In 1963 Sinatra told a Playboy interviewer, "I don't know what other singers feel when they articulate lyrics, but being an eighteen-karat manic-depressive and having lived a life of violent emotional contradiction, I have an over-acute capacity for sadness as well as elation." That's one of the most revealing statements ever to issue from a pop supernova.

In the coming weeks, movie channels will replay the Hollywood pictures, and TV specials will portray Sinatra as a figure who helped set the American beat for half a century. But it all goes back to the music. "The Song Is You," he sang in a number he loved so much he recorded it four times. At the end of the December of his years, his songs are us.

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