Duets with Sinatra

tom posted 11/19/03 02:03 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I've heard a lot of songs sung by Frank Sinatra together with Bing. Quite a few times Sinatra isn't in tune. On a website it is mentioned that Frank Sinatra has perfect pitch. I find that absolutely ridiculous. And the worst thing of all is that Bing isn't mentioned on the site, while I'm sure he had perfect pitch. I've never heard him sing flat in his entire life.
But still, I just wanted to post a topic saying how I feel. I'm pretty young, so I might be wrong about these things.
I'd just like to know what everyone thinks and if they might share some of their knowledge containing facts I don't know.
Lars posted 11/20/03 03:06 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I've always thought Bing managed to make his voice blend with just anybody who stretched their vocal chords together with him. I presume Bing could even make me sound good. As for Bing and Frank I especially enjoyed their marvelous earlier duets - at the time of Sinatra's Academy Award - when they crooned a couple of medleys including songs like "There's a long, long road...", "September Song" and "As time goes by". And I always enjoyed the musical duets (on the Reprise albums) - with Dino and Frank as well as the Debbie Reynolds one. The duets with Frank on the LP "AMERICA I Hear you singing" weren't that good though (IMO).
Candace Scott posted 11/22/03 05:23 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
As a fan of both Bing and Frank, maybe I can shed some light on this issue. In 1993 or 1994, Sinatra was interviewed on radio in Virginia, where he was then singing a concert. The interviewer was a young DJ who asked him about Bing and I have this interview on recorded tape and was listening to recently. Frank briefly discussed Bing and the DJ asked about their duets. Frank said they sang together a lot on the radio in WWII, but many of their duets just weren't saved or recorded. Then Sinatra said:

"My thing never was duets, I liked doing them, but, you know, I just never got into it as much as Bing did. Bing did so much singing with the Andrews Sisters and backup singers, also he liked singing with another voice, just having another presence around. His stuff with Armstrong, for instance, was fabulous stuff. When I sang with Bing early on, I was so nervous to be with this big gun I probably didn't sound so hot. But, you know, when we did the movie together, we sang together and did OK, but it never went over as well as I wanted. Bing's voice was great, he bent over backwards to mesh it with whoever he was singing with and he had, you know, so much practice from singing duets for so long. The little girl he sang with in the movie, he even pitched up to her level. He was real talented in that department, you could say."

I agree that Sinatra and Bing never sounded well together, Sinatra particularly suffers in comparison when they share a vocal. Bing sounds outstanding, as usual, but Sinatra is way below his standard level. My personal opinion is because Sinatra excelled in emoting a lyric and in "feeling" a song - its pathos, depression, loneliess or pain. Sinatra's songs like "Love and Marriage" or "High Hopes" never showcased his voice, and his duets with Bing were of that "throw away" genre-- "Did You Evah?" is cute, but hardly noteworthy in lyrical content.

Sinatra is an average vocalist in singing cutesy songs, he's outstanding in ballads, lost love and pain songs. In any case, Bing had the much better, deeper, more mellifluous voice.
Sean posted 11/22/03 08:17 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
I'm young myself but have listened to many of Frank's records. I have always believed that what made Sinatra sound good was not his voice but Nelson Riddle's arrangements. A theory of incompatibility would be that Frank, coming from Hobocan NJ right across the Hudson from Manhatten and he spoke in that acent but sang differently, I think when Frank sang with others, he reverted to this accent. In Fugue for Tinhorns, Frank Bing and Dino are all over the place, Frank seems almost intrusive. I have always wished Bing and Frank did a duet album together - Wasn't Dean a great admirer of Bing's though and coppied his mellow tones. Just a thought
Anne posted 12/28/03 12:53 PM Central Time (US)     No E-mail no email address given
Great post by Candace -- pretty much mirrors some of my own thinking re Sinatra/Crosby. Sinatra's greatness was not based simply on his arrangers (although he worked with some of the best), nor on his ability to chose some very fine lyricists' works to record, nor his wonderful voice. It was his ability to intuitively grasp the meaning of a lyric and convey it so that the listener "felt" the emotion. Sinatra was a genious in this regard.

