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Stockpile nostalgia. That’s what’s needed right now. And that’s exactly what you get in this song from Sinatra’s September Of My Years, his Grammy Award-winning album from 1965.
Created when Sinatra was fifty, It Was A Very Good Year sees a curmudgeonly middle-ager look back over his life and loves. Has everything good already passed him by?
It’s stop-start in its structure, as Sinatra recollects, hesitatingly at first. But as he gains confidence in his memory, he indulges, with the orchestra fleshing out each scenario with every instrument and colour available.
Sinatra’s delivery, while showing the first signs of age and weariness, is sensational. There’s a little wear and tear in his voice, an occasional extra wobble in his vibrato. But the way he drags out “fine old kegs”, disobeying the conductor’s baton to wring out every last drop of consonant… those kegs must be filled with molten gold.
And the orchestration! Eat your heart out Richard Wagner. The shrill trilling of the clarinets; the nagging, angular oboe. The perky pizzicato from the strings, that suddenly bloom out of nothing to conjure a shimmering mirage. It’s Gordon Jenkins we have to thank for this symphony in four-and-a-half minutes. A master composer and arranger, he conducts the orchestra in this recording, and throughout his career created the lush sonic backdrops for Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald and Nat King Cole.
Stan Cornyn, executive of Sinatra’s own record label, Reprise, renowned for his liner notes as well as his business acumen, wrote the most beautiful note for the album, which concludes:
September can be an attitude or an age or a wistful reality. For this man, it is a time of love. A time to sing.
A thousand days hath September.
As I look out the window today at a beautiful Spring day that I’m not allowed to enjoy, I feel a similar pang of loss, but also an urge to not take things, people, places for granted when this is over. Who knows how many days we’ll be stuck inside for; hopefully not a thousand, but Frank should help them pass a little more easily.
So, put it on repeat and turn it up full blast. Look wistfully out the window if you want. Just don’t go outside.