In the mid 1960s, with songs like “So Long Babe” and “How Does that Grab You, Darlin’?“, Nancy Sinatra took the image of a girl crying over her diary for a boy who wouldn’t behave and changed it to a woman who let her men know, in no uncertain terms, just how things were going to be.
“These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” kicked open the doors for a whole new category of women in music. Nancy’s tough girl attitude preceded women’s liberation and created the first rebel chick pop/rock singer. The era of the female rocker was born. Nancy cites among her influences, Ruth Brown, Laverne Baker, Doris Day, Peggy Lee, Elvis, Brigitte Bardot, and her Mother. One of Nancy’s continuing inspirations is Diane Keaton.
Armed with a signature style, catchy songs and memorable album covers and photo spreads, between the US and international charts, Nancy scored more than 60 chart hits and sold millions of records. She has influenced music, fashion, hair, and make-up trends, and become a role model for young, independent women, as well as an icon of popular culture around the world.
After “Boots” went to #1 in 1966, the theme of independence and free thinking that appealed to women and men was perpetuated by “How Does That Grab You“, a #7 charter and “Sugar Town“, a #4 chart record. Nancy’s recording of the title song of the James Bond movie, “You Only Live Twice“, is an anthem for many who still request it when she performs today. Her legendary record with her father, “Somethin’ Stupid“, (the only father/daughter duet ever to reach #1 on the charts), is always on the “best of” lists, as are many of her duets with her mentor/producer Lee Hazlewood, including “Sand” (Nancy’s favorite of the N & L duets), “Summer Wine“, “Some Velvet Morning” and “Jackson“.
Many of Nancy’s recordings continue to be covered by both upcoming and established artists. Even 50 years after she originally released some of the songs, her versions are deferred to as the definitive recordings. The oft covered, Nancy and Lee hit duet, “Some Velvet Morning” was cited as the best duet ever recorded, by critics at the London Daily Telegraph, in a 2003 poll. “Something Stupid” was ranked #27 on their list of the top 50 duets. In the April/May 2013 issue of Bust magazine, Nancy’s recording of “Boots” is listed as one of the tracks for a perfect sleepover playlist.
In the book, Rolling Stone: Women in Rock, Karen Schoemer wrote, “Nancy’s combination of pristine innocence and vamp-o-rama sex appeal was a perfect expression for the (‘60s).” “Nancy was the first woman to turn the tables on men by using the same technique perfected by Elvis Presley,” wrote James Vickerson for his book Women On Top.
The image Nancy created often sparked controversy. Her 1966 album “Sugar”, was banned in some cities, because she was clad in a (then) “too racy” pink bikini on the cover. The record company even layered a screen over the image, to lessen the apparent impact, to no avail. In 1976 her recording of the song, “Kinky Love”, was pulled from the playlists of certain radio programmers, due to its “provocative lyrics”. The song remains a fan favorite.
The core of her original band (some of whom still perform with her) was the world famous “Wrecking Crew”, L.A.’s finest rhythm section, who also worked with the Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, Phil Spector and other music legends. Producers whom Nancy considers herself fortunate to have worked with are Don Costa, Bones Howe, Snuff Garrett, Charles Calello, Jimmy Bowen, Tutti Camarratta, Lee Hazlewood, L. Russell Brown, Billy Strange, Duane Eddy and her eldest daughter, AJ Lambert. Nancy’s current band has included former Guns & Roses Guitarist Gilby Clarke and Drummers, Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello’s band and Clem Burke of Blondie.
A staple of television variety shows, Nancy appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Glen Campbell Show, The Bobby Darin Show, Johnny Carson, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, Hullabaloo, The Kraft Music Hall, Hollywood Palace and many others, including Hippodrome and Top of the Pops in the UK.
Nancy often jokes about her acting career, but the fact remains she did seven movies, two of which, “Speedway” with Elvis Presley and “The Wild Angels” with Peter Fonda, made her the top female box-office draw two years in a row. She also appeared on episodes of TV’s “The Virginian”, “Burke’s Law” and “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”. One of her few on camera appearances in recent years, was in honor of Vietnam Veterans, on the television classic “China Beach”, which recreated one of her shows with the USO and featured another entertainment industry icon and friend, the Honorary Mayor of Hollywood, Johnny Grant. Nancy also performed as herself in the final season of HBO’s, The Soprano’s, along with her daughter, AJ.
