LOS ANGELES — Frank Sinatra Jr., who lived in his father's considerable shadow yet who also sought to honor the Sinatra legacy, died Wednesday of cardiac arrest while on tour in Daytona Beach, Fla., according to the Associated Press.
He was 72.
Helen Riger, Daytona Beach's cultural services and community events director, toldThe (Daytona Beach) News-Journal Wednesday night that Sinatra Jr. died earlier in the day at Halifax Health Medical Center.
Earlier Wednesday, Peabody Auditorium officials had announced Sinatra Jr.'s concert scheduled for Wednesday night was canceled after the singer fell ill, The News-Journal reported.
Sinatra had been touring in a multimedia concert performance, “Sinatra Sings Sinatra, As I Remember It,” connected to the centennial celebration of his father’s birth.
The show featured stories, photos and videos, with the younger Sinatra sharing recollections of his father along with performances of classic hits, such as Come Fly with Me, Strangers in the Night, My Way and New York, New York.
Sinatra Jr. was the son of Sinatra’s first wife, Nancy Barbato Sinatra, and the younger brother of Nancy Sinatra, who had a successful musical career of her own.
Sinatra Jr. grew up watching his father from the wings of the stage, and followed him into music as a teenager, eventually working for the senior Sinatra as his musical director and conductor.
The elder Sinatra died of a heart attack May 14, 1998, at 82.
The younger Sinatra's tone was similar to his father's famous baritone; both had that alluring vibrato and warm rasp. The similarities were clearly evident on Sinatra Jr.'s 1996 Sinatra tribute album, As I Remember It. The record was made to commemorate the elder Sinatra's 80th birthday.
"I manage to sneak in a few little things in of my own identity," said Sinatra Jr. of the his concerts. "I flatter myself that I can still do that after having done this for over 40 years."
Sinatra Jr., like his famous father, was a Jersey boy, born in Jersey City, N.J., in 1944.
"I was born in the bloodiest time of World War II," Sinatra Jr. said. "It was a custom in those days in a Catholic family, when a child was born, that child would be baptized in the church in which his parents had been married. I was born and three months later, I was baptized in the church and the next day, my family moved to Los Angeles.
"My father had already been there."
The Sinatra family broke up when Sinatra Sr. left Nancy, in 1951, to pursue the elusive beauty, actress Ava Gardner. The episode was scandalous for the time and it nearly ruined Sinatra's career.
At home, Sinatra Jr. was discovering his father's music, particularly 1953's I've Got the World on a String. The record was a new, exciting sound with a big production, a far cry from the croonings of Bing Crosby and early Sinatra, Sinatra Jr. said.
"As a crooner, the records that he made were pleasing, pleasant musical conversations," said Sinatra Jr. of his father. "But beginning with I've Got the World on a String, the records were a statement now. At the end of these records, there was not a comma or a semi-colon — we had an exclamation point."
It's was style Sinatra emulated.
"I try to," he said. "I don't think anyone wants to hear mundane crooning today."
Nor did they in the 1960s, when the younger Sinatra ventured forth with his own career. Sinatra Jr. formed a group with former members of the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1963. Later that year, Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped from Lake Tahoe and held until a ransom was paid. The kidnappers were caught and convicted, yet whispers of the episode being a publicity stunt followed the young singer.
Sinatra Jr. released his debut album, Young Love For Sale, in 1965. However, numerous comparisons to his father and the album's seemingly dated material — it was a collection of standards during the height of Beatlemania — often made the younger Sinatra the butt of jokes. While sister Nancy was a rock'n'roll star with These Boots Were Made For Walking in the mid 1960s, brother Frank was perpetually in the shadow in his father. More albums, movies and television appearances followed — including 1969's Frank Sinatra Jr. With Family and Friends on CBS — but stardom was never his.
Sinatra — who excelled as a performer in Las Vegas in the 1980s — eventually served as his father's musical director from 1988 to 1995.
"When you conduct an orchestra, all you are there to do is to follow that person and Sinatra was not an easy person to follow," Sinatra Jr. said. "One of the guys in the band once said that Sinatra never does anything the same way once."
"It was a difficult job ... it was difficult job. Because of the fact that my father was a very demanding performer — he wanted things done a certain way."
Later in his career Sinatra Jr. became one of the few touring standard bearers of the Great American Songbook as one of the few singers who still performed with an orchestra. The image softened and he appeared on The Sopranos and the Howard Stern-produced Son of the Beach, which have lightly poked fun at his reputation.
Following Sept. 11, Sinatra donated his time to auction winners who paid $5,000 to have dinner with him. The money raised went to victim relief funds.
"I was delighted to know," Sinatra quipped, "that they considered I was worth paying $5,000 for, frankly."
No other details of his death have been released by the Sinatra family.
Contributing: Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press. Follow Chris Jordan on Twitter: @ChrisFHJordan