Crosby had an undeniably beautiful voice and, in his earlier recordings, especially, sang with passion. However, when I think of Bing it is mostly his coolness, his jazziness that comes through rather than interpretive abilities.

Interesting comment by Sean re: the accent. It was hardly ever heard in his singing, but when Sinatra spoke, the accent was indeed there!

But I'd dispute it was Riddle's arrangements that made the Sinatra sound. There's a different Sinatra for every taste and that's due to the variety of fine arrangers he worked with: Stordahl; Jenkins; Riddle; May; Costa are a few examples.
Bob posted 12/29/03 11:27 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Anne, I think that Bing was very definitely a song interpreter. He rarely sang a song entirely "straight." He had his own distinctive phrasing, and, for effect, he often departed from the strict melody. Also, on those recordings where he reprised the lyrics, the second rendering was almost invariably different from the first. That, to me, is a form of interpretation. Two good examples of this are his recordings of "The One Rose" and "It's Easy to Remember," and there are others, too numerous to mention.
John Walton posted 03/16/04 02:20 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
I always thought that perfect pitch meant that you could pitch exactly any note you were called upon to sing (Bb,F#. etc.) without the need of a lead in, guide note or accompaniment; useful for singers performing live who start a song before the instruments come in. It's a fairly rare quality. Many successful singers don't have it; some people who can't sing particularly well do. As for Bing/Frank Sinatra duets - they always had to compromise on keys as Frank, as you might expect from a younger guy, relied on his voice "soaring" to be effective in many numbers. (And, as Bing would mention, Frank didn't lower his keys particularly as his voice deepened.) To be fair to Frank Sinatra, he usually deferred to Bing in key choice (e.g. 'Did You Evah...?'
Henry Zecher posted 03/26/04 07:52 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
The problem with Sinatra in duets was not his pitch but the texture of his voice. Particulary in the 50s and afterward, his voice had an edge to it that Crosby's and Dean Martin's did not have. Their voices were mwllow, smooth; Sinatra's was hard and edgy. To compare what electronics could do for him, watch High Society. He sings one song without the electronic amplification and his voice is hard; when he sings with the electronic amplification, his voice is softer, more well rounded. Sinatra's voice did not blend well with the voices of other singers, whereas Crosby's and Martin's did. By himself, and particularly with electronic help, Sinatra's voice was great, considering it's limitations. Crosby's and Martin's voices were made to blend with others, particularly Dino's.
Henry Zecher
John Walton posted 03/28/04 09:12 AM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
Henry, you may have a point about the harder edgier texture of Frank Sinatra's voice making it more difficult to blend. I still think, however, that the compromises on pitch were a significant factor when Bing and Frank came together. I've always personally been more drawn to the Bing school of crooning, though I have very much enjoyed the work of both artists. But if you have a naturally mellow tone, there is undoubtedly a limit to the moods and attitudes you can convey in your interpretation of a song. (Bing, in interview, praised Sinatra's ability to strike a mood, something which he modestly said he didn't do.) Sinatra certainly used the texture of his voice to good effect and,hard edge or not, could convey tenderness as effectively as aggressiveness; loneliness as easily as good humour. I don't believe that was all down to electrical enhancement. However, if you like your crooners to be troubadours, then Bing, with a tonal quality at times astonishing, never had an equal. "Did you evah?", is a brilliant duet because of the contrasting attitudes - Bing's amused nonchalance and Frank's inebriated good humour.
Ronald Sarbo posted 06/13/04 06:33 PM Central Time (US)    E-mail contact the author directly
When Sinatra is singing with Bing or Dino he has to take the high part.Sinatra is then singing out of his natural range while Bing and Dino are still in their comfort zone. Notice the difference when Sinatra is singing with Dino and Sammy. Then Frank is in the middle of the 2.

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