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“Die Furcht ist der Feind der Logik.” – Copy

In February 1963, PLAYBOY published a remarkable interview with Frank Sinatra. The American journalist and author Joe Hymas led it. 

Sinatra answers questions about his religiosity and shows a reflection with which he was far ahead of his time. He criticizes organized religion and shares his philosophical convictions, which are characterized by respect for life and scepticism towards dogmatism.

He emphasizes the importance of honesty in music and personal conduct, discusses the dangers of nuclear armament and the need for disarmament, and is critical of the role of the press. His answers to questions about his view of Russia are also astonishing, and must be seen in the context of the agitated time against communists.

"Fear is the enemy of logic", Sinatra replies to a question. This Sinatra sentence shows Sinatra's profundity and clear view. You will have recognized for yourself that the sentence is remarkably topical. In any case, you will encounter some familiar themes in the interview. This is not the only reason why I recommend this interview to you.

 

Playboy Interview: Frank Sinatra

by Joe Hyams - PLAYBOY - February 1963

Playboy: Frank, in the 20 years since you left the Tommy Dorsey Band to make a name for yourself as a solo singer, you've deepened and diversified your talents with a variety of current careers in related fields. But so far, none of these skills and activities have been able to eclipse your talents as a popular singer. So why don't we start with Sinatra the singer? OK, it's a deal.

Sinatra: I think it's because I get the audience involved in a song, personally involved - because I'm involved myself. It's not something I do on purpose: I can't help myself. If the song is a lament about the loss of a love, I get a stomach ache. I feel the loss myself and cry out the loneliness, the hurt and the pain I feel.

Playboy: There are many explanations for your unique ability - apart from the subtleties of style and vocal range - to convey the mood of a song to the audience. How would you define that?

Sinatra: I don't know what other singers feel when they formulate lyrics, but as an eighteen-carat manic-depressive and after a life full of emotional contradictions, I have taken it to the extreme with both sadness and enthusiasm. I think the audience feels that with me. They can't help it.

Playboy: Doesn't every good singer "feel" a song? Is there a difference....

Sinatra: Most of what has been written about me is one big blur, but I remember being described in one simple word that I agree with. It was in an article that ripped me for my personal behavior, but the writer said that I was "honest" when the music started and I started singing. That says it all about how I feel about it. Whatever else has been said about me personally is irrelevant. When I sing, I believe. I am honest. If you want to win over an audience, there's only one way to do it. You have to reach them with absolute honesty and humility. That's not gimmickry on my part; I've discovered - and you can see it with other entertainers - if they don't reach out to the audience, nothing happens. You can be the most artistically perfect performer in the world, but an audience is like a woman - if you're indifferent, it ends. This applies to any kind of human contact: a politician on TV, an actor in the movies or a guy and a girl. It's just as true in life as it is in art.

Playboy: Of the thousands of words that have been written about you on this subject, do you remember one that aptly described this ability?

Sinatra: Listen, buddy, is this going to be a cruise or a short harbor tour? Like you, I think, feel and ask. I know a few things, I believe in a thousand things, and I'm curious about a million more.

Playboy: From what you've said, it seems that we need to learn something about what makes you tick as a person in order to understand what drives you as an entertainer. Would you be okay with us trying to do just that by exploring some of the fundamental beliefs that move and shape your life?

Sinatra: Well, that's enough to get you started. I think I can summarize my religious feelings in a few paragraphs. Firstly, I believe in you and me. Like Albert Schweitzer, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, I have respect for life - in every form. I believe in nature, in birds, the sea, the sky, in everything I can see or for which there is real evidence. If you mean these things by God, then I believe in God, but I don't believe in a personal God that I ask for comfort or a natural talent on the next roll of the dice. I'm all for anything that gets you through the night, be it a prayer, a sedative or a bottle of Jack Daniel's. But for me, religion is a deeply personal matter, where man and God get along together on their own, without the witch doctor in between. The witch doctor tries to convince us that we need to ask God for help, that we need to spell out to him what we need, that we even need to bribe him with prayers or money. Well, I believe that God knows what each of us wants and needs. We don't necessarily have to go to church on Sunday to reach Him. You can find Him anywhere. And if that sounds heretical, my source is pretty good: Matthew, Five through Seven, The Sermon on the Mount.

Playboy: Let's start with the most basic question there is: Are you a religious person? Do you believe in God?

Sinatra: There are things about organized religion that I dislike. Christ is revered as the Prince of Peace, but more blood has been shed in his name than that of any other figure in history. Show me one step forward in the name of religion and I'll show you a hundred steps backward. Remember that it was men of God who destroyed the educational treasures in Alexandria, who carried out the Inquisition in Spain, who burned the witches in Salem. There are over 25,000 organized religions on this planet, but the followers of each consider all others to be woefully misguided and probably evil.

