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Issacs Sinatra Essay

When I was 17, Frank Sinatra sang, "When I was 17 ... " on my mother's car radio. It didn't mean much to me, though. I was just another suburban New York Holden Caulfield, preparing for what would surely be a long and distinguished career as drummer with the revolutionary jazz saxophonist composer Ornette Coleman.

Meanwhile, just outside Philadelphia, a I5-year old kid had triple-threat dreams. His knifing moves to the hole would soon make hoops cognoscenti forget the fabled Larry Cannon. Off the court, he'd edit and write for a magazine melding the world views of Che and Ferlinghetti. And to unwind from all those strains on mind and body, he'd turn to soul: hosting a radio show wherein the Mad Lads, Otis Rush, and Brenda and the Tabulations would sing their hearts out till dawn.

Ornette is still waiting for me, but I do air his singular music on my radio program. And I play a lot of Sinatra, too, although seldom back-to-back with Ornette (Coleman's "Sadness" into Sinatra's "A Long Night" does make for a searing double-play, however).

Joe McEwen - my closest friend and co-producer - decided to forego the NBA. For a time he was among this country's most perceptive writers on matters bluesy and soulful, before moving into an executive office at Sire Records, New York. If you're lucky enough to be in the Metropolitan area on a Tuesday night, find WFMU at 91.1 FM. That's where Joe does that dream show of his.

But in neither of our admittedly wildest dreams did we ever figure we'd be entrusted with selecting the performances in this special package: 81 beauties by the single greatest male interpreter of popular songs. We think you'll find many of your favorite Reprise Sinatras, sounding more lustrous than ever. We hope that you'll savor the 11 previously unreleased or first American issues that were chosen to help celebrate the 75th birthday – and 30th year as a Reprise artist – of Frank Sinatra.

Joe and I thank our wives for sharing our respective musical museums. We thank Warner Bros. Chairman of the Board, Mo Ostin, for endorsing and facilitating this project. Thanks as well to engineer Lee Herschberg for his consummate professionalism, and to archivist Ric Ross for his vast storehouse of Sinatra knowledge. Cheers for our friend and advisor Jonathan Schwartz: litterateur, peerless broadcaster charter member of the Ike Delock Fan Club and encyclopedic Frankophile.

Finally, I thank my mother for giving me something to rebel against, then revere. Most of all, thank you, Mr. Sinatra, for, monumental body of work, and for speaking to me when seemingly no one else could. Over the past 50 years perhaps 100 million other human beings have felt the same.

James Isaacs
Brookline, Mass. • August, 1990

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