During the Vietnam War, Nancy was a favorite pin-up for the GI’s on battlefields and ships. For them, she represented the ideal girl to come home to. In the liner notes of her “Sugar” album, Lee Hazlewood tried to explain the dichotomy of the Nancy persona which seemed to capture so many hearts. He called her “a girl and a woman who is quiet and noisy, square yet hip.”
There were many other milestones along the way: record breaking appearances in Las Vegas (beginning with the International Hotel in 1969), Juke Box Awards, Grammy nominations and an Emmy winning television special, conceived and produced by Nancy, called “Movin’ With Nancy“. This collection of music videos, ten years before there were music videos, was released on DVD. Another “first”, the kiss between Nancy and Sammy Davis Jr. – being one of the first interracial kisses seen on television, it has caused some controversy (then and now). Contrary to some inaccurate online reports, the kiss was unplanned and spontaneous, as explained by Nancy and Director, Jack Haley Jr. on the DVD audio commentary.
She continues to be active in politics and charitable causes, including serving several years as a National Board Member of the Screen Actors Guild, Songs Of Love, an artistic cooperative which creates upbeat and encouraging original songs personalized for children with chronic or terminal illnesses, Jerry Lewis’ MDA Telethon, St. Jude’s, and Children’s International, a number of animal rescue charities, such as, Actors and Others For Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and Pacific Marine Mammal Center, U.S. Military personnel assistance groups, the Thalians, who operate mental health clinics, AIDS awareness, and Marriage Equality programs, the MPTF, the David Lynch Foundation, and the ACLU. Nancy is a board member at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Nancy supports a number of museums and theaters. Over the years requests from fund raisers for donation of signed pairs of Nancy’s boots have resulted in auctions benefiting many worthy organizations.
Nancy personally oversees the operation of two popular websites (sinatrafamily.com and nancysinatra.com). On both sites, as well as with her Twitter followers, (@NancySinatra), and Facebook users (Facebook.com/NancySinatra), she maintains direct communication with visitors and regulars, sharing information and encouraging the expression of ideas, mutual support and community.
In 1995, after raising her two daughters and seeing them happily ensconced in college, Nancy re-started her career with her “One More Time” album and a Playboy pictorial. For her, the latter demonstrated once again that sexuality and feminism are not mutually exclusive. She performed sold-out rock shows in the United States and Scandinavia. Nancy concentrated on reconnecting with a rock music audience by playing such famous venues as the Limelight in New York City, RPM in Toronto, the Fillmore in San Francisco, the Trocadero in Philadelphia and the Whisky, Viper Room and House of Blues in Los Angeles.
It was on tour that Nancy learned first-hand of the influence she had had on many young rockers. Kim Deal of The Breeders and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth were two of the musicians who came to Nancy’s shows to express their appreciation for her lighting the way. Madonna has been quoted as saying “Nancy Sinatra was a huge influence on me. I wanted to put on my go-go boots and walk all over someone”. In an early interview, she said “…my two oldest fantasies. One was to be Nancy Sinatra; the other was to be a Nun. I used to sing These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ in front of the mirror, in my uniform skirt”. Jessica Simpson released a cover of “Boots”, featuring Willie Nelson, on the soundtrack of the feature film version of “The Dukes of Hazzard”.
Having achieved a more than 50 year legacy in rock and roll, Nancy created the platform for rock rebel-chicks such as Linda Ronstadt, Deborah Harry, Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Sheryl Crow, Shirley Manson, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani and Amy Winehouse. A few of the latest artists to cite her influence are Lana Del Rey, Kacey Musgraves, and Sky Ferraira. It seems every year, there are new artists who acknowledge Nancy’s trailblazing and continuing influence.
In July of 1999, the United States Postal Service enlisted Nancy to unveil their Peace Symbol stamp. The unveiling was an evening to remember, with these two American icons together on stage at the Whisky A Go-Go on the world famous Sunset Strip, revisiting the “Summer of Love.” At this event, Nancy received official commendations from the Mayor of Los Angeles and the Governor of California for her efforts on behalf of the peace movement and for her consistent support of our military troops and Veterans. She also was presented with the key to the City of West Hollywood.
