Many things have over the years become associated with Christmas. Music is perhaps one of the focal points of the festive season, and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas will no doubt be on repeat. The man who sung the song — known as the Chairman of the Board, and nicknamed Ol’ Blue Eyes — Frank Sinatra, has made himself something of a Christmas legend.
His persona, many argue, might defy this: he was seen as stoild and steely, known as much for his heavy drinking endeavours as he was for his musical talent.
Throughout his career, the crooner, who passed away in 1998, released numerous songs and albums with Christmas at their heart, including the 1948 release, Christmas Songs by Sinatra.
On it were eight traditional holiday tracks, including the legendary White Christmas, a song he first recorded four years earlier, and O Little Town of Bethlehem, which was reportedly the Chairman’s favourite song.
His daughter Nancy, who carved out a brilliant music career of her own, remarked how much her father loved the holiday season during an interview with Variety magazine in 2017.
She noted how “nobody embraced Christmas as [Sinatra] did,” and described how all of his friends would “come over late Christmas Eve, after a night of revelry, and they would just throw tinsel at the tree”.
She continued: “And my mom and I would undo it afterwards and make it what you see in those pictures.”
Tina, Sinatra’s youngest daughter, also discussed the tradition, and added: “Things got a little askew. But that tree was my mother’s pride and joy. She and Nancy, like fools, stood there for I don’t know how many hours, adding a few strands at a time.
“It just used to astonish me that they had the patience, but they did. Dad would often be there Christmas Eve at night, with (songwriter) Jimmy Van Heusen or some pal, and that was also usually when what I call the ‘little elves’ would get mischievous. The next morning they would still be there.”
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Later on, he signed a multimillion-dollar deal with ABC to front The Frank Sinatra Show, a variety and drama series, and when Christmas came round, things got festive.
The deal was struck in 1957, and when Sinatra stepped up to direct the show, he made sure to include a special holiday episode. The show’s producer, William Self, discussed the crooner’s influence at the Museum of Television & Radio in 2003.
Mr Self continued: “He was a guerilla, if he wanted to direct, [he would direct]. It was Frank’s idea to do a Christmas show with Bing [Crosby]. He respected Bing a great deal… they got along great, and Frank just said, ‘I’m gonna direct it,’ and I said, ‘Yes, sir!'”
Crosby is another Hollywood and music legend who is remembered as one of the Godfathers of Christmas, thanks to his version of White Christmas.
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Released in 1942, the iconic classic not only won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but would go on to sell around 50 million copies worldwide, making it the biggest-selling single in history.
Tina also noted how much Christmas meant to her father, and discussed it further with sister Nancy.
After Nancy showed her a picture of her father in the holiday special, Tina said: “I think this show exemplifies that he loved this time of year.”
Even after Sinatra divorced his first wife, and the children’s mother Nancy, in 1951, the My Way hitmaker continued to always put Christmas firmly in the centre of his family’s festive plans.
Nancy continued: “We would spend Christmas Eve and morning with in LA and then we would drive to [Palm Springs] in the afternoon and have Christmas night there. Families who are divorced generally have that sort of tradition.”
Tina added: “Oftentimes Mom would come (to the desert), too and it was always very friendly and familial.”
But Nancy recalled one “particular Christmas in Las Vegas” when she was with her husband, the dancer-choreographer Hugh Lambert, were staying in the city to perform two shows on Christmas Eve.
She added: “Dad sent his plane for us. The last show was at midnight, so by the time we got into Palm Springs it was probably 3, and we were really tired. When we got to the airport, we saw a little crowd on the tarmac. It turned out to be Mom and Dad and a group of mariachis, singing ‘Jingle Bells’ as we got off the plane.”