"The New Yorker’s" Adam Gopnik to Guest on “Sing! Sing! Sing!” with Will Friedwald

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"The New Yorker’s" Adam Gopnik to Guest on “Sing! Sing! Sing!” with Will Friedwald

Friedwald and Gopnik to have 'Frank Conversation' this Saturday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET.

Adam Gopnik, longtime staff writer for "The New Yorker," author, songwriter, playwright, Sinatra fanatic.

By Matt Silver 

Our “Twelve Days of Sinatra” is officially breaking for regularly scheduled programming over the weekend. We’ll officially be back at it again on Monday, Dec. 11 at noon Pacific, with the Seventh Day of Sinatra—Frank in the Movies—hosted by Chuck Granata. Officially. But here at KSDS, we’re less interested in the distinction between official and unofficial than you might think. In fact—call it our trailblazing spirit—we kind of love the renegade, weekend regions of our terrestrial radio landscape, where we give the unofficial a wide berth to stretch its legs, riff without restraint, and luxuriate in the unadulterated freedom of an off-the-books lifestyle.

What in Sinatra’s name does any of this mean?! It means that the 12 Days of Sinatra resumes officially on Monday at noon/3 p.m. ET. AND ALSO that Sinatra programming will continue unabated and with the mettle and vigor of the renegade spirit tomorrow—Saturday—at 10 a.m./1 p.m. ET with our favorite endearingly anachronistic gunslinger, the prolific Will Friedwald, bringing you a deliciously transgressive, Sinatra-focused edition of “Sing! Sing! Sing!”

I urge you in the strongest possible turns to tune-in if you consider yourself a man or woman of letters and/or the arts. Because guesting as co-host for this 'Frank Conversation'—as Friedwald is styling it—will be Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker, who’s written fiction, humor book reviews, personal essays, profiles, and unforgettable dispatches from abroad for the magazine that made the tote-bag a worldview and ranks among the most prolific public intellectuals of our time.

Ask Friedwald and he’ll describe Gopnik as “a journalist, songwriter, connoisseur, and raconteur.” Gopnik, presented as such, may feign the humility good manners mandates, but there’s one truth he has never run from: He’s a longtime admirer — “a fanatic,” in his own words — of Sinatra, and has written gorgeously trying to disabuse Sinatra detractors of their misperceptions. Like here, in 2015, where he writes, “If nothing survived of Sinatra but what’s been written about him, posterity would have a hugely misleading impression.”

When the uninitiated think of Sinatra, Gopnik writes, they think of “a brawling guy, sort of pop Pavarotti, a crooner Caruso, a guy blessed with a giant instrument that sets plaster falling from the ceiling, but who didn’t use his instrument well or have much taste.”

Gopnik disagrees vehemently and has spent the most valuable column inches in American print journalism—no doubt much more real estate than his editors would prefer—evangelizing.

His defense of Sinatra—indeed, his extolling of Frank’s virtues—seems borne of a compulsion to see justice done, to set records—pun or no pun, your choice—straight.

“In truth,” Gopnik writes, “a less operatic, stage-forward singer hasn’t lived. Sinatra is all understatement, relaxation, wit, and ease…. He’s much less self-consciously virtuosic than even his contemporaries among pop singers. Judy Garland is all vibrato and tears; Sinatra is all legato and regrets….

“Sinatra’s voice is always that of someone confiding, not someone emoting. He isn’t square. This gives his voice its extraordinary sympathy. He sounds the way you would sound if you could speak the things you feel.”

Wow, that’s a writer.

While his defense of Sinatra on the merits has always been impassioned, Gopnik, too, hasn’t shied away from meditating on Frank’s infamous shadow side. Like the story of Frank publicly upbraiding a musician for hitting a wrong note during his tour of Australia with the Red Norvo Trio in 1959. Sinatra can be heard on record singing an egregiously out-of-tune note on purpose, seemingly to humiliate the out-of-tune instrumentalist, before stating, in a menacing tone, “Nobody sleeps in this act, Freddie.”

Expect Friedwald and Gopnik to touch upon the interplay between Sinatra’s light and dark sides.

Gopnik’s writings on Frank have always been admiring, but they’ve never been fawning; they’ve never approached hagiography, something we see far too often in contemporary critics’ coverage of artists and musicians. I’m looking at you, dude who’s now covering Taylor Swift full time as USA Today’s beat writer.

If that infamous incident in captured on that Live in Australia album captures on essential truth about Sinatra, it’s that the light and the dark co-exist, each informing the other, each inextricable from the whole.

“Admirable perfectionism and thuggish intimidation,” Gopnik writes of Sinatra’s duality, “and at the same time.”

That’s why this Saturday’s “Sing! Sing! Sing!”—this Frank Conversation about Sinatra—won’t just be fun; it’ll be important, too. Because you’ll hear two of the most informed and thoughtful authorities on Sinatra’s life and career challenge the type of uncritical, all-or-nothing extremism that has come to dominate arts criticism and opinion journalism. And, you know, Sinatra, too.

So, if you’re in the San Diego area, tune in at 10 a.m. to KSDS 88.3 FM. And if you’re anywhere else around the world, stream live at Jazz88.org or via the KSDS mobile app. And, be prompt. Saturday, at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET, is POST TIME!  

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