“Younger than springtime are you; softer than starlight are you…,” the Chairman of the Board crooned to his eldest daughter Nancy Sinatra in 1967 as he serenaded his first born in Sinatra’s acclaimed television special, Movin’ With Nancy. Movin’, an Emmy Award winning hour-long television special with appearances by Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sinatra’s beloved musical collaborator Lee Hazlewood and, of course, dad, was progressive and ahead of its time. The special was the first of its kind, featuring a gorgeous platinum blonde Nancy Sinatra styled in the trendiest that the fashion of the day had to offer while performing in a series of seamlessly strung together musical vignettes, both solo, and with her iconic co-stars. The television special established Nancy Sinatra as more than just a child of the highest musical pedigree; it made her official acquaintance to the public as a multi-talented variety performer, recording artist and the “it girl” of the day.
Nancy Sinatra’s mini theatrical accompaniments featured in Movin’ resembled what MTV would later coin as the “music video,” and it was that pioneering spirit in Nancy, combined with undeniable sensuality which prompted Rolling Stone Magazine to describe Nancy Sinatra as “groundbreaking, heartbreaking and eternally cool.” Sinatra’s focused gaze and spirited nature echo that of her late father, Frank Sinatra, while her ethereal voice has the ability to send listeners unlike any vocals of present day.
In decades past, Nancy Sinatra made a name for herself with her effortless combination of provocative style (including those trademark boots) and gentle, poignant vocals. From the bluesy “Sugar Town” to the hypnotic sounds of the songs “The End” and “Sand,” and the defiant attitude of her legendary single “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” Sinatra’s natural swagger is coveted and emulated by many of today’s brightest young female recording artists and starlets. In spite of her own accomplishments and lasting mark on the cultural landscape, Sinatra has lamented that her lineage as Frank Sinatra’s daughter has prevented some from fully embracing her work over the years. “I'll never make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” she was once quoted as saying. “They're never going to let me in.”
These days, Nancy Sinatra is dedicating her time to running an online forum that offers the public all things Frank Sinatra, and diligently keeps fans up to date on the happenings of the entire Sinatra clan (SinatraFamily.com). In addition to managing her father’s legacy online, Nancy Sinatra is instrumental is keeping decades of Frank Sinatra recordings at the forefront of American culture with her twice weekly Sirius XM radio show, Nancy For Frank, and releasing compilations of her own recorded singles (2009’s Cherry Smiles: The Rare Singles) to Nancy Sinatra fans around the globe.
My conversation with Nancy was introspective, revealing, humorous, and at times, nerve-wracking when she pointed out in a direct manner that she didn’t care for one of my questions regarding the pitfalls of her super-star lineage; though she complied and answered me. Oddly enough, that moment marked the turning point in our conversation from polite to familiar. She began to open up about mourning the loss of her father, her feelings for ex-step mother, Mia Farrow, and her undying support for United States veterans and the charitable work she continues to contribute for all veterans’ causes. What began as an interview evolved into a cherished conversation with a woman I greatly admire.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I know you’re a huge Twitter user!
Nancy Sinatra: (Laughs)
PR.com: And you tweeted that you plan to go out on tour in 2012…
Nancy Sinatra: I don’t know. We’re doing music and we’re hoping for 2012, but we’ll have to see. I’m working on a jazz album and we would need to go out and promote it. You know how it goes.
PR.com: Your career has been marked by a series of comebacks, including one musical resurrection in the mid-nineties and then several years ago, around 2004. But at the same time the public has a nostalgic attachment to you and your music. Is that a strange dichotomy for you to live with?
Nancy Sinatra: No. The songs are timeless and I was lucky enough to be the one who sang them. It was just, maybe my karma. Maybe I did something good in a previous life. I was lucky enough to be the one to put voice to some of that great, great stuff.
PR.com: For your digital album, Cherry Smiles: The Rare Singles, is that a lot of old recorded content that had previously never been released?
Nancy Sinatra: Yeah, I guess you could call it that. Well, Dolly and Hawkeye was never released, Ain’t No Sunshine was never released, but some of them were [previously] released.
