This Month in Music History: July 20, 1940 – Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey Score First Billboard #1 Song

World War 2 was in full swing over in Europe but the United States chose to steer clear, for the moment, at least, of jumping into any armed combat. It would come, just not yet. Billboard magazine, which was founded late in the 19th century, sought a better way to track record sales and thus present a more accurate figure. They combined a few of their different charts to ascertain better view of the most popular song at the time. On this month – July 20, 1940 – Billboard anointed the song “I’ll Never Smile Again” sung by a young 25 year old singer by the name of Frank Sinatra, with the Tommy  Dorsey band, as the record industry’s first number song.

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Much has been written and said about Frank Sinatra and yet he never fades away. Throughout his life and career, Sinatra was the man. A singer, Sinatra could act as well. If you were asked, is Frank Sinatra a better actor or musician, how would you respond? How could anyone respond?

In this way, Sinatra is more unique than any other entertainer. How many entertainers could boast the resume that “The Chairman of the Board” could? Certainly not Elvis and the Beatles. While A Hard Day’s Night and Help were innovative pieces with which to showcase a group of men who had no acting experience, the Fab Four could not touch Sinatra in number of roles nor length of his career.

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As well, only Paul McCartney has come anywhere near Frank Sinatra in length as a recording artist.

Truth be told, the only competitor in both lengths of career of both movies and recording, it would be Sinatra’s running buddy Dean Martin. You would literally have to take all the artists of today times that by ten ad you’d still be nowhere in the they region of the success of Sinatra.

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Proof? Here it is:

From his first released single in 1940 — as the singer with Tommy Dorsey’s band — to the 1980 release of “Theme from New York, New York”, Frank Sinatra had 209 hits on Billboard’s pop singles charts. Of those, 127 made the Top Twenty, 70 made the Top Ten and 10 reached the #1 position — “I’ll Never Smile Again” (1940), “There Are Such Things” (1942), “In the Blue of the Evening” (1943), “All or Nothing at All” (1944), “Oh What It Seemed To Be” (1945), “Five Minutes More” (1946), “Mam’selle” (1947), “Learning the Blues” (1955), “Strangers in the Night” (1966) and “Somethin’ Stupid” (1967).

Of Sinatra’s 56 Top Twenty albums on Billboard’s pop album charts, 42—including soundtracks — reached the Top Ten and 6 made the #1 position — The Voice of Frank Sinatra(1946), Come Fly With Me (1956), Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (1958), Come Dance with Me! (1959), Nice ‘n’ Easy (1960) and Strangers in the Night (1966). He also has the longest time span of charting Top Ten albums on the Billboard album chart, 62 years with The Voice of Frank Sinatra going to #1 in 1946, and Nothing But the Best going to #2 in 2008.

Sinatra’s 1958 album Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely spent 120 weeks on Billboard’s album chart, peaking at #1. His next album, Come Dance with Me! (1959) spent 140 weeks on Billboard, peaking at #1.

“My Way” (1969) is the longest charting U.K. single of all time, with 122 weeks spent on the chart, peaking at number 5. The single re-entered the chart 8 times between 1970 and 1972. A 1995 re-release spent 2 weeks on the chart.

In the UK, 42 Sinatra albums have made the Top Ten. Fifty-four Sinatra albums have made the Top Twenty, the longest charting of those albums being the 1997 compilation My Way: The Very Best of Frank Sinatra, which, to date, has charted for 128 weeks achieving 5 x platinum status. Six of Sinatra’s albums reached the #1 position on the UK album chart, with a further five peaking at #2.

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