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Nancy Sinatra 1960s
In the late 1950s Sinatra began to study music, dancing, and voice at the University of California in Los Angeles. She dropped out after a year, and made her professional debut in 1960 on her father's television special with guest star Elvis Presley, who was home from his service in the army. In fact, it was Nancy who was sent to the airport (on behalf of her father) to welcome Elvis when his plane landed. On the special, Nancy and her father danced and sang a duet, "You Make Me Feel So Young/Old". That same year she began a five-year marriage to teen idol Tommy Sands.
Sinatra was signed to her father's label, Reprise Records!, in 1961. Her first single, "Cuff Links and a Tie Clip", went virtually unnoticed. However, many of her subsequent singles charted overseas in Europe and Japan. Without a hit in the U.S. by 1965, she was on the verge of being dropped. Her singing career received a phenomenal boost with the help of songwriter/producer/arranger Lee Hazlewood, who had been making records for ten years, most notably with Duane Eddy. Hazlewood became Sinatra's inspiration. He had her sing in a lower key and crafted some irresistible pop songs for her. Bolstered by a complete image overhaul — including dyed-blonde hair, frosted lips, heavy eye make-up and Carnaby Street fashions — Sinatra finally made her mark on the American (and British) music scene in early 1966 with the gutsy and now-iconic "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'", its title inspired by a line in Robert Aldrich's 1963 western comedy 4 for Texas starring her father and Dean Martin. One of her many hits written by Hazlewood, it received three Grammy nominations, including two for Sinatra and one for arranger Billy Strange. The song has been covered by many artists such as Geri Halliwell, Megadeth, Jessica Simpson, Lil' Kim, Little Birdy, Billy Ray Cyrus, KMFDM, Operation Ivy and the Del Rubio Triplets and The Supremes.
An impressive run of chart singles followed, including the two 1966 Top 10 hits "How Does That Grab You, Darlin'?" (#7) and "Sugar Town" (#5). Her late 1966 album release, Sugar, was banned in Boston due to its cover image of Sinatra in a bikini. The ballad "Somethin' Stupid" — a duet with father Frank Sinatra — hit #1 both in the U.S. and the UK in April 1967 (and spent nine weeks at the top of Billboard's easy listening chart). DJs at the time often referred to the familial record as "the incest song." Nonetheless, it earned a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year and remains the only father-daughter duet to hit No.1 in the U.S. Other notable 45s showcasing her trademark forthright delivery include "Friday’s Child" (#36, 1966), and the 1967 hits "Love Eyes" (#15) and "Lightning’s Girl" (#24). She rounded out 1967 with the playfully raunchy but low-charting "Tony Rome" (#83) — the title track from the movie starring her father — while her first solo single in 1968 was the more wistful "100 Years" (#69).
Sinatra enjoyed a parallel recording career cutting duets with the husky-voiced, country-and-western-inspired Hazlewood, starting with "Summer Wine" (originally the B-side of "Sugar Town"). Their biggest hit was a cover of the country song, "Jackson". The single peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the summer of 1967, when Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash also made the song their own. In December they released the "MOR"-psychedelic single "Some Velvet Morning", which is generally regarded as one of the more unusual singles in all of pop, and the peak of Sinatra and Hazlewood’s vocal collaborations. It reached #26 nationally. The promo clip is, like the song, sui generis. The British broadsheet The Daily Telegraph placed "Some Velvet Morning" in the pole position in its 2003 list of the Top 50 Best Duets Ever. ("Somethin' Stupid" ranked number 27).
In 1967 she also recorded the theme song for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice. The track is generally regarded as one of the best Bond themes. In the liner notes of the CD reissue of her 1966 album, Nancy In London, Sinatra states that she was "scared to death" of recording the song, and asked the songwriters: "Are you sure you don't want Shirley Bassey?" There are two versions of the Bond theme. The first is the lushly orchestrated track featured during the opening and closing credits of the film. The second – and more guitar-heavy — version appeared on the double A-sided single with "Jackson", though the Bond theme stalled at #44 on the Billboard Hot 100.
On December 11, 1967, NBC broadcast a musical-variety special entitled Movin' With Nancy. In addition to the Emmy Award-winning musical performances, the show is famous for Nancy Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. greeting each other with a kiss, one of the first black-white kisses in U.S. television history.
In 1966 and 1967 Sinatra traveled to Vietnam to perform for the troops. Many U.S. soldiers at the time adopted her signature song "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" as their anthem, and it was later used in a famous scene in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (1987). Sinatra recorded several anti-war songs in her career, including "My Buddy", featured on her album Sugar, "Home", co-written by Mac Davis, and "It's Such A Lonely Time of Year", which appeared on the 1968 LP The Sinatra Family Wish You a Merry Christmas. In 1988 Sinatra recreated her Vietnam concert appearances on an episode of the television show China Beach. Today, Sinatra still performs for charitable causes supporting U.S. veterans who served in Vietnam, including Rolling Thunder Inc..
During her heyday Nancy also co-starred in a number of films, including Roger Corman's The Wild Angels (1966) with Peter Fonda and Bruce Dern, and Speedway (1968) with old friend Elvis Presley. She was the only singer ever to have a solo song appear on an Elvis album or soundtrack while he was still alive. Since his death, several previously unreleased Ann-Margret solo recordings have appeared on Elvis albums, but Sinatra was the first.
She also made guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, among others, and starred in a number of television specials. These include the Emmy-nominated 1966 special A Man and His Music - Part II, and, most notably, the 1967 Emmy-winning special Movin' with Nancy, in which she appeared with Lee Hazlewood, her father and his Rat Pack pals Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr., with a cameo appearance by her brother Frank Sinatra Jr.