PR.com: Why were some of those great songs shelved back when they were originally recorded?
Nancy Sinatra: When you don’t have the support of a label you can record until you turn blue and nothing will come out. It’s the curse of the artist who isn’t Barbra Streisand or Tony Bennett.
PR.com: Is that how you felt throughout much of your musical career, like an underdog?
Nancy Sinatra: Yeah, I think that’s fair to say. I had the contract at Reprise for a long time and a short deal at RCA, and then another shorter deal at Elektra. Some of my most important recordings, to me, were on Private Stock. And with that label, the owner Larry Uttal died, and his wife had an attorney contact me to ask if I would be interested in buying my masters, and I said, “Yes!” I got most of them, except for one session that I would really love to have, which was produced by Charlie Calello, and another one by Snuff Garrett, two great producers. And those masters, I don’t know where they are. It’s just sad that these things get lost over time. And my fans, they don’t care if it’s old, new or what. I guess they prefer new, but they are very grateful to have the old stuff as well. They’re a very dear, wonderful group of people who really support my music.
PR.com: You seem to have a very personal and interactive relationship with your fan base, as well as with people who are fans of the entire Sinatra family. Was that a conscious decision, or did it just evolve and wind up that way?
Nancy Sinatra: That was a conscious decision. I heard Barry Diller talking about his laptop and he said that his life changed when he got his laptop. I thought, “Wow, ok; sounds pretty interesting.” I got a [laptop] and I took it over to my dad’s house. I used to sit on his bed with him and show him what was going on. In those days we just had a little [online] guestbook instead of the Sinatra family website that’s now so huge.
PR.com: Your father was around to see the first inklings of the power of the Internet back in the late 90s, shortly before he passed. What did he think of it?
Nancy Sinatra: He was thrilled. He would read the questions that people would write in, and then he would tell me what to say in response to their questions, and he said, “This is great. Please keep in touch with my supporters.” And I said, “I promise.” I have ever since.
PR.com: For your Sirius XM radio show, Nancy for Frank, how do you go about scripting each show, and how do you determine what Frank Sinatra stories should remain private and what stories about your father you care to share with the public?
Nancy Sinatra: It’s all up to the music. We’re recording a show tomorrow and the album we’re playing is the Strangers In The Night album. I haven’t seen a script yet. I send the songs to my producer and he takes the songs and puts them into a script that includes the composer, lyricist, and if possible, when it was recorded originally. Whatever nerdy kind of technical information we can get, we put it into the script. If there are any stories, they come about as a result of a song.
PR.com: So it’s typically Frank Sinatra stories that center around his music and the intricacies of where, when and how each song was recorded…
Nancy Sinatra: Yeah, it’s about the music. For me, it all boils down to the music, whether it’s the websites or my own work, or whatever. It’s all about the written note and the written word. And that is what seems to be of interest to our listeners.
PR.com: Your sister Tina does a great deal as far as managing, I guess what you would call the Sinatra brand. Is that an equal three-way partnership between you, Tina and Frank, Jr., or does Tina take the lead with business matters pertaining to your father’s work?
Nancy Sinatra: Tina’s a producer, so we rely on her for that sort of thing. We are all absolutely involved, of course. We all meet once a month, or once every two months if we’re traveling. We discuss the projects that are coming up and what we are going to do about them, and who’s going to do promotion. I liken it to a family farm. The products are usually recordings, sometimes films, and you take them to market and market them as best as you can. It’s not easy anymore. The music business is pretty much history. It’s generally via downloading, and mostly the younger people don’t want to pay anything for music. There are also so many expenses involved in putting out CDs, and you have to be very sure that everything you put out is of quality. If there is a mistake at the printers or there is someone along the way who misspells a composer’s name or puts in a wrong date, we get clobbered by the Frank Sinatra fans who know every detail. When that happens it’s embarrassing for us, but we can’t be there every second of every day with this stuff as it goes through. We can license and hope (laughs)… that they do a good job and not let us down.
PR.com: Have you, Tina and Frank, Jr. had recent meetings about the Frank Sinatra feature film that’s currently in development with Martin Scorsese attached to direct?
