There are so many Sinatras to choose from. But somewhere between Frankie Boy and Old Blue Eyes, between the anemic heartthrob of ’40s bobbysoxers (“Swoonatra” preceded Beatlemania by two decades) and the swaggering Chairman of the Board, between the tremulous tenor of his youth and the elder-statesman baritone that talked numbers as much as singing them, the essential Sinatra can be found. It’s in this rendition of Cole Porter’s song about love as a malady that is part dermatological condition, part addiction. “I said to myself this affair never will go so well. / But why should I try to resist when, darling, I know so well / I’ve got you under my skin?” The melancholy cosmopolitan wrote this in 1936, and every pop thrush and jazzman covered it, but Sinatra’s 1956 version, on the Songs for Swingin’ Lovers LP, is so definitive that Francis Albert may as well own the copyright.
For Porter’s long lines of longing, Sinatra’s long notes. As a young singer impressed by Tommy Dorsey’s ability on trombone, and by Jascha Heifetz’s on violin, to extend a musical phrase to eight or 16 bars, Sinatra built up his breath control by running laps and swimming underwater. As influenced as he was by Bing Crosby’s intimate crooning, Frank painted the same ballads in darker, more mature shadings and with more assaultive, big-band tones. His initial approach to “I’ve Got You” is that of a man pleased with his ardor; but in the bridge, when “a warning voice” (his own) tells him to “wake up to reality,” the addict’s helplessness kicks in. The great Nelson Riddle arrangement, influenced by Ravel’s “Bolero,” fully explores Porter’s theme of irresistible sexual compulsion — an impulse driven home by slide trombonist Milt Bernard’s besotted solo. Sinatra returns with a more defiant reading of the bridge, and by the end, he’s whispering the title line as an endearment to the woman who controls him. That could leave the listener thinking this is a love song, when it’s really a declaration, from one of American culture’s dominant personalities, that a crucial part of any affair is surrender.
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