If you adore Ol' Blue Eyes, it was a very good year. Namely 1915, when Francis Albert Sinatra was born, and music history changed forever.
That 100-year history will be explored at "Hofstra Celebrates Sinatra: A Centenary Tribute," a multiday event starting Tuesday, Nov. 10. Guests include writers Gay Talese, Pete Hamill, Will Friedwald, James Kaplan; musicians Jane Monheit, Jerry Bruno, David Finck, Tedd Firth; TV and radio's Sandy Kenyon, Mark Simone, John Bohannon; Joe and Sal Scognamillo of Patsy's restaurant; and Greg Dunmore of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Most master classes, roundtables and concerts are free, but registration is required.
It's the second time in 17 years that guys and dolls will call Hempstead "my kind of town." Hofstra University's 1998 Sinatra symposium, held months after his death, earned international acclaim with panelists Quincy Jones, Tina Sinatra and Alan King.
So how did Sinatra -- born Dec. 12 in a Hoboken tenement, the only child of an illiterate father and abusive mother -- become an American icon?
"Forget about songs like 'New York, New York' or 'My Way,' " says Hofstra history professor Stanislao Pugliese, the conference's co-director with music professor Dave Lalama. "Sinatra had only one subject: loneliness. His best work [evoked] the guy at the bar at 2 in the morning, thinking of the girl that got away. There's something universal about that. That's what made him great."
Sinatra's meteoric rise was implausible, considering his era's anti-Italian sentiment.
"If you said in 1915 that two Italians would someday be on the Supreme Court, they'd call you crazy," Pugliese says. "Italians were depicted as Mafiosi . . . with a bomb in one hand and dagger in the other. Sinatra represents this moment in history when Fiorello LaGuardia, Joe DiMaggio and crooners of the '40s and '50s shaped a different image."
Pugliese says he believes Sinatra both confirmed and challenged stereotypes. "At the saloon or casino, he's behaving like a typical hoodlum. But when he gets onstage, the Hoboken accent disappears, his diction is perfect, he's the consummate professional."
Stellar material also spurred the Rat Packer's magic, says Grammy-nominated singer Monheit. Her separate Sinatra tribute, "Jane's Way," takes place Friday at Manhattan School of Music, her alma mater.
"The Great American Songbook was written by brilliant composers," Monheit says from her family's Oakdale home, where she heard the Chairman's music since birth. "Almost all those songs are about love, which everybody identifies with. Then you take Sinatra, an incredibly expressive singer, and apply his voice to these brilliant lyrics. Put that together, and it's great, great storytelling."
WHEN | WHERE "Sinatra: A Centenary Tribute," tomorrow though Thursday, Nov. 18, 19 and 22; Hofstra University, Hempstead
INFO Free with registration, excluding Rick Stone's Nov. 22 concert; $10, hofstra.edu/tickets, 516-463-5669.
WHEN | WHERE "Jane's Way," 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, Manhattan School of Music, 120 Claremont Ave., msmnyc.edu
INFO Sold out. Free standby tickets, 917-493-4428
FRANK JR. IN CONCERT
Until DNA scientists learn to clone Sinatra's voice, there's no closer substitute than Frank Sinatra Jr. You can enjoy the son's vocal resemblance at "Sinatra Sings Sinatra," a concert at LIU Post's Tilles Center at 8 p.m. Saturday.
Junior toasts his father with a multimedia show featuring show biz anecdotes, orchestra-backed songs, and home videos of Sinatra's family. His sisters -- singer Nancy and actress Tina -- aren't his only entertainment links. Ava Gardner and Mia Farrow were his stepmothers, and his ex-brother-in-law is Wes Farrell, who wrote the "Partridge Family" theme, "Come On, Get Happy."
To appreciate Sinatra Jr.'s musical commitment, consider his dad's immense shadow. As the son of the 20th century's greatest crooner, he ignored the risks and pursued a singing career. For the 71-year-old, that's his definition of "My Way."
Tickets start at $53. Call 516-299-3100 or visit tillescenter.org