25 year old Frank Sinatra poised at mike, singing As Time Goes By at Riobamba nightclub, 1943.
25-year-old Frank Sinatra poised at the microphone, singing "As Time Goes By" at the Riobamba nightclub, 1943.Herbert Gehr—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
25 year old Frank Sinatra poised at mike, singing As Time Goes By at Riobamba nightclub, 1943.
Frank Sinatra with wife Nancy and 3 yr-old daughter Nancy Jr.at home, 1943.
Frank Sinatra singing Close to You in CBS radio broadcasting studio as his admirer Rita Stearns, the winner of the Why I Like Frank Sinatra contest, looks on, in the audience, 1944.
Frank Sinatra singing "Five Minutes More," 1946.
Ethel Merman and Frank Sinatra singing duet Your the Top in preliminary rehearsal for Anything Goes presented on TV show The Colgate Comedy Hour, 1954.
Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed (R) holding Oscars while posing w. presenter, actress Mercedes McCambridge, for Best Supporting Actors in the movie "From Here to Eternity" at the 26th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony, 1954.
Frank Sinatra singing to Vivian Blaine in scene from film "Guys and Dolls," 1955.
Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, 1958.
Director Frank Sinatra during filming of movie None But The Brave, 1964.
Nancy Sinatra with father, Frank Sinatra, during producing and directing of movie "None But The Brave," 1964.
Frank Sinatra with girlfriend Mia Farrow on deck of yacht Southern Breeze, 1965.
Frank Sinatra 1965.
Frank Sinatra giving musicians of the Count Basie Band direction at a rehearsal in an LA sound stage. Count Basie is playing on the piano, 1965.
Frank Sinatra relaxing with pet dog Ringo at home, 1965.
Sammy Davis Jr. talking with singer Frank Sinatra at his farewell peformance, at UCLA, 1971.
Frank Sinatra waves at the camera during a rehearsal for a MPTRF benefit, 1971.
25-year-old Frank Sinatra poised at the microphone, singing "As Time Goes By" at the Riobamba nightclub, 1943.
Herbert Gehr—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
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Frank Sinatra's Life in Photos

Dec 11, 2015

LIFE’s coverage of Frank Sinatra over the course of his illustrious career was, to put it mildly, ample. But of all the magazine’s photo essays and reviews and bits of gossip, perhaps nothing captured his hold over the American public—young women, in particular—better than letters sent to the editors in response to an article that deigned to compare Sinatra to one of his contemporaries, the actor Van Johnson:


Don’t you think it quite ridiculous to compare a redheaded, freckle-faced, flabby monstrosity like Van Johnson to a fascinating, slim, brown-haired, blue-eyed, gorgeous hunk of heaven like our Frank Sinatra?



Medford, Mass.

When Norma and Maureen wrote this letter to LIFE in 1944—sandwiched, as it was, between others that expressed the same sentiment—Sinatra was just shy of 30 and two years into the budding phenomenon of “Sinatramania.” Not only was he monstrously popular, but he was proving there to be a profitable market for popular music targeted to a budding new group called teen-agers. The singer, born a century ago on Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J., had already developed—as recordings continue to prove nearly two decades after his death at 82—one of the most recognizable voices in history. It was, after all, why they called him “The Voice.”

It was also why, between the early 1940s and the early 1970s when LIFE ceased to be a weekly publication, the magazine dispatched a cadre of photographers—Peter Stackpole, Gjon Mili, Allan Grant, Bill Eppridge, John Dominis and Michael Rougier to name a few—to bring a piece of Ol’ Blue Eyes into its readers' homes week after week. Here, in celebration of Sinatra's centennial, are their most memorable portraits of the unforgettable singer.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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