Nancy & Frank Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra was at her musical and Billboard Hot 100 peak in 1966 when she hit the top ten three times, including her number one hit, These Boots Are Made For Walkin.’ Her father, Frank Sinatra was in the midst of another comeback in 1966 and he hit the top ten twice, including his number one hit, Strangers In The Night. It appeared both Nancy and Frank found their mid-60s niche as their respective careers were on a parallel upswing.
Then by chance, Irving “Sarge” Weiss, and employee of the elder Sinatra, heard a song that he believed would be a perfect duet for daughter and father. Nancy recalled, “Irving fell in love with it, brought it to my dad and said to him ‘What do you think of it for you and Nancy?’ I’d had some chart records then, so it was a business thing. Dad said, ‘Get it to Nancy, and if she likes it, we’ll do it.’ Well, of course I liked it – it’s a classic, a forever song.” (1)
The song, Somethin’ Stupid, was written by a songwriter named Carson Parks, brother of Van Dyke Parks and a University of Miami graduate, who along with his soprano singing partner Gaile Foote, recorded the song in November 1966 and was released as Carson And Gaile on their album San Antonio Rose early the following year. It sold only a handful of copies. (2)
Frank then played Parks' recording to his daughter's producer, Lee Hazlewood who recalled "Frank asked me, 'Do you like it?' and I said, 'I love it, and if you don't sing it with Nancy, I will.' Frank said, 'We're gonna do it, book a studio.'" (2)
But a studio slot wasn’t booked. In her book, Nancy recalled, “Dad had been in the studio recording some sessions with Brazilian performer Antonio Carlos Jobim (for the album Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim). At the end of the session, the A Team in the studio stepped aside, and Dad let me bring in my B Team to record our duet.” (3)
That B Team included members of The Wrecking Crew, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Glen Campbell on guitar and Hal Blaine on drums. Another Wrecking Crew member, Al Casey, who had played on the original version, recalled, “Frank wanted the exact same guitar line he heard in the original. Glen tried in vain but couldn’t please Sinatra, so I showed Glen the part Sinatra was asking for and suggested it was probably best if I did it again, which I did.” (4)
Nancy and Frank prior to the recording session.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Sinatra.
So, on February 1, 1967, Nancy’s regular duet partner, Lee Hazlewood, manned the production boards alongside Jimmy Bowen, who had recorded Strangers In The Night, Frank’s first pop #1 in over a decade. Billy Strange wrote the arrangement.
Nancy remembered, “The whole thing took about 20 minutes and we recorded it in two takes, and the only reason it took two was that Dad kept singing shumshing shtupid like Daffy Duck to make me laugh on the first one, and we couldn’t finish it, so we had to do a second take. Mo Ostin, the president of Reprise, bet him two dollars it would bomb. He lost his money.” During the Brazilian session Frank jokingly said, “I haven’t sung so softly since I had laryngitis.” (3)
Of course, nothing Frank Sinatra ever did was without some controversy. There were reservations from the executives at his label, Reprise Records, who thought a father-daughter romance record was too yucky to contemplate. Nancy was convinced it would work and Frank told them not to worry, as Nancy would get top billing. Frank was right – the song topped the charts. (4)
The Sinatra expert, Will Friedwald, commented, “It may be the most un-Frankish performance Sinatra ever recorded, with the two Sinatras chanting away in bland folkish harmony,” but the song’s co-producer Jimmy Bowen added, “I do know that Frank was pleased with the results of Somethin’ Stupid, he would be, at 52 it probably won him teenage fans.” (4)
The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 on March 18, 1967. It reached number one on April 15 and remained in the top position for four weeks. For both Nancy and Frank, it was their last trip to “the top of the heap.” Neither reached the pinnacle again.
The song has been faithfully covered a few times; in December 1995 UB40’s lead singer Ali Campbell revived it with his daughter, Kibibi and reached number 30 and exactly six years later, Robbie Williams who had been impressed with Nicole Kidman’s performance in the film musical Moulin Rouge, suggested, after meeting her in Los Angeles, they record the duet. She agreed and after changing the mood to something more sensual, their version made the Christmas number one of 2001.
The exact same thing happened to Michael Bublé when he decided to cover the song for his 2013 album To Be Loved. He couldn’t decide who he would like to record it with, he said, “I had gone through the singers I knew, like Adele and Katy Perry, and my manager said, ‘What about Reese Witherspoon?'” Reese had recorded tracks for the Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line, in which she played the late singer’s wife June Carter. Bublé told BBC News in an interview, “I was impressed by her talent and he and his manager were absolutely fascinated by Walk The Line. She walked into the studio and nailed it, there was no messing around or having to piece things together.” (4)
The original 45 cover.
Image courtesy of Reprise Records
There are a number of session pictures embedded into this video of Somethin' Stupid.
Michael Bublé and Reese Witherspoon turn up the heat in this video from his 2013 album To Be Loved.
1) Ace Records “You Heard It Here First” CD booklet.
2) Songfacts, Link
4) Jon Kutner, Somethin’ Stupid (Frank & Nancy Sinatra), September 20, 2015, Link
Nancy and Frank in the recording studio.
Photo courtesy of Nancy Sinatra.