Nancy Sinatra: Of course, several meetings. It’s all about the script. Again, it’s the written word and it all boils down to that. Right now, there’s sort of a script that nobody’s really happy with.
PR.com: Is there any actor in the world that you know of whom you think could capture Frank Sinatra’s essence?
Nancy Sinatra: Personally, I think Simon Baker (The Mentalist, CBS) could do it. But I’m not involved in the casting. I see his smiling and his twinkling eyes and I see my dad. I don’t think anybody’s ever mentioned him and I certainly haven’t mentioned him to my sister or to Marty [Scorsese], and I wouldn’t because that’s not my job… but in a meeting I might.
PR.com: In the 1960s you first emerged as a singer and famous personality in your own right. It’s interesting because as I looked at a lot of old video clips of you, your wardrobe, your hair and makeup, obviously the boots… you were quite a sex kitten. Was that “look” all self-created? And what did your father think of your public image at that time?
Nancy Sinatra: I don’t know how my father felt about it, but he was delighted that I was successful. I had a lot of help along the way. I was a brunette in the early 60s. I was doing a photo shoot with the incredible photographer Milton Greene in 1964 or 1965 and [his wife] Amy was with Glamour Magazine, and she did the first real makeovers. She said, “Nancy, I want to take you over to Kenneth.” Kenneth in those days was the hairdresser in New York, and the colorist there did my first highlights, and that was the beginning of the “look.” Then I went to London and I fell in love with Mary Quant, and I bought a lot of stuff there and started wearing her clothes around LA and New York.
PR.com: But did you feel sexy at that time in your life?
Nancy Sinatra: I didn’t have any thoughts about it. I just thought the clothes were great. I think that was probably what my appeal was, that I didn’t try to be sexy. If I was sexy it was just because it happened. When I did Movin’ With Nancy in 1967 I went to the place that I had worked at for my very first job when I was fourteen years old! It was a place called Jax. I went back to them at twenty-six and said, “I need you to do my clothes for my TV show.” That’s where those great, real iconic clothes came from. I just thought the clothes were cool. I didn’t think of sex.
PR.com: You sang a beautiful duet of the song Things with Dean Martin on your television special, Movin’ With Nancy, many years ago. What was your relationship like with Dean and with Sammy Davis, Jr.? Did they look at you as a colleague, or more of a younger sister or a daughter?
Nancy Sinatra: Certainly not a sister because they were so much older than I, but definitely family, like a daughter. We were very, very close, all of us. But that duet was not really sung as a duet. It was Dean’s record of Things with a vocal group singing the parts that I later sang. I just asked him if I could please take it into a studio and remove the vocal group and put my own voice on it so we could use it on the show, and he said ok.
PR.com: Another landmark moment that aired on Movin’ With Nancy was an interracial kiss that you and Sammy Davis, Jr. shared on camera, and it was a big deal at that time. It’s been reported by online sources that the kiss was planned ahead of time.
Nancy Sinatra: The kiss [was] one of the first interracial kisses seen on television and it caused some controversy then, and now. [But] contrary to some inaccurate online reports, the kiss was unplanned and spontaneous.
PR.com: What has the process been like with organizing and listing the entire Frank Sinatra music catalog? You’ve mentioned several times that it’s taken years to organize and you’re still not finished with it.
Nancy Sinatra: We’re just starting! All we have right now is albums. We haven’t done the V-discs or the singles or the radio shows, or any of that stuff, and it’s going to take years and years to build this [Frank Sinatra] discography. There’s so much material from every country in the world. But it’s really wonderful and I’m so happy it’s out there.
PR.com: Do you happen to know how many songs your father recorded, in total, throughout his career?
Nancy Sinatra: I know it’s well over a thousand. I don’t remember exactly. It could be fifteen or sixteen hundred. I’m not really sure, but we’ll certainly know when we get all this work done.
PR.com: Two of your older singles, Sand and your cover of Bang Bang (originally recorded by Cher), were recently used in film soundtracks. Bang Bang was featured in the opening of the film Kill Bill, and Sand was featured in a short film starring Kate Moss for Longchamp. How did that come about? For Kill Bill, did Quentin Tarantino contact you directly to inquire about licensing the song Bang Bang?
