A crooner is usually a male singer performing his craft with emphasis on emotion and sentimentality, a style made possible with the advent of the microphone since the soft vocalizations wouldn’t have reached a large audience without this innovation. A swooner uses this style to make the ladies react. Frank Sinatra is often labelled as both, but The Voice himself didn’t appear to agree.
In a video recording of “It Was a Very Good Year,” - which is a must watch piece, the breath control needed for this song is staggering – Sinatra says he agrees that Russ Columbo and Rudy Vallee were “rightly called crooners because they had very small, soft voices – they were very good at it, but when Bing came along he was more of a singer” and he preceded that by saying, “I think I’m much more a singer than I am a crooner.”
Frank grew up with a poster of Bing Crosby on his wall, but recognized the need to find his own style to stand apart from all the other up-and-comers instead of imitating his idol. The rest is history, so to speak, as his popularity grew exponentially and a rivalry, often feigned for publicity’s sake, developed. This rivalry culminated with an ice pick in the back for a Sinatra follower from a Crosby fan, so the two singers backed off.
A 1944 Porky Pig, Looney Tunes cartoon titled Swooner Crooner (you’ve got to watch it!), which was nominated for an Academy Award, featured Sinatra and Crosby rooster caricatures duelling for the attention of war-time producing hens in order to increase their egg laying productivity. The seven-plus minute short is both brilliant and disturbing today, but highlights the magnitude to which Frank had already permeated American consciousness.
Swooner, crooner, singer, or all three, Frank Sinatra became the best and inspired my Las Vegas shows, Sinatra Forever and Frank … A Musical Journey. I hope, especially during this celebration of his 100th birthday year, you’ll catch a performance.