by Julian Spivey
Can a music special featuring many of today’s best voices and biggest stars paying tribute to a performer who was maybe the greatest voice in the history of popular music possibly be a disappointment?
Well, the CBS “Sinatra 100 – All Star Concert” in tribute to the legendary Frank Sinatra, who’s centennial of his birth will be on December 12, proved that such a thing was in fact possible.
Let’s get one thing straight – what appeared on screen during the special wasn’t an issue. The performances were spectacular, but possibly at times a little too sleepy, with stars like Garth Brooks, Usher, John Legend, Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown, Celine Dion, Tony Bennett, Harry Connick Jr., Lady Gaga and others covering many of the songs in the great “Ol’ Blue Eyes” songbook.
Among the highlights of the evening were Brooks’ take on Sinatra’s classic “The Lady is a Tramp,” Connick Jr.’s performance of “My Kind of Town” and Adam Levine doing “The Best Has Yet to Come,” the last song Sinatra ever performed in public before his death in 1998.
Lady Gaga also gave a memorable performance dressed as Sinatra himself with the show closer of “Theme from New York, New York.”
There weren’t really any bad performances throughout the special, but some like Celine Dion’s take on “All the Way” would at times make somebody want to nod off a bit.
What the special did well was show photos and clips throughout the two-hour runtime of Sinatra’s career and family and used his beautiful semi-autobiographical “It Was a Very Good Year” during these interludes.
So how did this special become a disappointment?
The song selection was shockingly bad. I’m not sure if this was due to the performers choosing their own songs or the producers of the show determining what songs did or didn’t make the cut.
In my opinion, Sinatra’s five greatest recordings throughout his career are in order: “My Way,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Something Stupid” (a duet he did with his daughter Nancy) and “Strangers in the Night.”
These five songs are generally considered among Sinatra’s greatest hits by most critics and fans alike. However, not a single one of these songs was performed during the tribute (with, as previously mentioned, Sinatra’s version of “It Was a Very Good Year” being used throughout to show his career timeline). “My Way” was briefly played during the closing credits of the special.
I think the omission of these five tunes, or at least the fact that some of them didn’t appear, was one of supreme ineptitude among those in charge of the special. It really kind of ruined the entire evening. I even remarked to my wife, who was watching along with me, that had I known ahead of time that virtually all of Sinatra’s best pieces would be ignored I might have opted to save myself two hours.
The “Sinatra 100” not including performances of at least some of these five songs would be akin to a Beatles tribute without somebody doing “Hey Jude,” a Bruce Springsteen special without “Born to Run” or a Johnny Cash tribute without “Ring of Fire” or “I Walk the Line.” It just doesn’t quite make sense.
Sinatra is one of the all-time legends of popular music. He’s also incredibly unique in that he transcends so many generations having fans that loved him from his start in the 1940s all the way up to today. He really deserved something a little better than what CBS offered up on Sunday night.