Nancy Sinatra: He did not contact me directly. I still haven’t met the man. I was all set to see him at the Friars Club roast [in Los Angeles] a year or so ago and then his editor died, so they cancelled the roast. Then they put it back together again a few months ago but I couldn’t go because it was at the New York Friars Club. That was my hope of meeting him (laughs).
PR.com: And what about Kate Moss? Had she told you she was setting the promotional film Faraway, for her Longchamp collection, to your song Sand?
Nancy Sinatra: I have no idea how that came about. I heard about it after it was done. I met her when she was with Johnny Depp, at an event. I walked over to them and I said, “Excuse me for intruding, but I’d like to introduce myself, and I admire you both.” Kate Moss to me is the most stylish of women at the moment. I just really love what she does with her look and her clothes.
PR.com: Sand is an absolutely beautiful piece of music. It transports you.
Nancy Sinatra: That is my favorite of the [collaborations] of the Nancy and Lee [Hazlewood] stuff, definitely. We didn’t have a sitar to use in Los Angeles in those days. In order to capture that sound, they recorded a guitar and they played it backwards in the instrumental of Sand, and that’s how we captured that “sitar” feel.
PR.com: What’s been the toughest part of having the last name “Sinatra?”
Nancy Sinatra: That question (laughs)!
PR.com: Do you get that question a lot?
Nancy Sinatra: All the time! Sometimes it’s phrased differently, like, “Is it a help or a hindrance?” I mean, he was a great father; a great, great father! But I think the lack of respect from my peers is probably because I’m his daughter. So there you have it in one sentence.
PR.com: In reviewing video footage of you and your father together, he appeared to be so taken with you. Beyond the father, daughter relationship it looked like there was a special bond. I’m curious, what shared or complementing personality traits created such a tight bond between you and him?
Nancy Sinatra: I think what you’re seeing is because you are just seeing it [on film]. I think every father and daughter probably has a similar thing going, but you don’t see it on a piece of film because you’re not on film. You’re a normal person who isn’t in the movies. If you have a video of a father and daughter walking down the aisle at a wedding and the father giving the daughter away, I think you would see the same thing. It’s just that in our case we were public, so you would see it a little more often.
PR.com: Do you think your father felt closer to you than he did with your siblings?
Nancy Sinatra: He was with me longer than he was with them and, yeah, we knew each other better of course. My brother is four years younger and my sister is eight years younger. My father was already just about out of the house when Tina was born.
PR.com: I noticed on your family website, SinatraFamily.com, in your family picture section, you had pictures of Mia Farrow posted. Do you consider Mia Farrow to be a family member to this day?
Nancy Sinatra: Absolutely.
PR.com: How did you feel about your father’s relationship with Mia Farrow back when they were married?
Nancy Sinatra: I was grateful for it. They were happy and loving, and it was terrific. And I admire her so much. She is an incredible woman. Her tenacity and her courage and her generosity, and the fact that she raised all those children and brought them out of harm’s way and cured them of rickets and whatever other diseases they had; just an amazing person.
PR.com: What caused the demise of the Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow marriage?
Nancy Sinatra: Well, she wrote it in my book. She said that ultimately the age difference mattered.
PR.com: Whenever somebody says to me in the course of conversation, “Age is just a number,” it really depends upon the context of which they’re speaking. As far as relationships go, and from my own experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nancy Sinatra: I agree with you. And if you fall in love you want to make sure you fall in love with someone who is within seven years of your age, because your histories are different. Your sensibilities are different. Everything is like dominos.
PR.com: Like you were saying earlier, if you’re a civilian your loved ones are not nearly as documented, particularly compared to someone of iconic status like Frank Sinatra. The fact that your father is so extensively documented through thousands of audio and film recordings, is that something that makes it easier or harder to be without him?
