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By Mahnuel Muñoz

Sinatra Sings For Only the lonely” is more than a record, a world. A world created in just four days between May and June 1958. A world so beautiful in its desolation that it traps me without remedy, and so lethal that it slowly kills me with each listen. I have returned to him when life has allowed me to see its backstage, and among the songs I have searched for an anguish in panoramic format that would help me relativize those small daily problems that seemed enormous to me. I return to it to believe that even from the greatest tragedies a vein of beauty can be extracted.

In “Only the lonely” hope does not find oxygen to burn; It does not await a new morning, as in “In the wee small hours“, nor does it hide emotional maps where to look for the light, as in “Where Are You?“. “Only the lonely” is a deep and eternal night of the soul. Even the typography used on the cover seems to be made of thorns. Its sound is that of the death of joy.

The project, in principle, was entrusted to Gordon Jenkins, a specialist in melodramatic densities, as a continuation of the aforementioned album “Where Are You?” 1957. But Jenkins was busy working in Las Vegas, and Frank opted for Nelson Riddle, so effective at scoring both Cupid’s successes and failures.

Nelson Riddle said that “Only The Lonely” was the best vocal album he had worked on, arguing that he had enough time to devote to the arrangements. It is worth mentioning that Riddle, a feverish worker, was capable of completing three or four arrangements a day.

Sinatra and Riddle play with subtle modal and tempo variations within the sound and plot concept of the album, creating an overwhelming landscape full of classically inspired colors and textures, through which the songs wander like beautiful specters of the love that once was. The tempo in most of the songs remains suspended in the air, indefinite, like the character stunned by heartbreak who stars in the work.

Is “Only The Lonely” Frank Sinatra’s best album? There is no doubt that it is an original masterpiece, a unique combination of classical music and blues, and the favorite work of the singer and the arranger, who used an extensive Pantone of their own anguish; Frank suffered intensely from his breakup with Ava Gardner and the blood of heartbreak would splash his music until the end. He embarked on meaningless romances with Judy Garland, Kim Novak or Lauren Bacall, who knows if to silence the moan of his most intimate wounds. Nelson, for his part, managed a heartbreaking rosary of losses, the kind that lead to suicide or the sublime; he tells it himself:

A factor that greatly influenced the character of the album was the fact that my mother died that same month. I think the sad circumstances of her death contributed to overshadowing the character of the album. I had also lost a daughter three months before, a little girl. If we take those elements into account, perhaps the musical result of “Only The Lonely” will be understood.”

Although Frank and Nelson would still go on to make extraordinary albums in the 1960s, they reached the peak of their professional relationship with this album. It reached number one on the charts, where it stayed for five out of one hundred and twenty weeks that was on Billboard.

The extraordinary cover of the album, the work of the virtuoso Nick Volpe, which shows Sinatra as a desperate clown, won a Grammy at the first gala of these awards, in 1959, an award that somehow underlined the humiliating fact that the LP did not He obtained the main recognition for which he was nominated for his musical worth; He lost the “Best Musical Album” award to Henry Mancini’s “The Music From ‘Peter Gunn’.”
But time has placed this incomparable work of art in its place, giving it the essential listening label for every music lover and making it worthy of a reissue in 2018 (on the occasion of its sixtieth anniversary) in which we can enjoy it in stereophonic sound and with additional material.


  1. “Only the Lonely”
    Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen
  2. “Angel Eyes”
    Matt Dennis/Earl Brent
  3. “What’s New?”
    Bob Haggart/Johnny Burke
  4. “It’s a Lonesome Old Town”
    Harry Tobias/Charles Kisco
  5. “Willow Weep for Me” Ann Ronell 4:49
  6. “Goodbye” Gordon Jenkins 5:45
  7. “Blues in the Night”
    Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer
  8. “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry”
    Sammy Cahn/Jule Styne
  9. “Ebb Tide”
    Robert Maxwell/Carl Sigman
  10. “Spring is Here”
    Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart
  11. “Gone with the Wind”
    Allie Wrubel/Herb Magidson
  12. “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”
    Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer 4:23
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