Nancy Sinatra 1970s and 1980s
Sinatra remained with Reprise until 1970. In 1971, she signed with RCA, resulting in three album releases: Nancy & Lee – Again (1971), Woman (1972), and a compilation of some of her Reprise recordings under the title This Is Nancy Sinatra (1973). That same year she released a non-LP single, "Sugar Me" b/w "Ain't No Sunshine". The former was written by Lynsey De Paul/Barry Blue and, together with other covers of works by early-70s popular songwriters, resurfaced on the 1998 album How Does It Feel.
In the autumn of 1971 Sinatra and Hazlewood’s duet "Did You Ever?" reached number two in the UK singles chart. In 1972 they performed for a Swedish documentary, Nancy & Lee In Las Vegas, which chronicled their Vegas headliner concerts at the Riviera Hotel and featured solo numbers and duets from several concerts, behind-the-scenes footage, and scenes of Sinatra's late husband, Hugh Lambert, and her mother. The film did not appear until 1975.
By 1975 she was releasing singles on Private Stock, which are the most sought-after by collectors. Among those released were "Kinky Love", "Annabell of Mobile", "It's for My Dad," and "Indian Summer" (with Lee Hazlewood). "Kinky Love" was banned by some radio stations in the 1970s for its "suggestive" lyrics. It is often cited as a cult favourite, and finally saw the light of day on CD in 1998 on Sheet Music: A Collection of Her Favorite Love Songs. Pale Saints covered the song in 1991.
By the mid-1970s, she slowed down her musical activity and ceased acting in order to concentrate on being a wife and mother. She returned to the studio in 1981 to record a country album with Mel Tillis called Mel & Nancy. Two of their songs made the Billboard Country Singles Chart: "Texas Cowboy Night" (#23) and "Play Me or Trade Me" (#43).
In 1985 she wrote the book Frank Sinatra, My Father.
Nancy Sinatra Comeback: 1990s–present
At the age of 54 she posed for Playboy in their May 1995 issue and made guest appearances on TV shows to promote her new album One More Time. The Playboy appearance caused a great deal of controversy. On the talk show circuit, Nancy proclaimed that her father was proud of the photos. Not everyone was convinced. Those close to the Sinatras claimed that family members complained about the nude photo spread. Sinatra told Jay Leno on a 1995 Tonight Show appearance that her daughters gave their approval, but her mother said she should ask her father before committing to the project. Nancy claims that when she told her father what Playboy would be paying her, he said, "Double it."
She and Lee Hazlewood embarked on an extensive U.S. tour playing such hip hot spots as the House of Blues, the Viper Room, the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, the now-defunct Mama Kin in Boston, and The Fillmore.
That same year, Sundazed Records began reissuing all of Sinatra's Reprise albums with remastered sound, new liner notes and photos, and bonus tracks. She also updated her previous biography on her dad and published Frank Sinatra: An American Legend.
In 2003 she reunited with Hazlewood once more for the album Nancy & Lee 3. It was released only in Australia.
In 2003 one of her recordings — a cover of Sonny Bono-penned song "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" — was used in the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Vol. One. In 2005, the Sinatra's recording was sampled separately by the Audio Bullys and Radio Slave into dance tracks (renamed into "Shot You Down" and "Bang Bang" respectively), and by hip-hop artist Young Buck in a song titled "Bang Bang", as well as covered for a single and music video by R&B artist Melanie Durrant. Sinatra originally recorded the song for her second Reprise album, How Does That Grab You? in 1966. She and Billy Strange worked on the arrangement, and it was Sinatra's idea to change the feel of the song from a mid-tempo romp (as originally sung in Cher's hit single) to a ballad. Sinatra's father liked her version so much that he asked her to sing it on his 1966 TV special A Man and His Music - Part II. The footage of Sinatra's performance on that special was used in the Audio Bullys' music video of "Shot You Down."
Taking her father's advice from when she began her recording career ("Own your own masters"), she owns or holds an interest in most of her material, including videos.
In 2004 she collaborated with former Los Angeles neighbour Morrissey to record a version of his song "Let Me Kiss You", which was featured on her critically acclaimed autumn release Nancy Sinatra. The single — released the same day as Morrissey’s version — charted at #46 in the UK, providing Sinatra with her first hit for over 30 years. The follow-up single, "Burnin' Down the Spark", failed to chart. The album, originally titled To Nancy, with Love, featured contemporary rock performers such as Calexico, Sonic Youth, U2, Pulp's Jarvis Cocker, Steven Van Zandt, Jon Spencer, and Pete Yorn, who all cited Sinatra as an influence on their music. Each artist crafted a song for Sinatra to sing on the album.
Two years later EMI released The Essential Nancy Sinatra – a UK-only greatest-hits compilation featuring the previously unreleased track, "Machine Gun Kelly." The collection was hand-picked by Sinatra and spans her 40-year career. The record was Sinatra's first to make the UK album charts (#73) in 30 years.
Sinatra, a gay icon, also recorded the song "Another Gay Sunshine Day" for Another Gay Movie in 2006.
Nancy Sinatra received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on May 11, 2006, which was also declared "Nancy Sinatra Day" by Hollywood’s Honorary Mayor, Johnny Grant.
Nancy appeared, as herself, on one of the final episodes (Chasing It) of the HBO mob drama The Sopranos. Her brother, Frank Jr., had previously appeared in the 2000 episode The Happy Wanderer.
Nancy recorded a public service announcement for Deejay Ra's 'Hip-Hop Literacy' campaign, encouraging reading of Quentin Tarantino screenplays and related books.