That’s Life

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and entrances; And in his time plays many parts… — William Shakespeare

1938 was not a very good year for Frank. In fact, three decades before releasing his hit song, That’s Life, the 23-year-old fell flat on his face.

He had been in occasional brawls, but until that evening, he had never been to jail. Now, he was in real trouble, the kind spelled w-o-m-a-n. In time, as he would later sing, he picked himself up and got back in the race, but at that moment he had to worry more about making bail. The blue-eyed wonder spent the night in a squalid New Jersey cell charged with a violation of seduction.

The charge was accurate, although it may seem quaint by today’s standards. Sexuality was a morality test in those days, not a multiple-choice exam as it is now. In voyeuristic detail suggestive of a Russian KGB agent the FBI reported breathlessly that “On the second and ninth days of November 1938 at the Borough of Lodi, under the promise of marriage, Sinatra did then and there have sexual intercourse with the said complainant, who was then and there a single female of good repute contrary and in violation of the revised statute of 1937.”

The description of a ‘single female of good repute’ turned out to be fake news, fortunately for Sinatra. The small technical detail the constable had neglected was that she was married, and as a result, a false promise of matrimony was not justifiable cause even for the charge of seduction. Sinatra was released the next morning. It was not recorded whether he sang like a canary while inside the hoosegow.

The word extraordinary comes from Latin, extra and ordinare, meaning ‘beyond the common order.’ By the 16th century, it took on the sense of ‘remarkable,’ something to be remarked upon. Most of us use the word indiscriminately, as in “my three-year-old is extraordinary,” when she swims with pink water wings. If you happen to love three years olds as much as me, that’s not a problem.

But it begs the question when we refer to ages four through whenever. Which achievements qualify as extraordinary? Since most of us don’t sing like Frank (karaoke doesn’t count), does that mean we can never break out of the ordinary column? Although his vocal cords were magnificent, he had two greater talents that propelled him to the stars.

The first was he knew to get back in the race.

The second was how to dream. Dreaming, as a major talent, is overlooked. It comes down to courage and imagination, without which Sinatra might still be rotting in a cell somewhere. Dreams propel us over great hurdles, or we wind up with a good conduct medal — which by the way, at no time in Sinatra’s life was he a candidate.

He also knew there were people out there who loved to step on a dream — back in Jersey after he was released, authorities learned his paramour was currently married and the charge was upgraded to adultery — but he never let them get him down.


Whenever Sinatra hosted a party, he would give his favorite toast, “May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine.”

Although he didn’t make it to that ripe old age, we still hear his voice. He was the very definition of ‘beyond the normal order.’ Even though Sinatra died at age 82 from a heart attack at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on May 14, 1998, my wife and I listen to him every day at 3–5 p.m. during our reading hour. We never bought his records while he was alive, yet his legacy has grown larger than ever. As CNBC reported, the Sinatra ‘oeuvre’ comes to 1,400 recordings, 31 gold, nine platinum, three double-platinum, and one triple-platinum, including over 150 million albums worldwide and 60 films.

In 2007, “Sinatra’s children (Nancy, Frank Jr., and Tina) and the family’s attorney, along with Warner Music Group, founded Frank Sinatra Enterprises” to manage the Sinatra business. His daughter, Tina, said, “we do well, and we are profitable, but we don’t just do it for the money.” She added that her father gets more than a million streams a week.

His voice may yet be the last we hear.

That’s life
That’s what all the people say
You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

I said that’s life
And as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks
Stomping on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself
Flat on my face
I pick myself up and get
Back in the race

That’s life
I tell you, I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby
But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly

That’s life



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Jeff Cunningham

Writing about extraordinary lives. Came for the stories; stayed for the people.