Sinatra: The Swinging Narcissist by Harvey A. Kaplan

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Sinatra: The Swinging Narcissist by Harvey A. Kaplan

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Sinatra:  The Swinging Narcissist by Harvey A. Kaplan

From the Introducton: 

How is this book different from  other books that have been written about Sinatra?

Frank Sinatra was one of the most spectacular figures of the twentieth century. There are more books and articles written about him that would attest to his popularity. He could be seen as one of the greatest entertainer, performer and singer that has ever lived. I do not intend to follow the story of his life but rather address some issues or strategies that brought him to the top.

     As a great performer, he never allowed himself to reach the automatic, arrested-development stage in his chosen field. He was always getting better. Luck may give the singer their first opportunity, but then such characteristics as determination, dealing with people and motivation turn this opportunity into success. And of course if this opportunity had not come along, then another would have.

   Certainly one of Sinatra’s main attribute was that he was single-minded and determined. Indeed, it would be possible to pick this out as the single characteristic common to all successful singers. It can take the form of drive: if you want something hard enough, you will get it. It can take the form of ruthlessness: let nothing stand between you and your goal. It can take the form of a strong sense of purpose: know exactly where you want to go and get there. It can take the form of will-power and persistence: accepting failure only as a step on the path to success.

   As we can see with Sinatra, a sense of direction urges action and shapes the action. The sense of direction allows the value of the action to be assessed; has it got me nearer my goal? Many other singers lacked such a strong sense of value when taking a decision. The strongly success-oriented singer only takes into account one thing: the path to success.

From a practical point of view it does matter whether we attribute success to a particular type of personality and the way that personality is so constituted. Obviously most successful singers are talented, yet here may have to be hard work and training before that talent can succeed against others. There can be talent but there may also have to be a strategy fueled by the right mental attitude. In the first chapter, I showed how Maria Callas put a great deal of effort into making the best of her talent so that a phenomenal natural talent soars above all others.

   In this book, I have tried to show how a complex constellation of factors and characteristics pushed Sinatra to the top of his field. That the harder he worked the more particular personality factors emerged and pushed him further along. In addition, he evinced such strong and creative parts of himself that made him a phenomenon. He was able to immerse himself in a very challenging field and emerge at the very top.

   There are tons of books written about the life of Frank Sinatra. They can fill up bookcases and often the same stories are told. Some highlight the arrogance and negative traits while others focus on his good deeds, the many charities he devoted himself to. Few books other than Will Friedwald’s ‘Sinatra’ emphasized his singing and his music. I don’t intend to write a biography of his life however, I will emphasize what I consider the outstanding personal characteristics that enabled him to soar ahead of others. I write much of this taken from my background as a psychologist and I hope the reader will appreciate the dominant features of what I consider pivotal in Sinatra’s life. In some ways, his kind of determination comes close to fanaticism and what might be called “a little madness.” It implies a rather unnatural view of life, because one single goal becomes more important than any others. He was willing to sacrifice his wife, his children, his friends, his health and even his life for his goal. At times, the goal may seem very much like an obsession. At its extreme, obsession is a form of madness. Yet it resonated so well with his audience. These lessons are important to consider and understand so that we can probe into the psychological components of what goes into a legend.      

       Becoming a great performer demands the largest investment you will ever make – many years of your life devoted utterly to your goal- and only someone who wants to reach that goal with extraordinary power can make it. Howard Gardner, after studying his seven exceptional achievers, noted that “usually, as a means of being able to continue work, the creator sacrificed normal relationships in the personal sphere.” Such people are “committed obsessively to their work. Social life or hobbies are almost immaterial.” That may sound admirable self-sacrifice and direction of purpose, but it often goes much further, and it can be ugly. When self-confidence merges with egotism, egocentrism, and narcissism: each of the creators seems highly self-absorbed, not only wholly involved in his or her own projects, but likely to pursue them at the cost of other individuals.” The story of the great achiever who leaves a wake of anger and betrayal is a common. To this endeavor, I have labeled Frank Sinatra the “Productive Narcissist.”

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