Frank Sinatra Jr., the singer and bandleader who once chafed in his father’s shadow but later called performing his music “a big, fat gift,” has died of cardiac arrest at 72 while on tour in Daytona, Fla., according to his family’s website.
Sinatra Jr., born in Jersey City in 1944 to Sinatra and his first wife Nancy Barbato Sinatra, followed the Hoboken-born legend into show business, singing, touring and appearing on variety shows, but never achieving the success of his high-flying father, with whom he had a distant relationship for much of his life.
In 1963, the 19-year-old Sinatra was kidnapped in Lake Tahoe and held for ransom for several days, until his family paid $240,000 and he was released near his mother’s home in Bel Air. A friend of the young Sinatra’s sister Nancy and two of his accomplices were arrested and convicted, although they claimed in their defense that it was all an elaborate publicity hoax engineered by the young singer.
When Sinatra Jr. was 44 and performing in Atlantic City, his father, then 72, called him up and asked him be his conductor. “Well, after my friends had revived me with the smelling salts,” he told the Guardian in 2012, “I said to him, ‘You can’t be serious?'”
He worked as his father’s musical director and conductor until the elder Sinatra’s death in 1998, and then continued his own touring career, performing Sinatra classics in Las Vegas and beyond.
“Since my father’s death, a lot of people have made it clear that they’re not ready to give up the music,” Sinatra Jr. told the Associated Press in 2002. “For me, it’s a big, fat gift. I get to sing with a big orchestra and get to sing orchestrations that will never be old.”
Sinatra Jr., who was divorced at the time of his death, has one son from a previous relationship, Michael.