Today would have been Frank Sinatra’s 98th birthday. 18 years ago, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles played host to a celebration that featured Little Richard, Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett, Bono and more, all gathered to mark the 80th birthday of a true original.
With Ol’ Blue Eyes seated in the front row, each artist took the stage to perform one of Sinatra’s songs. Apart from one... Just before the ensemble New York, New York brought the house down, Bob Dylan, acoustic in hand and backed by the orchestra, began to play a song that made its debut on 1962’s The Times They Are a-Changin’.
"‘Happy Birthday, Mr Frank,’ concludes Dylan, as the camera cuts to Sinatra.”
Restless Farewell, a track requested – we’re told – by Sinatra himself, is a folk musician's My Way. "The corner sign, says it’s closing time", "the curtain is drawn and somebody’s eyes must meet the dawn", "It’s for myself and my friends my stories are sung", "And bid farewell and not give a damn" – it all evokes a stoic and reflective goodbye.
Thousands of people were in the room (hell, even David Hasselhoff was there), but in those seven minutes there’s only Sinatra and Dylan, speaking to each other across the mists of time. "Happy Birthday, Mr Frank," concludes Dylan, as the camera cuts to a visibly moved Sinatra.
The event was recorded on November 19, 1995 and broadcast by ABC-TV the following month. Sinatra’s appearance during New York, New York would turn out to be his last moments on stage.
Check out the clip below then listen to a superior quality recording via the SoundCloud embed.