Playboy: You haven't found any answers for yourself in organized religion?

Sinatra: In India, they worship white cows, monkeys and a bath in the Ganges. Muslims accept slavery and prepare themselves for Allah, who promises wine and deflowered women. And witch doctors are not only to be found in Africa. Take a look at the L.A. papers on a Sunday morning and you'll see the local variety touting their wares like suits with two pairs of pants.

Playboy: Hasn't religious faith just as often served as a civilizing influence?

Sinatra: Remember the smirking, cursing lynch mob in Little Rock that berated a meek, innocent 12-year-old Negro girl when she tried to enroll in public school? Were they - or most of them - non-believing churchgoers? I loathe these two-faced people who feign liberalism but are bigots in their own little spheres. I didn't tell my daughter who to marry, but I would have broken her neck if she had big eyes for a bigot. In my opinion, man is a product of his conditioning, and the social forces that shape his morality and behavior - including racial prejudice - are influenced by material things like food and economic necessities rather than the fear and awe and bigotry generated by the high priests of commercialized superstition. I am for decency - period. I'm all for anything that means love and consideration for my fellow man. But when lip service to a mysterious deity allows bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday - I'm out.

Playboy: But aren't such spiritual hypocrites in the minority? Aren't most Americans fairly consistent in their behavior with the precepts of religious doctrine?

Sinatra: I have no quarrel with decent people at any level. But I can't believe that decency comes only from religion. And I can't help but wonder how many public figures profess their religious faith in order to maintain an aura of respectability. Our civilization, such as it is, has been shaped by religion, and the men who aspire to public office anywhere in the free world must give glory to God or risk immediate condemnation. Our press accurately reflects the religious character of our society, but you'll notice that it also carries articles and ads about astrology and cranky Elmer Gantry revivalists. We in America pride ourselves on our freedom of the press, but every day I, and you too, see this kind of dishonesty and distortion not only in this area, but in news coverage - for example, about guys like me, which is of little consequence except to me; but also in the coverage of world news. How can a free people make decisions without facts? If the press reports on the world the way it reports on me, we have a problem.

Playboy: Are you saying that...

Sinatra: No, wait, let me finish. Have you considered the risk I am taking by speaking out in this way? Can you imagine the flood of letters, curses, threats and obscenities I will receive if these remarks make the rounds? And why? Because I have dared to say that love and decency do not necessarily go hand in hand with religious fervor.

Playboy: If you think you're crossing a line, offending your audience or perhaps risking economic suicide, should we stop this now, erase the tape and start again in a more antiseptic way?

Sinatra: No, let's let it go. I thought that way for years, it hurt me to say those things. Who did I hurt with what I said? What moral misstep did I suggest? No, I don't want to chicken out now.

Playboy: Well, let's move on to another sensitive topic: disarmament. What do you think about the need for it and the possibility of achieving it?

Sinatra: Well, that's like apple pie and mom - how can you disagree? Despite the general and unanimous assumption that both powers - Russia and the United States - already have more nuclear weapons than it would take to vaporize the entire planet, both powers continue to build, improve and increase their fearsome arsenals. For the first time in history, man has developed the means to wipe out all life in a single shattering moment. But the question is not so much whether disarmament is desirable or whether it can be achieved at all, but whether - if we could achieve it - we would be better or perhaps even worse off.

Playboy: Are you suggesting that disarmament could be detrimental to peace?

Sinatra: Yes, in a certain, very delicate sense. You see, I'm a realist, or at least I think I am. Just as I believe that religion doesn't always work, I believe that disarmament is perhaps completely beyond people's ability to live with. Let's forget for a moment the complex problems we might have in moving from a cold war to a peace economy. Let us examine disarmament in terms of the political, social and philosophical conditioning of human beings. Let us assume that the UN somehow succeeds in achieving a disarmament program acceptable to all nations. But let us also imagine the nagging doubts, mistrust and nerve-wracking tensions that must inevitably begin to fill the void: the fear that the other side - or perhaps a third power - is secretly rearming or still has some bombs with which to surprise and defeat the other side. But I firmly believe that nuclear war is absolutely impossible. I don't believe that anyone in the world wants a nuclear war - not even the Russians. They and we and the nth countries - as nuclear strategists refer to future nuclear powers - are faced with the incontrovertible certainty that any nuclear strike will be fatally punished. I cannot believe for a moment that there is the idiot in any nation who will press the first button - not even accidentally.

