What Kind of Strange Race Against Time Did Frank Sinatra Do When Recording “Strangers in the Night?”

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Frank Sinatra had to conduct an odd race against time to record “Strangers in the Night.”

The mid-60s was an interesting time for Frank Sinatra. He was now in his early 50s, but he was still competing with a new batch of younger singers with styles similar to his, like Bobby Darin. Popular music is usually a young man’s game, but Sinatra still had more clout than other artists, and by the mid-60s, he also had another thing – his own record label, Reprise!

The song that would become “Strangers in the Night” made its appearance on the film soundtrack to a minor release, A Man Could Get Killed, as an instrumental track. The song was written by the German composer Bert Kaempfert. However, English lyrics were being written as the film was coming out in March, and everyone could tell that the melody was going to be a major hit.

So suddenly there became a race to see who would be the person who released “the” version of the song, and as these things usually go, whoever gets it out first is the one who gets the most attention. The guys who wrote the English lyrics, Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder, were sending out demos to pretty much every major singer out there.

Sinatra was worried that Bobby Darin, or more importantly, Jack Jones (who Sinatra tended to view as more of a threat at the time), would release the song before he did.

And that’s when he found out that Jones WAS going to release the song on April 13th – only three days away! So a strange race against time was under way!

So Sinatra quickly booked a studio (United Recording) and an orchestra, and in one night on April 11, 1966, they laid down the track for “Strangers in the Night.”

The single was released the next day, April 12th, and soon it was the biggest hit Sinatra had had in years, reaching #1 on the pop charts.

A month later, he recorded the rest of the album (songs mostly in the same style).

Jones’ version did not do as well (off of his album, The Impossible Dream)…

Neither did Bobby Darin’s version from that same year, as well (of of his album, Bobby Darin Sing the Shadows of Your Smile)…

Sinatra certainly could move fast when he had to!

The legend is…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Rob Hughes for the great Kristofferson quotes!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is [email protected]

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