Nancy Sinatra: We never had a chance to grieve. None of us who really loved him could really grieve. There was just too much of him around all the time. That’s not a good thing. It sounds like it might be, but it’s not. Doing this radio show (“Nancy for Frank” on Sirius XM) is difficult. I don’t want to listen to him all the time, I really don’t. It hurts too much. We played an album on Sunday called Where Are You?. It’s just heartbreaking and I went through the tears again because I don’t want to listen to it. It’s like being a masochist, but I don’t have a choice because I’m keeping this flame [burning] and I’m doing it as best I can, and one way is on the radio. That involves the music.
PR.com: When you received your star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame did you feel like it was a long time coming for you, or were you not really expecting to receive that honor from the Hollywood community?
Nancy Sinatra: The truth is you have to pay for it. Somebody has to buy it. Either you have a major studio that will buy it to get the promotion for you for your next movie or you have a label and you have an album coming out, and they’ll buy it to get the promotion and to get all of the publicity. It costs a lot of money to have one made, and to dig up the sidewalk and put in a star for someone. That being said, you still have to pass muster with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. They were very generous when they had done their research about my life and work, and they realized how much I had done for veterans. They felt I should be honored for that. I appreciated that more than anything and I actually had two of my veterans who came out and spoke at the ceremony. One is Artie Muller who is the founder of Rolling Thunder (rollingthunder1.com), and the other is Paul Masi. They came out and spoke at the ceremony and that made it so important to me, and worthwhile.
PR.com: What ignited your passion for supporting our veterans?
Nancy Sinatra: I was in Vietnam with the USO and I saw war, and I held wounded soldiers and sailors in my arms. Once you experience that, you never forget it and you know the price that these people are paying. You want to help in any way you can. It’s a brotherhood. There is a fundraising effort going on now (vvmf.org) for the Vietnam Wall and the education part of the Vietnam Wall because young people don’t really understand that war. A friend of mine named Jan Scruggs is head of that effort to get an actual building there on the site that will be a museum so that people who are interested in learning about that God awful war can go there and see what it was all about.
PR.com: What has been your greatest career highlight, to date?
Nancy Sinatra: Maybe Paris in 2004 or 2005. I did one show there with my band. We were at the Rex Theatre and I had no idea I had one fan there, let alone enough fans to fill a music hall, and the reception was so breathtaking to me. Afterwards, as I was so emotionally overwhelmed by their response, [former President of France] Francois Mitterrand’s son came backstage and he said, “We love you here. We have waited for you for forty years.” The last time I performed in Paris was when I did my own little TV show, and that was promotion for Boots. But when he said, “We’ve been waiting for you to come back for forty years,” …that was it. I thought, “There are people who really do care about what I do and what I have done all these years.” And they were in that theatre that night.
PR.com: Which young female artists of today inspire you?
Nancy Sinatra: I was kind of nuts about Avril Lavigne. I haven’t seen her work in a while, but I thought she was really going to be great. I don’t know what’s going on with her, I’m ashamed to say now. I admire the marketing savvy of Lady Gaga, same as I felt about Madonna. If I had had that kind of smarts when I was that age I would be a wealthy, wealthy woman. They are very smart, both of them. Maybe they are surrounded by people who know what to do, I don’t know.
PR.com: Did you ever think about opening up your father’s Palm Springs home for public viewing?
Nancy Sinatra: We don’t own that house. There were two houses. The one I grew up in was just recently declared a preserved building and they are never going to tear it down. And that’s the one we had when there was only one paved road in the desert, when I was a child in the late forties. The house that we had later on, that was built in stages, is on Frank Sinatra Drive. That’s in Rancho Mirage and that’s the one that my stepmother sold, and everything has gone with it.
PR.com: What is the greatest piece of advice that you ever got from your father?
Nancy Sinatra: Own your own masters. You have to own your own masters in the music business. It’s your property and it’s your only income as the years go by.
Visit Nancy Sinatra at NancySinatra.com and SinatraFamily.com, and follow her on Twitter @NancySinatra. Visit Nancy’s charitable cause for supporting Vietnam veteran’s - vvmf.org.
Visit Sirius XM radio channel “Seriously Sinatra” at siriusxm.com/siriuslysinatra.
Purchase and download Nancy Sinatra music at itunes.apple.com/us/artist/nancy-sinatra/id22552160.