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Frank Sinatra - Good Stuff in Bad Times

On our eighth wedding anniversary, my loving wife Sherry gave me a set of Frank Sinatra CDs that she purchased from her favorite, local second hand store for only $1.00. At the time, I was not all that impressed with the gift so I set the CD’s aside on our bookshelf to collect dust with the rest of the “treasures” and promptly forgot about them. This morning, while rushing to get the kids to school, I passed the bookshelf and absentmindedly snatched the Sinatra CDs from the shelf as I hustled the kids out the front door for our daily sprint across town to school.  I decided to plop the first Sinatra CD into the car stereo just for the fun of torturing my two young, captive passengers during the trip.

Although I am no stranger to Sinatra’s music and I admit to being a fan, it had been quite some time since I last listened to him. For some reason, when I listened this morning it was not Sinatra’s voice, the melodies, the skill of the musicians or the beauty of the arrangements that struck me, it was the lyrics. The lyrics were smothered with kindness, deep human feelings and sentiment that is scarcely heard in today’s music and is expressed far too infrequently in American entertainment and society in general. These words were communicating heartfelt, human emotions of deep longing, love, respect, caring and soaring optimism.

With my 17 year old son Allan beside me “riding shotgun” I spontaneously launched into my lecture mode, trying to make most of the moment with a fatherly surprise attack on my unsuspecting son.  What had instantly become so clear to me is the absurdity of the fact that although the majority of American youth today have a comparatively pampered life of ease and entitlement, the majority of their music grinds out a despicable dirge describing a dark and sinister world filled with pain, anger, anguish, abuse, disrespect, devalued human life, dishonesty, death and violence. It’s deeply troubling to me that our kids just “plug in” and readily accept the dreadful message which they describe as “cool.”

I explained to my son Allan that in Sinatra’s time, America and the world had just escaped the Great Depression, a decade of dire poverty only to be cast headlong into WWII, the darkest period of unparalleled destruction and human suffering ever experienced by mankind. By comparison, the America of today is truly a “land of plenty” where opportunities abound and personal suffering caused from poverty, war and inequity are virtually non-existent. Social programs and opportunities have for the most part created an American society that knows little of dire personal suffering or gut wrenching self sacrifice.

Why is it then that during the darkest most violent and truly horrific time in human history did the songwriters, musicians, entertainers strive to inspire with words that uplift and communicate the truly great things about the human experience while today’s popular music spews this ceaseless cacophony of disturbing bile?

Being a student of American history and culture I have observed the irony that as man, technology and society in general continually progress we have tendency to forget the past. With each achievement we begin to believe that man is becoming all powerful. In our hubris we begin to allow God to disappear from our conscience and our daily lives. The irony is that as we devalue God and separate ourselves from him we also devalue human life. As we spiral down as a society we lose our self esteem. This societal loss of self esteem then becomes reflected in our expression of the human experience through music and art.

During Sinatra’s time, Americans valued God and as a result they valued each other. Because of this, their art and music communicated their higher aspirations and provided confirmation that we were indeed valued. Perhaps someday, we will be wise enough to come back to God and value each other and restore our collective self esteem.

03/09/07 John C. Motsch

 

The Chairman of the Board...Frank Sinatra