Frank Sinatra Jr. Dies Suddenly

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The Chairman of the Board’s son couldn’t escape the legacy, but Sinatra Jr. was able to carve out his own successful career.

Frank Sinatra Jr., the musician son of the famous crooner, died suddenly on Wednesday. He was 72.

The Sinatra family issued a release saying that the younger Sinatra died of a cardiac arrest while on tour in Daytona Beach, Florida. No other details were provided.

Born Francis Wayne Sinatra — not a real junior because the elder was Francis Albert Sinatra — the singer went by Frank Sinatra Jr. to carry on the legacy of his famous dad after being unable to break out on his own. He was the middle child of Sinatra and first wife Nancy Barbato, who gave the legendary singer his only three children. Sinatra Jr.’s sister, Nancy Sinatra, established her own musical career while his younger sister Tina Sinatra, is a television producer.

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1944, the younger Sinatra watch his father become on of the most legendary singers in the world. It would be years before the two Franks were able to build a relationship as the elder one was constantly away touring and filming movies.

Sinatra Jr. did get a unique perspective of his father’s career, watching his dad perform in Las Vegas and mingling with other legendary singers like Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Count Bassie, among others.

“I saw all the top stars perform,” Sinatra Jr. once told the Associated Press in 2002. He recalled his favorite memory of his father from a show in the 1960s while performing at Caesars Palace in Vegas.

“He was sitting on a little stool and he sang the Beatles’ song ‘Yesterday’ and ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’ and ‘Didn’t We,'” the younger Sinatra said. “We were all crying and singing.

When he became a teenager, Sinatra Jr. began his own music career, eventually working for his father as musical director and conductor. Frank Sinatra died of a heart attack on May 14, 1998, at the age of 82.

Sinatra Jr. took on his father’s legacy after his death, performing his dad’s songs and arrangements. He toured for a while as Sinatra Sings Sinatra.

“Since my father’s death, a lot of people have made it clear that they’re not ready to give up the music,” Sinatra Jr. said. “For me, it’s a big, fat gift. I get to sing with a big orchestra and get to sing orchestrations that will never be old.”

The most unique chapter in both Sinatras’ lives was in 1963 when three men kidnapped Sinatra Jr. at a Lake Tahoe hotel. Two days later, his family paid the $240,000 ransom and the 19-year-old Sinatra was released.

Later, Barry Keenan, Johnny Irwin and Joe Amsler were arrested and convicted of conspiracy and kidnapping. Keenan was a high school friend of Nancy Sinatra.

Prosecutors at the time said Keenan was the mastermind of the kidnapping. He received life in prison plus 75 years, but was declared legally insane and served a reduced sentence. He was paroled in 1968 after 4½ years in prison.

Like his father, Sinatra Jr., set out to have an acting career to compliment his signing. He appeared in “The Love Boat,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” and even starring alongside one of his dad’s pals, Sammy Davis Jr., in “A Man Called Adam.” He had nearly a dozen acting credits to his name, most recently lending his vocal talents to a couple episodes of the animated show “Family Guy.”

In celebration of his father’s 100th birthday, Sinatra Jr. sang the national anthem at baseball games between the Los Angeles Dodgers (the Brooklyn Dodgers when the elder Sinatra was growing up) and the New York Yankees.

He was supposed to perform Thursday night in St. Petersburg, Florida, performing his father’s favorites. Other shows were booked for May and the fall months throughout parts of the United States.

Sinatra Jr. was married in 1998 to Cynthia McMurry, but they divorced in 2000. He is survived by his two sisters, Nancy and Tina, and his son from a previous relationship, Michael.

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Justin Shimko

Justin Shimko is an award-winning writer and political analyst. He began as a reporter in his college days at the University of Oklahoma, writing for The Oklahoma Daily (rated as one of the best collegiate newspapers in the nation) and The Oklahoman, the statewide newspaper, winning awards from the CSPA and the Society of Professional Journalists. He later moved on to research and writing work for a number of political campaigns. His email is [email protected]