August 2002 marked Nancy’s first ever concert performance in the UK, at The Liquid Room. The sold-out event was recorded by and broadcast on the BBC.
In addition to the Nancy albums available on CD, iTunes, Amazon.com and other electronic media outlets now contain much of Nancy’s vast catalog (including specially crafted collections of rarities and early recordings never before issued), for modern music fans to engage in legal music downloading.
Reuniting with Lee Hazlewood and Billy Strange to record a CD of new duets, Nancy closed the circle on her musical past. The new work, “NANCY & LEE 3” was released on CD in 2004 by Warner Brothers Records Australia and digitally, worldwide. This project had been long awaited by Nancy and Lee fans.
Nancy’s support of American Veterans who are dear to her since her USO tour of Vietnam during the war there remains a cause close to her heart. Nancy regularly appears at Veteran events, makes personal appearances and performs live concerts, including benefits such as the annual Ride To The Wall in Washington, DC, which remembers and honors POW’s and MIA’s. Frequent audience members at her shows, Veterans often signal their attendance and are always warmly greeted with a “Welcome home.” from Nancy. After 9/11, Nancy contacted the USO to volunteer her services once again. In May 2003, Nancy and her band performed at a USO concert event with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, called Hollywood’s Salute To The Troops, an outdoor celebration for Veterans and current troops at the Hollywood & Highland complex in Hollywood, California. Each year Nancy participates in a variety of events paying tribute to our Military heroes and paying homage to those missing and lost in action.
Nancy participated in the JVC Jazz Festival’s “There’ll Be Another Spring”, a star-studded tribute to Miss Peggy Lee, at Carnegie Hall in New York. According to critics, she opened with a “sassy take” on “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and also performed “a feline duet” with Deborah Harry of BLONDIE on “The Siamese Cat Song”, from Disney’s “Lady And The Tramp”. The event was recorded for airing on National Public Radio. Nancy and various other artists performed this tribute in venues across the country including engagements at The Hollywood Bowl and the Ravinia Arena in Chicago.
37 years after Nancy first released her recording of Sonny Bono’s song “Bang, Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, director Quentin Tarantino chose it as the theme song for his film “Kill Bill Volume I“. According to the director, Nancy’s version of “Bang, Bang” is “the music the movie will work to the beat of… That was in my head six years ago when I first came up with ‘Kill Bill’. Nancy’s version is so soulful. She sings it like poetry. It gives you new respect for what a wonderful vocalist she is”.
The self-titled and critically acclaimed CD, “Nancy Sinatra” was released in September 2004 on the ATTACK/Sanctuary Records label. It is a series of collaborations with recording artists such as Morrissey, Jon Spencer, Reno, Calexico, Sonic Youth, Pete Yorn, Steve Van Zandt, Jarvis Cocker and Bono. The first live presentation of songs from the new album occurred in a sold out performance by Nancy and her band at the Meltdown Festival in London’s Royal Festival Hall. The first single released was the Morrissey penned “Let Me Kiss You” which charted at #46 in the UK. Since it’s release, the album has made the BEST OF lists around the world, including Billboard, Blender, New York Times and Guardian UK.
On January 27th 2005, Nancy joined forces with Cyndi Lauper and Sandra Bernhard in a fund-raising concert at CROBAR in New York city, to benefit victims of the East Asian Tsunami.
In spring 2005, Nancy was profiled on the popular CBS Sunday Morning television program.
In late 2005, Audio Bullys built a new song around Nancy’s recording of “Bang, Bang” titled “Shot You Down”, which quickly climbed the charts in the UK, becoming Nancy’s first hit from the dance clubs. The track became an in demand inclusion for club music compilation CD’s that followed the original release.
“THE ESSENTIAL NANCY SINATRA“, a collection of 26 songs covering 5 decades of Nancy’s recordings, was released in the UK (charting at #73) and Europe, on March 13th 2006, by EMI. It includes the unreleased 1970’s track “Machine Gun Kelly”, in addition to many of the hits and fan favorites.
Nancy recorded the opening and closing themes for noted screenwriter and director Todd Stephens’, “Another Gay Movie” (2006), a satire of the popular teen coming of age films, often referred to as a Gay “American Pie”. 2008’s “Another Gay Sequel”, contains a remix of the title track and 2 early Nancy recordings, written by Nancy herself, “It’s Spring” and “One Way”. Both films are available on DVD.
