“P.S. I Love You” – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra PS I Love You

P.S. I Love You Frank Sinatra

We do not here discuss the Beatles song, “P.S I Love You” (composed by Lennon/McCartney, more McCartney), fine though it is. Fifteen years ago today, Frank Sinatra died, and it’s his version of the song “P.S. I Love You,” composed by Gordon Jenkins and Johnny Mercer, that is on my mind. It is to be found on his album Close To You (and that’s not the Burt Bacharach song, although Frank did ultimately record that tune in leaner times).

This “P.S. I Love You” was written in 1934, but it was in 1956 that Sinatra recorded it, on one of his most unusual and most superb albums. Sinatra worked on this album with a string quartet—Felix Slatkin’s Hollywood String Quartet—augmented here and there by a fifth instrumentalist. The resulting record is intimacy incarnate. Every note of every track declares that the effort is a labor of love. And indeed it wasn’t a big commercial success and remains relatively obscure.

“P.S. I Love You” is perfectly representative of the mood of wistfulness, sensitivity and yearning that Sinatra, arranger Nelson Riddle and the string quartet were apparently aiming for, and which they achieved in spades.

Sinatra’s voice was at an absolute peak when he recorded this album, and his vocal control and his expressiveness is breathtaking. He inhabits this song in the seemingly effortless manner that made him great; there is simply no space between the singer and the sentiment. And I love how that works in this particular song, because it gives us this delightful picture of the singer hanging out at loose ends, in a quiet little house in the country, wiling away the hours and the days so harmlessly while his beloved is off traveling somewhere. Yesterday there was some rain … the Browns came to call; please write to them when you can … I’m in bed each night by nine … the dishes are piled in the sink …. Who can imagine the Chairman of the Board living such a twee existence? And yet somehow there’s no imagination necessary when Sinatra sings all of this. Not a syllable of it can be doubted. His performance is so perfect that it ceases to seem like “performance” at all; it is simply straightforward expression, albeit on some sublime musical level. “And let me see … I guess that’s all.” Johnny Mercer’s faux-conversational lines were written long before Sinatra was on the scene, but here find their perfect home in Frank’s gentle, unassuming delivery.

It’s an understated masterpiece of popular music. And just one of the very substantial number of recorded masterpieces that Frank left to us. Today, I guess, is a good day to say “thank you” to him and, if it be your wont, to his Creator.

Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012

The Cinch Review

Neil Armstrong’s death has been reported today, at the age of 82. Although—he being the first man on the moon and all—people the world over knew his name, he did not have any great public profile. The obituaries are describing him as modest and private, and surely he was both of those things.

So there cannot be for most Americans a sense of personal loss as there might be when someone famous but seemingly-very-familiar dies; Elvis Presley, say, or Andy Griffith, or Michael Jackson. Yet I think some might have a nagging feeling that something has slipped away that we might not have fully appreciated while we had it around.

In this—since most of us didn’t know Neil Armstrong as a personality—I’m referring to what Neil Armstrong seems, especially with hindsight, to have represented.

He and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon in 1969. Isn’t it so hard to conceive that forty-three years ago the United States’ space program achieved this incredible thing? These days, people absentmindedly leave at the bar small devices containing technology that makes everything NASA possessed in the 1960s look like something from the Flintstones; yet, today, in 2012, the idea of the United States putting humans back on the moon—as a stepping-stone to Mars or anything else—appears almost outrageously fanciful and out-of-reach.

Nevertheless, they did it, back then, and this guy, Neil Armstrong, seems to have taken that “one small step” in stride, not endlessly exploiting it for sponsorship deals, book contracts, speaking tours and so on, but largely just going about his life afterwards, doing serious things but avoiding the glaring limelight that his moment in the moonlight surely earned him for the rest of his life.

And now he is gone, that particular human being who did that very particular thing on July 20th, 1969. Continue reading “Neil Armstrong 1930 – 2012”

Monterrey, Music and Murder

The Cinch Review

Bob Dylan just finished up his latest tour—or the latest leg of what people call his Never Ending Tour—with four concerts in Mexico, including one in Monterrey a few days ago. The area around Monterrey has become a big hot-spot in the Mexican drug war(s). Just yesterday, 49 headless bodies (some just armless and legless torsos) were dumped on a highway that leads from Monterrey to the border with South Texas. The authorities have been quick to offer assurances that this is only drug traffickers killing each other, although at this point they don’t actually know who the dead people are for, well, obvious reasons. Continue reading “Monterrey, Music and Murder”