Saturday, October 4, 2008

Everyone's Got To Learn Sometime: Frank Sinatra: "Learning The Blues"

And here we have, at last you may (or may not) think, Sinatra. He too ran up against the implacable Slim Whitman with “Rose Marie” though whether he cared in particular, I don’t know. And also again, we have a kind of midway point – a standstill, if you will. At this time, married to Ava Gardner, Sinatra was either high or low – contemplative in his melancholy, or carefree and jolly as Zeus or perhaps a more swingin’ Santa Claus. He is in a more swingy mode here, but he is not asking his Other to fly away or go to a party or even promising his eternal & hip love. In this song, he observes, with sympathy, the misery of another person – a man who has been dumped, most likely – first he is in the diner/bar, playing the same love song (‘their’ song no doubt) over and over, getting drunk, and it’s no use; he is, according to Sinatra, learning ‘the blues’ – an odd thing to be cheery about, but it’s all sung in the sense of ‘I’ve been there, I know what it’s like, welcome to the club kid’ – as if the person who bought the record would have Frank’s own blessing to stay up nights and walk the floor, because that’s what heartbroken people do. On the other hand, it might annoy a recent dumpee to have him sing in such a cavalier way about something that is genuinely haunting and painful. The final break-up with Gardner was yet to come; I wonder what he thought of this record (or even if he could) once they were through. But in this song, he was a god looking down from his clouds at the mortal, frail man – he has learned what suffering is, and sees it and recognizes it, maybe even relishes it a little. Sadly, he will be suffering in much the same way, even worse, but that is for another time and song.

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