Frank Sinatra's most hated song that catapulted crooner to stardom: 'Piece of s**t!'

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Today, the singer nicknamed Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, is back on screens alongside celebrated British actor Trevor Howard in the 1965 war drama Von Ryan’s Express, which airs from 3.45pm on BBC Two. It follows the story of Colonel Joseph Ryan, from the US Army Air Corps, who arrives in a central Italian prisoner of war camp, where those inside have become alienated by the bizarre rules of the Axis power bases. The Mark Robson-directed film remains one of Sinatra’s most financially successful, and reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes found it to have 90 percent positive ratings from critics across its release, and subsequent rewatches.

Variety was particularly impressed with the flick, noting that Robson “made realistic use of the actual Italian setting of the David Westheimer novel in garmenting his action in hard-hitting direction and sharply drawn performances”.

Sinatra’s daughter Nancy also heralded her father’s performance, which many claimed was Academy Award-nomination worthy, while The Radio Times hailed it a “rattlingly exciting Second World War escape adventure, with a well-cast Frank Sinatra”.

While the film was a clear success, and perhaps Sinatra’s finest work since he claimed the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in From Here to Eternity, when it came to his own music Ol’ Blue Eyes clearly loved some tracks more than others.

Among the songs he recorded that the New Jersey-born star reportedly hated was Strangers in the Night, a track that not only scored him the top chart spot in the US and UK, but also earned him two Grammy Awards, for Best Male Pope Vocal Performance, and Record of the Year in 1967.

Frank Sinatra's most hated song that catapulted crooner to stardom: 'Piece of s**t!'

Frank Sinatra’s most hated song that catapulted crooner to stardom: ‘Piece of s**t!’ (Image: GETTY)

Frank Sinatra reportedly hated Strangers in the Night

Frank Sinatra reportedly hated Strangers in the Night (Image: GETTY)

His declaration that the song was a “piece of s**t” came despite it being heralded as his musical comeback, with the accompanying album it was on easily becoming the most profitable and biggest selling of Sinatra’s career.

According to Jean-Pierre Homach’s 2005 book Frank Sinatra, the crooner would tell his audiences of his hatred for the track, before playing it. He even described it as the “worst f**king song that I have ever heard”.

This was backed up in 2006’s Sinatra: The Life, The Artist, written by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, where Sinatra was reportedly heard telling the audience: “If you like this song, then you must go crazy with pineapple yogurt.”

Another performance in Las Vegas saw Sinatra, who died at the age of 82 in 1998 as a result of a heart attack, tell the conductor of his audience: “If you dare to play that song again, I’ll stick the bow of the violin where the sunlight doesn’t shine.”

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Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack

Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack (Image: GETTY)

During his life, Sinatra understood how important it was playing the tracks that his audience love, and though he despised Strangers in the Night, he’d played it to keep those watching him happy.

Some years later, Charles Pignone, the vice-president of Frank Sinatra Enterprises, told Songfacts that the crooner did hate Strangers in the Night, adding: “Yes, he said it many times, he was not a fan of the song, but this is that innate ability of Frank of knowing what the audience wanted.

“He would do that again in concert, it would come in and out of his repertoire and a lot of times he would joke with the lyrics. He would say, ‘I hate this song, I detest this song,’ but he would do it because the people wanted to hear it.”

He once recalled of the importance of keeping an eye on his voice during songs like Strangers in the Night: “Throughout my career, if I have done anything, I have paid attention to every note and every word I sing – if I respect the song.

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Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr (Image: GETTY)

“If I cannot project this to a listener, I fail. Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”

Strangers in the Night was composed by Bert Kaempfert, with Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder writing up the lyrics. It was originally titled Beddy Bye, with Kaempfert originally submitting the instrumental score for inclusion in the film A Man Could Get Killed.

After Sinatra released the track in 1966, it emerged that the song had been initially given to singer Melina Mercouri, who felt that a male vocal would suit the melody better, declining to sing on it herself.

Von Ryan’s Express airs from 3.45pm today on BBC Two.