Sinatra — along with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and a small group of other singers — made those songs into "America's Classical Music" as Jonathan Schwartz aptly named it.
And the public knew it, knew that he and a small group of his contemporaries had created something important. By the time he came out of retirement and sang at the White House in April 1973 much of the classic repertory was on the set list: "You Make Me Feel So Young," "One for My Baby," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Ol' Man River."
But Sinatra did not revive these songs: he had never abandoned singing them. He had been singing them, in some cases, since the 1940s. But he had the good sense — and the good advice — to surround himself with the best arrangers and writers, men like Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Gordon Jenkins and others who wrote new charts for the old standards.
And aside from a few misguided efforts to sound "hip" (did anyone really need to hear Frank Sinatra sing "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" or "(They Long to Be) Close to You"?) he had the good sense to stay with those songs.
Sinatra embarked on a massive worldwide tour in 1974. It may not have been the Grateful Dead, or Dylan's Never Ending Tour, but from then on Sinatra played mostly huge halls to adoring audiences who came to hear the songs he had help make famous.
And let's get one thing straight about his voice: it did get coarser as the 1970s wore on, but nobody cared. I didn't In April 1979 I took my mother to see him open at Resorts International in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which had opened the year before as the first legal casino outside of Nevada.
It was a nostalgic homecoming of sorts for him. The legendary 500 Club down the street, where he had played since the 1940s, where Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis became breakout stars, was long gone, destroyed in a fire six years before.
He came out late, with a glass of whiskey. His love for Jack Daniels was already legendary.
He opened with — what else? "New York, New York." "I'm back, and I'm gonna keep coming back!" he bellowed.