heart felt incomplete and in desperate need of solace, craving the comfort of perfumed arms holding him in the moonlight. But now that comfort can be found in himself.

“How can you say something new about being alone, Tell somebody you’re a loner? Right away they think you’re lonely, It’s not the same thing, you know. It’s not wanting to put all your marbles in one pocket. And that’s caring enough not to care too much. Mostly, I guess it’s letting yourself come first for a while.”

Empowerment! Love for himself! So it wasn’t by choice but here he is and he has made his peace with his fate. But that’s not even close to giving up. Because he won’t dare talk to strangers lest they muddle with his mind…and heart.

I can relate to this album 100%. You needn’t be suffering from a broken romance. Hearts can break over many things and so much is beyond our control. Sometimes winning means pulling away and seeing who comes your way. The chase is over. This is such a gorgeous album. It’s different from the “Suicide Series” because the longing is gone and replaced by passive wondering and half-hearted hopes.

You’re never alone when you listen to Sinatra. I just don’t know who he listened to when breaking inside. I guess he really was a man alone.

Where Are You (Reviewed 2011): My Favorite of Sinatra’s Suicide Series

I’ve been listening to this CD in my car for the past couple of months. It’s autumn in New England. The falling leaves are no longer full of bright colors and the cold rain chases away any warm feelings. Yet the summer is still fresh in my mind: those golden, easy days. I don’t want to let go of them and face the inevitable winter.

This album is the perfect soundtrack for painful moments of transition because it is so sad and lovely. It touches me in a way that lets me access all of those deep, suppressed longings for people who are no longer in my life, or who I left because I knew they weren’t good for me. Then I think about those to whom I still hang on, even if only quietly and in my mind, and they know, but don’t care.

Unlike his other two albums that knock you to your knees, “Only the Lonely” and “The Wee Small Hours,” “Where Are you” isn’t so dark that I have to curl up with a chaser. It’s a delicious melancholy that helps me accept what I’ve been running from and will gently let go of as I succumb to the impending winter.

Thrifty Yankee disclosures: Vintage 1971 painting of Jesus purchased at a church rummage sale for $1. The oil on canvas painting of the beautiful, sad lady was a yard sale score at $7.

3 thoughts on “Frank Sinatra: Dark Songs for Enlightened People

  1. Love the reviews Averyl! So heartfelt. I’m also a fan of Sinatra (and Rod McKuen) as well as so much of my parents music. When I hear one of the old standards, I can see Dad and Mom taking a little break from whatever they were doing to dance in the living room for a song. It amazes me that I’ll hear the old songs and know every word!

    Liked by 2 people

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