Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley are among the biggest names of 20th-century music, though their styles were vastly different. Sinatra’s swing crooning was a far cry from Presley’s rock ‘n’ roll career. However, both musicians found immense success, Frank Sinatra starting in the ’40s and Elvis Presley about a decade later.
Both expanded from music into acting and spent much of their career performing in Las Vegas. Sinatra had a fascinating personal life as well — he was a notorious lady’s man, had a particular personal style, and even had ties to the mafia. Presley was less of a public figure outside his entertainment career, but that didn’t stop the fascination many had with him.
The one and only Frank Sinatra
According to Biography.com, Frank Sinatra’s origins were in the working-class Italian immigrant community of Hoboken, New Jersey, a factor that remained part of his image throughout his life. He had a lifelong love of big band music, which led him to begin singing in the ’30s with a vocal trio.
His impressive vocal talents quickly made him the lead singer despite his youth and inexperience; over the years he would sing with various bands but his frustration at having only local success led him to go solo in 1942.
He quickly found himself the object of “Sinatramania” — the obsessive fandom of many young girls who enjoyed his music. However, with the end of World War II, he found a slight career slump. Luckily, things turned around for him in the ’50s, and he found himself part of the Rat Pack — a group of superstar singers and actors.
Until his death, Sinatra would continue to be a major celebrity. Today, he’s remembered fondly by those who were around to hear him perform and people who are discovering him decades after the singer’s heyday.
The iconic Elvis Presley was one of the biggest stars of all-time
Elvis Presley has a remarkably similar background to Sinatra, though with some details changed. Like Sinatra, he grew up in a working-class family, though Elvis was from Tupelo, Mississippi, a rural southern town.
When Elvis Presley started his music career immediately out of high school, he quickly became a success. His catchy songs and rockstar persona set the stage for generations of rock music.
He received massive success and, like Sinatra, scores of fangirls. He also began a film career, starring in hits like Blue Hawaii and Jailhouse Rock. Elvis was the archetypical rock star, and the idea of celebrity owes a lot to him.
Why was it rare for Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra to perform together?
Despite their similarities, Sinatra was not a fan of Presley, or of rock ‘n’ roll in general. According to an online Elvis biography, Sinatra described rock ‘n’ roll as “phony and false,” and the rock ‘n’ roll musicians who made it as “cretinous goons.”
But the two ended up performing together on Sinatra’s show. Elvis had served two years in the army, and in 1960, needed a comeback to maintain his celebrity status. Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy, persuaded him to let Presley on the show, which ended up being a massive success.
In the clip, you can hear the girls in the audience screaming as Elvis sings Sinatra’s song “Witchcraft” alongside Sinatra’s swung cover of “Love Me Tender.” Maybe Sinatra never appreciated rock ‘n’ roll, but he no doubt had to respect Presley’s star power.