Mark Steyn writes:
Four years pass, and Drake’s all but forgotten the song. It’s 1965, and Frank Sinatra is preparing to mark his 50th birthday. Think about that for a moment. Most celebrities don’t mark 50th birthdays. By then, their drivers’ licenses are shaving three or four years off, and their lifestyles are frozen around the age of 27. But Frank had decided to make an album about a man contemplating “The September Of His Years”, to quote the title song he commissioned from Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. I used to think the idea was nothing more than Sinatra contrarianism: At a time when most celebs cling ever more fiercely to lost youth, he embraced premature old age. But Sinatra scholar Will Friedwald makes the point that “many of Sinatra’s closest associates bought the farm while they were in their fifties”. In the preceding decade, he’d lost his old boss, Tommy Dorsey; his first great arranger, Axel Stordahl; his record producer at Columbia, Manie Sachs; his longtime first violinist, Felix Slatkin – and many of the jazzers he most admired, such as Billie Holiday, died even younger. So it’s entirely possible he and his arranger Gordon Jenkins were completely sincere in their intimations of mortality. It’s a beautiful album: a couple of remakes – “September Song” (of course) and “Last Night When We Were Young” – and a lot of new material by fellows on the fringes of the Sinatra circle – “The Man In The Looking Glass”, “I See It Now”, “When The Wind Was Green”, “It Gets Lonely Early”… You get the gist early – the falling leaves, the graying hair, the days dwindle down to a precious few. Yet it never wears.
Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be half the album it is had not Frank chanced to be driving home through the California desert to his home in Rancho Mirage. He had the radio on, and, of all unlikely things, the disk-jockey played a four-year old Kingston Trio album track: “It Was A Very Good Year”.