Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Frank Sinatra, Jr. Kidnapping

Stuck in Time

For more than 40 years now, Frank Sinatra, Jr. has lived with snickering insinuations about his role in the kidnapping. The defense strategy failed in court, but it continues to thrive in the court of public opinion.

Many people know nothing about the kidnapping — except that Sinatra, Jr. supposedly planned it himself.

The fallacy has framed the poor man's life.

At age 63, Sinatra, Jr. still plugs along as a performer, singing his father's songs at nostalgic casino shows. Among musicians, Sinatra Jr. is known as reserved, competent and a bit quirky.

He is an able performer, but he still lacks the stage presence of his famous father. Sinatra, Jr. is single. He was married — briefly — in 1998, and he has a college-age son, Mike, from an earlier relationship.

He gave a blunt assessment of his career in a 2006 interview with the Washington Post.

"I was never a success," Sinatra, Jr. said. "Never had a hit movie or hit TV show or hit record."

Perhaps that is because he has steadfastly insisted on making a type of music that hasn't been popular for 50 years.

In 1957, as rock 'n' roll was transforming popular music, Sinatra, Sr. was quoted as saying, "Rock 'n' Roll is phony and false, and sung, written and played for the most part by cretinous goons."

One of those cretinous goons turned out to be his daughter, Nancy.

She scored pop hits in the 1960s with "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," "Sugar Town," "How Does That Grab You, Darlin'" and "Something Stupid," the latter a duet with her father.

But Sinatra, Jr. has always stubbornly resisted the sorts of tunes that sell in the contemporary market. His performances are like time travel, with one Big Band standard after another — tunes like "I'll Never Smile Again," "Night and Day" and "I've Got the World on a String."

He performs with a 38-piece orchestra — one of the few performers left who use so many live musicians rather than a synthesizer. (Even that is a downsized band. At shows in his latter years, Sinatra, Sr. always bemoaned the fact that he was the last entertainer to use a 68-piece orchestra.)

On many tunes, Sinatra, Jr.'s band plays the swinging arrangements written by Nelson Riddle for Sinatra, Sr. Junior conducted his father's orchestra during the last decade of Sinatra's, Sr.'s life, and he inherited his father's sheet music library.

Sinatra, Jr.'s show is expensive to mount, and that "sticker shock" can make gigs hard to come by, Sinatra told the Post.

"I just had visions of doing the best quality of music," he said. "Now there is a place for me because Frank Sinatra is dead. They want me to play the music. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be noticed... There is no demand for Frank Sinatra, Jr. records. There never has been. Rod Stewart is now doing the Great American Songbook. So is Harry Connick, Jr.... Well, Frank Sinatra, Jr. has been doing it for 44 years."