Kaplan ’73 Writes Second Volume on Sinatra’s Life

David LowDecember 9, 20154min
James Kaplan '73 - Photo: Erinn Hartmann
James Kaplan ’73 (Photo by Erinn Hartmann)

In 2010, James Kaplan ’73 had a national bestseller with Frank: The Voice, an acclaimed biography which told the story of singer Frank Sinatra’s meteoric rise to fame, subsequent failures, and reinvention as a star of live performances and screen. In his new book, Sinatra: The Chairman (Doubleday), Kaplan continues the singer’s story, starting with the day after Sinatra claimed his Academy Award for From Here to Eternity in 1954 and had reestablished himself as a top recording artist. After winning the Oscar, he was extremely busy with recording albums and singles, shooting several movies a year, and appearing on TV shows and nightclubs. He started his own record label, Reprise, and was involved in movie production, the restaurant business, and prizefighter management. His notorious social activities and commitments also made the news.

In a piece he recently wrote for The Wall Street Journal about his latest book, Kaplan comments: “I’ve studied and written about Frank Sinatra for 10 years, and though I’ve sometimes disliked him, I’ve never been bored with him. His best singing—of which there is a very great deal—still gives me goosebumps, every time. I believe that we will still be celebrating Sinatra, and listening to him, next year, and the year after that, and (as the title of another of his numbers has it) a hundred years from today.”

Biography by James Kaplan '73
Biography by James Kaplan ’73

In his review of the book in The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik says: “Kaplan’s book turns out to be … hugely readable, vastly entertaining, a page-turner, and all the rest. But it’s also interesting as a fine instance of a strikingly newish kind of thing: the serious and even scholarly biography of a much gossiped-over pop figure, where the old Kitty Kelley-style scandal-sheet bio is turned into a properly documented and footnoted study that nonetheless trades on, or at least doesn’t exclude, the sensational bits.”

Wesleyan magazine interview with James Kaplan about Frank: The Voice.

Kaplan is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose essays, reviews, and profiles have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and New York magazine. He co-authored John McEnroe’s autobiography, You Cannot Be Serious, a number-one New York Times bestseller, and coauthored the bestselling Dean & Me with Jerry Lewis. He lives in Westchester, New York, with his wife and three sons.