Playboy: You see no possibility of a world war or effective disarmament?

Sinatra: I am not an industrialist or an economist: I know I am way out of my depth even trying to comprehend the complexity of converting a country's production from war to peace. But if everyone involved in the production of tools of destruction were willing to accept both sanity and a reasonable profit, then I think a psychological shift might be possible. And if this were to happen, I believe that the deep-seated terror in most people's hearts due to the constant threat of total destruction would disappear. The result would be a more positive, less greedy, less selfish and more loving attitude towards survival. This much I can tell you from personal experience and observation: hate does not solve problems. It only creates them.

Playboy: So do you think the nuclear tests should continue?

Sinatra: Absolutely not. I think they have to stop, and I think they will stop - because they have to stop. The name-calling at the UN and the finger-pointing at the peace conferences is just diplomatic nonsense. Both sides have to live on this planet, and the leaders of all countries know that their children and grandchildren have to live here too. I suspect that if the strontium-90 levels in the atmosphere become really dangerous, the scientists on both sides will get the politicians to stop the tests for good - probably at exactly the same time and without any urging from the other side.

Playboy: You spoke earlier about the fear and mistrust that could derail any plan for lasting and effective disarmament. Isn't it likely that the continuation of nuclear preparedness - with or without further tests - will provoke these emotions to an even more dangerous degree?

Sinatra: Fear is the enemy of logic. There is nothing more paralyzing, more destructive, more self-destructive, more sickening in the world - neither for an individual nor for a nation. If we continue to fear the Russians and they continue to fear us, then we are both in deep trouble. Neither will be able to make logical, thoughtful decisions. However, I think that their fear and concern about the ideological balance of power in some areas is by no means irrational. Our concern about a Soviet Cuba 90 miles from Key West, for example, must be equated with Russian concern about our missile bases in the area. It is true that we are deeply concerned, but we must be able to see their side of the coin - and not allow that concern to turn into fear on either side.

Playboy: On a practical level, how would you combat communist expansion in areas such as Cuba, Laos and the emerging African nations?

Sinatra: It seems so ridiculously simple to me: Stop worrying about communism; just remove the conditions that favor it. Marxian philosophy and dialectical vagaries aside, I think communism can only thrive wherever and whenever it is encouraged to spread - not just by the communists themselves, but by poor social and economic conditions: and we can always expect the communists to take advantage of those conditions. Poverty is probably the greatest trump card the communists have. Everywhere in the world where it prevails, there is a potential communist breeding ground. If a person is frustrated in material terms, if his family is starving, then he suffers, then he broods, and then he becomes susceptible to the lure of an ideology that promises him relief.

Playboy: Do you share the American right's concern about our own country's vulnerability to communist schemes?

Sinatra: Now, if you're talking about the poor, beaten-down, dehumanized, discriminated-against guy on some run-down tobacco street in the South, he's certainly in the market for self-improvement deals. But you can't tell me that a machinist in Detroit gets in his '63 Chevy after a 40-hour work week and drives to a steak barbecue behind his $25,000 house in a tree-lined suburb to spend a weekend with his well-fed and well-dressed family, and that he'll trade everything he has for a party ticket. In America, except for tiny pockets of deprivation that still exist, Khrushchev has as much chance of success as he does of 100 smooth passes at the crap table.

Playboy: What can we do to combat communist expansion into underdeveloped areas here and abroad, other than offer massive material aid and guidance, as we have been doing since the end of World War II?

Sinatra: I don't know. I'm not an economist. I don't pretend to have much background in political science. But this much I do know: attending rallies sponsored by 110 percent anti-communist sectarians, or donning white sheets and riding in the Klan - which is spelled with a "K" - is not the answer. All I know is that a nation with our standard of living, with our Social Security system, TVA, farm parity, health plans and unemployment insurance can afford to deal with the cancers of hunger, substandard housing, educational gaps and second-class living that still exist in many backward areas of our country. Hunger is inexcusable in a world where grain rots in silos and butter goes rancid while being held for cheap commodity indices.

Playboy: Is American support for the UN one of the ways to improve global economic conditions?

Sinatra: I get the impression that many of us think of the UN as a private club - ours, of course - with gentlemen's agreements like any other exclusive club. Except that the members of the UN cannot exclude one person, one race or one religion, but entire nations. I don't think you can sweep 800,000,000 Chinese under the carpet and just pretend they don't exist. Because they do exist. If the UN is to be truly representative, it must include all the nations of the world. If it doesn't represent the united nations of the world, then what the hell do you have? No democracy and certainly no world government. Everyone seems to forget that President Kennedy, before he became President, clearly advocated the recognition of Red China in his book "Strategy for Peace".

