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April 12, 2015- By Steven E. Greer
I was watching the HBO documentary about Frank Sinatra and learned quite a bit. Midway through the second part, I was stunned to see crude archival TV footage of Frank singing a duet on his own TV show with the new phenomenon of the day, Elvis Presley. That was some serious star power on the same stage.
It was 1960 and Rock & Roll was just beginning with Elvis. Sinatra had gone from teen idol crooner to mature man. He had salvaged a dead career and become and Academy Award winning actor for his role in “From Here to Eternity” (It was rumored the mob helped him get the role, and the scene from the Godfather where Brando says, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” is based on Sinatra). Then, Rock & Roll was beginning to make Frank’s music outdated, so he reluctantly embraced Elvis.
I am not a big fan of either Sinatra or Elvis, but I have to admit, as I study the history and compare the fan base and crowd responses, that Elvis and Frank were far bigger stars of their day than were the biggest Rock & Roll legends who came four years later in 1964.
The Beatles were a huge sensation, of course, but they were a collective band. Alone, neither Paul nor John could ever wow the ladies like Frank or Elvis. Mick Jagger is just a small little emaciated dweeb compared to Elvis.
In another documentary that I have seen about Elvis, he seemed to me to be one of the first porn stars. He wouldn’t just kiss the girls on the cheek. He’d use his tongue. He was hypersexual by today’s standards, not to mention the 1950’s.
Frank was a total man-whore too. After bombshell Ava Gardner dumped him, he went nuts bedding every sexy celebrity he could find (creating unknown sons like Ronan Farrow).
Rock was, and still is, a bigger phenomenon than the post-war ballads of Sinatra or the bad pop-rock of Elvis. The collective appeal and social importance of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd are much more powerful. But as singular entities, Frank and Elvis were the biggest stars of the Twentieth Century, by far.