On October 14th, 2006 Nancy was honored with The Heart of a Patriot Award, by the USO of Chicago, “for her years of admiration and support for the Troops and Veterans”.
Nancy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, May 11th 2006, in recognition of her career achievements and her contributions to society. Nancy has also been honored with stars on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars (2002) and the International Walk of Fame Star Blvd., in Rotterdam (2005).
In May 2007, Nancy launched her weekly 3 hour radio show, “Nancy for Frank” on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s (Channel 71), “Siriusly Sinatra”. Each week, Nancy treats listeners to recordings by her dad and other artists singing from the pages of the American Songbook as well as some of her personal favorite songs from all genres. Nancy’s show features rare recordings from the family archives, plus reflections on her life with Frank and her observations about his music. And it frequently features her friends from the world of music as guests.
The Vietnam Veterans of America honored Nancy with their President’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, at their national convention on July 21st, 2007.
Current projects in the works include a jazz release where Nancy has recorded with players who regularly backed Frank Sinatra on his recordings, a collection of Christmas tracks, and additional compilations featuring more unreleased tracks.
Recent releases include, “Cherry Smiles – The Rare Singles“, which had a worldwide digital release September 22, 2009, and “To Ardent”, Nancy’s contribution to Black Devil Disco Club’s album titled, “Circus”.
Debuted in December 2013, is “Shifting Gears”, a compilation of tracks from Nancy’s vaults. Noted contemporary artist, SHAG created the art for this new project, which contains major orchestrations and powerful vocals. These tracks display a Nancy style some fans have never heard before.
March 2014 – Nancy leads off the “Heroes” section of V Magazine’s Music issue, in a photograph taken by Saint Laurent Creative Director, Hedi Slimane.
In 2014, Goldmine Magazine inducted Nancy into their Hall of Fame.
In October 2015, Nancy will be honored by the USS Kitty Hawk Veterans Association.
February 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”.
Quotes Relating to Nancy Sinatra:
In a 2015 interview, Bob Dylan said of Nancy, “I think Nancy is head and shoulders above most of these girl singers today. She’s so soulful also in a conversational way.”
Rolling Stone Magazine senior editor, David Wild, described Nancy as simply “groundbreaking, heartbreaking and eternally cool.”
The San Francisco Examiner stated that Nancy Sinatra is “the founding female rocker”.
Journalist Greg Haymes said of Nancy, “It was Sinatra who almost single-handedly transformed the image of female pop star from fluff to tough”.
Rock City Magazine referred to Nancy Sinatra as “the true Mother of female rock”.
Nationally syndicated columnist Liz Smith wrote, “Nancy Sinatra is so very much more than Daddy’s girl.”
Goldmine magazine wrote “…this New Jersey born bombshell helped level the playing field during the British Invasion”.
In a Blender Magazine survey of the “50 Sexiest Artists Of All Time”, Nancy hit the list at number 12.
“..the Nancy Sinatra era of music, show(ed) that girls can sing without getting cheesy and ridiculous”. Daily Aztec – San Diego, CA
In the book, Rolling Stone: Women in Rock, Karen Schoemer wrote, “Nancy’s combination of pristine innocence and vamp-o-rama sex appeal was a perfect expression for the (‘60s).”
“Nancy was the first woman to turn the tables on men by using the same technique perfected by Elvis Presley,” wrote James Vickerson in his book Women On Top.
“Nancy Sinatra is the First Lady of Rock and roll”
Rodney Bingenheimer, KROQ DJ (aka Rodney on the ROQ)
Some quotes for the 2004 Album “NANCY SINATRA”:
“Throughout, Sinatra carries herself like a legend should.” BLENDER
“A resounding success.” ALL MUSIC GUIDE
“A grand meeting between a star and her fans.” ROLLING STONE
“Nancy is a Goddess on this record, pure and simple. Rife with power, passion and honesty. A truly imperative record.” FILTER
“Ms. Sinatra has made her finest album. One of the more irresistible Pop records of the year” NEW YORK TIMES
“Mesmerizing…Smokin’ hot.” THE ADVOCATE
“Classic, articulated Pop… (from the founding female rocker” SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER – THE HIP LIST
“One of the 50 greatest CD’s of 2004” BLENDER
Updated June 2015