Playboy: With or without mainland China in the UN, what do you think the prospects are for a possible rapprochement between the USA and Russia?

Sinatra: I am a singer, not a prophet or a diplomat. Ask the experts or read the Rockefeller brothers' reports. But as a layman, as a normal person who thinks and worries, I think that if we can stay out of war for the next 10 years, we will never have another war. From everything I've read and seen lately, I bet the Russians will be on a credit card kick within the next decade just like we are. They'll want color TV, their women will want electrified kitchens, their kids will want plug-in rods. Even Russian girls will be hip; I've seen photos of them at Russian beach resorts, and it looks like the Riviera. They are getting thinner, and I see them opting for the bikini. If the Moscow department store GUM starts selling bikinis, we have a chance, because that means girls are interested in being girls, and boys stop thinking about communes and start thinking about marriage. I've always had a theory that when guys and gals start swinging, they lose interest in conquering the world. They just want a comfy pad, a stereo and bikes, and their thoughts turn to the finer things in life - not war. They loosen up, they live and they let life happen. Do you understand?

Playboy: We understand.

Sinatra: You know, I would like to visit Russia, and at some point later China. I think the more I know about them and the more they know about me, the greater the chance that we can live in peace in the same world. I have no intention of going there on a mission to sell the American way of life; I'm not in a position to engage in that kind of discussion about government. But I would love to go there and show them American music. I'd take Count Basie and Ella Fitzgerald with me and we'd do what we do best. We'd go up a storm with real American jazz so their kids can see what kind of music our kids are into, because I'm sure kids are the same all over the world. I bet they would dig us. And that's got to create some kind of good will, and man, we could use a little good will right now. All it takes is good will and a smile to overcome the language barrier. When the Moiseyev Dancers were in Los Angeles, Eddie and Liz Fisher threw a party for them, and even though I didn't know a word of Russian, I got along just fine. I just said "Hello, baby" to the dancers and they said "Hello, baby" back to me. We had a lot of fun.

Playboy: Frank, you have spoken somewhat negatively about human nature in the course of this conversation. Yet one gets the impression that - despite the bigotry, hypocrisy, stupidity, cruelty and fear you have talked about - you still feel that there is a reason for hope as far as the fate of Homo sapiens is concerned. Is that true?

Sinatra: Absolutely, I am never cynical, never without optimism for the future. The history of mankind proves that people will have their moment at some point, and I believe that it's our turn now. I believe we can make it if we live and let live. And love each other - I mean really love each other. If you don't know the person on the other side of the world, love them anyway, because they are just like you. They have the same dreams, the same hopes and fears. It's one world, buddy. We're all neighbors. But didn't someone once stand on a mountain a long time ago and say the same thing to the world?

Sinatra's Sinatra

by Markus Langemann//

Two months after this Playboy interview, on April 29, 1963, Sinatra recorded the song "Young at Heart" again with a Nelson Riddle arrangement for his Reprise album "Sinatra's Sinatra" on.

If you also want to rediscover Sinatra musically, this album is a good place to start. "Sinatra's Sinatra" - a title that is both flattering and tongue-in-cheek. You could say that this album is an ode to himself. Under the masterful direction of Nelson Riddle, the songs were recorded in several sessions between November 22, 1961 and April 30, 1963 and capture an era when Sinatra was undoubtedly at the zenith of his vocal abilities.

The album is a kaleidoscope of musical diversity, arranged with the precision of a watchmaker by Riddle. The selected tracks, all new recordings of songs that Sinatra had interpreted in earlier years for Capitol and Columbia, are cast in a new light by the Sinatra-Riddle duo. It is as if they have discovered a hidden layer within the music and uncovered it for the audience.

"Call me irresponsible" a tour de force, with a Grammy nomination for "Song of the Year" and another for Nelson Riddle as "Best Arranger". Songs like "Witchcraft" and "Young at Heart"which have already impressed in earlier recordings, are given a fresh, almost bold interpretation here. Sinatra embodies these songs with one Authenticity and a commitment that makes the listener believe that he is expressing every note with his whole being.

To relegate "Sinatra's Sinatra" to a mere introductory album would not do justice to its importance. It is a testament to Sinatra's musical journey, a collection that reflects both the depth of his talent and the brilliance of Riddle's arrangements. This album is not just a musical journey - it is the quintessence of Frank Sinatra, an album that introduces both the connoisseur and the novice to the complex world of Sinatra. In short, it is the album that is not only Sinatra's Sinatra, but also an indispensable part of music history.

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