James Kaplan’s Sinatra: The Chairman completes his two-volume biography (Frank: The Voice was volume one) of the man widely regarded as the great interpreter of American popular song. While Sinatra has already inspired a library of books, no one else has succeeded as well as Kaplan in teasing out the complicated relationship between the singer’s life and art. Reached by phone in New York, Kaplan was happy to discuss the results of his ten-year effort to document a public life that stretched across more than six decades. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

RA: Reading Sinatra: The Chairman, a quote of Joni Mitchell’s about David Geffen kept springing into my head, which is: “He’d have to spend a lot less time being generous if he spent a little being fair.” Maybe in Sinatra’s case, the word “fair” should be changed to “sensitive to other people,” or “reasonable.” I don’t know what word you want to put there, but could you explain the relationship between his incredibly legendary generosity and the sort of difficulty he could have in treating people around him well? More… “Under Our Skin”

Richard Abowitz is the editor of The Smart Set. Get in touch at



One day this month, 30 years ago, John Simon Ritchie, otherwise known as Sid Vicious, woke up dead. He had spent the previous evening shooting heroin in celebration of his release from Riker’s Island after an assault charge. Sometime during the night, his heart stopped. He was 21 years old.

No one can say exactly when Punk Rock was born and exactly when it died. Still, the death of Sid is as good an endpoint as any. Sid Vicious was punk. He couldn’t play the bass much and could barely hold a tune. He was a drunken dope fiend given to fits of violence who, most likely, killed his girlfriend — the now-famous Nancy — with a stab to the gut. In short, unbeatable credentials.

Sid’s swan song, his final fuck you to the world the rest of us… More…