Nancy Sinatra – Second generation Superstar

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When one of your parents is the worlds greatest singer, and a Superstar spelled with a capital S – how wise is it to follow in his footsteps? If you do that only to cash in on your father’s name and fame, it is not very wise. If, however, you have plenty of talent and you choose another direction – it can prove to be very wise indeed. Nancy Sinatra is a good point in case; though no one is ever likely to forget she is Frank’s daughter, her musical achievements are all her own. She was talented enough to make a name for herself even if they were not related, and she clearly had talent enough to reach the top even without her illustrious bloodline….

Nancy with her dad on stage in the mid 60's

Nancy with her dad on stage in the mid 60’s

Nancy was born in 1940, and at age 20 she made her first single, “Cuff links and a tie clip”. She quickly followed with a string of other singles, among them cover versions of “Tammy”, “I’m walking” and “I see the moon”. She also released a very good version of “To know him is to love him” and she recorded the anti-war, socially conscious “Cruel War”. Her early records didn’t really stand out in any way, she made cute girl pop, and although she sang very well, these records weren’t all that special – she had yet to come up with that extraordinary “Nancy touch”!

AN EP from around 1964. A brunette Nancy with fame just a step away...

An EP from around 1964. A brunette Nancy with fame just a step away…

Nancy hooked up with Lee Hazlewood in 1965, resulting in their first musical collaboration, “So long, babe”. While not a big hit, it was the first in line of songs featuring the “new” Nancy; she lowered her voice a bit, creating a more intimate and sexy sound, all dressed up in Lee’s inventive arrangements. The way she looked also changed, gone was the brown, short hairdo and in its place long, blond tresses. For her next single she also added the mini skirt and the go-go boots – and the eternal image of Nancy Sinatra was thus born!

With the boots ON, she walked on to  the top of the charts...

With the boots ON, she walked on to the top of the charts…

Her next single, “These boots are made for walking” then followed – and Nancy once and for all showed the world that she had indeed made it on her own! The music, style and arrangements were miles away from anything even remotely related to Frank’s music, and the song was an enormous hit, and is even today an example of a true classic from the 60’s! The original version is still popular, and I guess that’s why it hasn’t been recorded by a lot of other artists as well (unlike i.e. “Will you love me tomorrow” which has been remade in at least 100 other versions…). The most recent cover is Jessica Simpson’s who sang it in the movie “The Dukes of Hazzard”…

With Lee Hazlewood producing, Nancy’s career really took off – and for the next few years, she released one fabulous album after the other, usually consisting of new material (mostly written by Hazlewood) and some covers of recent hits. In quick succession, the albums were: “Boots“, “How Does That Grab You?” and “Nancy In London” (all 1966), “Country, My Way” and “Sugar” (both 1967), the soundtrack from her TV Special “Movin’ With Nancy” (1968), then “Nancy” (1969) followed by “Woman” (1972). Each and every one of these classic albums have been released on CD (with bonus tracks) and they are all highly recommended. Together they show the very best of Nancy, and they also give you an important insight into the formative years of this legendary singer!

In addition to her albums, she also made a lot of singles. Her entire output 1960-65 have been made available on 2 CD’s, called “Bubble Gum Girl” Volume 1 & 2 – and here you get all her earliest recordings. During the 1970’s, Nancy married, had children and worked only sporadically. The few singles she produced during the 70’s and early 80’s have all been collected onto one CD, “Cherry Smiles – The Rare Singles” – and it fills the gap between the classic albums of the 1960’s and what was to come later on.

A great collection of her non-album singles recorded 1971-80

A great collection of her non-album singles recorded 1971-80

Not only did Lee Hazlewood produce a lot of Nancy’s music – he was also the perfect duet partner! Acting the deep voiced outlaw to her bright & sunny California girl on a string of classic singles like “Summer wine”, “Jackson”, “Some velvet morning” and their awsome version of Dolly Parton’s “Down from Dover”, their collective sound stands as one of music history’s most fabulous duos! Together they made 3 albums; “Nancy & Lee” (1968), “Nancy & Lee Again” (1972) and finally (30 years later!) “Nancy & Lee 3” (2002). Nancy always sang duets with men only, in addition to her father, Dean Martin and Lee – she hooked up with Mel Tillis in 1981 to make her second country album, “Mel & Nancy“.  Never released on CD, this represents the rarest record for both singers, and that’s a shame – it is a very good album! They got 2 singles onto the country charts as well; “Play me or trade me” and “Texas cowboy night”

The 1981 country album she made with Mel Tillis

The 1981 country album she made with Mel Tillis

After another long hiatus in her career, Nancy slowly eased back onto the scene in the mid 90’s. Still looking fabulous at age 54, she posed for Playboy Magazine! She then started working on her first new album, “One More Time” (1995)…

Yes, she really did that! But at age 54, she had no reason to be ashamed of her body....

Yes, she really did that! But at age 54, she had no reason to be ashamed of her body….

Her new album “One More Time” was a good one, and the critics all went thumbs up for the comeback record of the glamorous Nancy. She followed this album with two more during the late 1990’s; “Sheet Music” (1997) and then “How Does It Feel” (1999). In the early 2000’s, there was a wave of records by legendary singers being produced by recent rock stars; both Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson had new albums out, where they were surrounded by new sounds and arrangements. These records sounded great, and the singers had lost none of the original sparkle!

In 2004, Nancy was another singer who tried this approach. Working with Morrissey, Sonic Youth, U2, Calexico and Jarvis Cocker among others, she made her final album so far, “Nancy Sinatra” (2004). The song “Burnin’ down the spark” got a lot of air play, and it perfectly melts together a modern musical sound with the voice of a legendary 60’s go-go girl, with an added touch of having lived a long life… The album is a major achievement – and one that proves that aging is not neccessarily a bad thing musically, as Nancy at age 64 had an added depth and sounded both soulful and a little jaded and world-weary – but I mean that as a compliment!

Her wonderful 2004 album - get it!!

Her wonderful 2004 album – get it!!

Being a true legend, Nancy Sinatra is now 72 years old, but she still makes the occasional appearance on stage, and neither her voice nor her looks show any signs of ageing. Being such a legendary figure, she causes a stir wherever she performs and that has as much to do with her music and songs, as with her image. Like her father before her, she is the other Sinatra whose musical legacy has shaped our formative years, and plays like the soundtrack to our lives….

Coming soon: A profile on the music of Nancy Sinatra

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A photo of the young Nancy, dipping her toes ca. 1955

She’s Frank’s daughter, she’s the perennial symbol of the 60’s go-go boots pop girl, she’s one half of the greatest Pop Duo ever (Lee Hazlewood and Nancy – oooh!) and she’s given us a musical legacy that seems eternally fresh and exciting.

Born in 1940, Nancy made her first solo record in 1961 and her last solo album so far came out in 2004. In that time span she has released a string of albums and singles that not only contains an enormous amount of great music, it’s also a document on how a 60’s pop girl can develop her talent, change with the times and put her personal stamp on great songs that fit her voice like hand in glove!

The 60’s Nancy: Short dress, big hair, lots of eye lashes and those go-go boots that were made for walkin’

Always being compared to her famous father, Nancy proved that even without that blood line she clearly would have made it to the top anyway. But the genes may have provided the talent in the first place. She has been criticized of not having a “great voice” – which I think is quite absurd; She does sing mostly in a limited register, sure. But what comes out is one of the softest, purest voices in show biz, and she is pure pleasure to listen to!

Nancy, ca. 2005. Still looking good, her career had a real up-swing in the new millennium!

Check back in a few days – for a closer peek into the musical world of Nancy Sinatra….

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