♫ That’s Life ♫

Clive and I have been talking via comments on my music posts, about the influence of our parents on our music tastes.  No, I don’t mean when they pounded on the bedroom door and yelled, “Turn that noise down right now!!!”, but rather the music they listened to, indoctrinated us to.  Though both of my parents have been dead for decades, I can still remember their music choices … for my mother it was Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and my dad was secretly in love with Edith Piaf and Judy Garland.  I suppose that as a result, I do love Sinatra, Martin, and Garland … never did become a fan of Piaf.  

That said, my music choices on any given day usually reflect my mood of the moment.  Tonight, I had already selected a song, but ‘on the way to the forum’, as they say, I passed by this one by Frank Sinatra from 1966 that made me stop, back up, listen, and … oh yeah!  Perfect!  Speaks to the darkness, with a promise of sunlight soon.  My favourite line is …

“I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king”

… for it resonates … I’ve been a teacher, a bus driver, a waitress, a researcher, and an accountant … never quite found my niche.

This song was written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon. Kay became a successful music publisher, and Gordon made a mark as a producer. Sinatra had a lot of ups and downs in his personal and professional life, and this song was a great showcase for his spirit and resilience. The phrase “That’s Life” is often used to convey disappointment, but here Sinatra sees all the good things that life brings.

Sinatra sang this with a scowl in his voice that was out of character, but exactly what the song needed. A story circulated that producer Jimmy Bowen told Sinatra, after the recording session, to get out of his car and back in the studio to re-record the vocal, which made Frank very angry and resulted in his edgy vocal.  Says co-writer Dean Kay …

“I’m the writer of ‘That’s Life’ and was sitting five feet away from Frank Sinatra and producer Jimmy Bowen when they listened to the playback of the first take,” he said. “It was then and there that Bowen asked Sinatra to take a second pass at the song. It’s a common myth that Bowen followed Sinatra to his car and made him come back into the studio for another take. It is true that Sinatra, famous for doing almost everything he did in one take, was not happy to do it again. And, it is true that his displeasure is manifested in the extra bite in his performance, which is exactly what Bowen was looking for. The ‘My, My’ ending was directed at Bowen in a ‘how do you like that, Charlie’ sort of way. The first take ended with, ‘Oh, yeah.’

‘My, My’ is the catch phrase that has been associated with the song – and Sinatra – from that night forward. Frank Sinatra recorded my song when I was 26. I have been, and will always be, grateful for his magnificent recording that changed my life forever.”

Following the success of Sinatra’s version, it was subsequently recorded by a number of artists including Aretha Franklin, James Booker, Shirley Bassey, James Brown, Van Morrison, David Lee Roth, Michael Bolton, Michael Bublé, Russell Watson, Deana Martin, and even, believe it or not, Willie Nelson.

While That’s Life was first recorded by Marion Montgomery, the song came to the attention of Frank Sinatra when he heard O.C. Smith’s chart-climbing cover in his car in 1965. He stopped the car, called his daughter Nancy and told her to find the publisher of the song because he wanted to record it; she did. Sinatra first performed the song on his television special A Man and His Music – Part II in 1966, with an arrangement by Nelson Riddle.

The recorded version, made after the taping to the TV Special, was arranged and conducted by Ernie Freeman and produced by Jimmy Bowen. The trio had previously worked together earlier in 1966 on Strangers in the Night, which got Sinatra the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal.

That’s Life
Frank Sinatra

That’s life
(That’s life)
That’s what all the people say
You’re riding high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

I said that’s life
(That’s life)
And as funny as it may seem
Some people get their kicks
Stomping on a dream
But I don’t let it, let it get me down
Cause this fine old world, it keeps spinnin’ around

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself
Flat on my face
I pick myself up and get
Back in the race

That’s life
(That’s life)
I tell you, I can’t deny it
I thought of quitting, baby
But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it
And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try
I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly

I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet
A pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing
Each time I find myself layin’
Flat on my face
I just pick myself up and get
Back in the race

That’s life
(That’s life)
That’s life and I can’t deny it
Many times I thought of cutting out but my heart won’t buy it
But if there’s nothing shaking come this here July
I’m gonna roll myself up
In a big ball and die
My, my

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Gordon Kelly L / Thompson Dean K
That’s Life lyrics © Bibo Music Publishing, Inc.

13 thoughts on “♫ That’s Life ♫

  1. Terrific song wonderful sentiment and delivery by ol’ Blue Eyes. I heard it a million times around Mom’s house, and that ain’t no hyperbole (well…maybe a little). But what I’ve always enjoyed so much about that version were two things: that Hammon organ, and those background singers with their softly plaintive, “That’s life”. Sweeet.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. One thing I learned recently about Edith Piaf was that in 1959, when she was 44, she had a lengthy love affair (well, it lasted a year, which was lengthy for her) with Georges Moustaki, who was 23 at the time and was writing song lyrics for her. Moustaki is the only famous French singer I have ever seen in a live concert, when he sang in the Frankfurt Festival Hall, I think around 2007 or so. (Though I have also been to smaller concerts with decidedly non-famous French singers, LOL.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lasted a whole year, eh? That’s fascinating, though! You have so many wonderful memories, Don … I think you’ve done and seen a bit of everything. Heh heh … sometimes those non-famous ones are even better than the famous ones, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.