When Michael released his sophomore solo album Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, he told the Los Angeles Times’ Calendar magazine that fame had made him “miserable” and he didn’t want to feel that way again. Sinatra read the interview and was not having it. He wrote Michael an open letter, which was published in the magazine a week later.
In the letter, which was later published by Letters of Note and has resurfaced in the wake of Michael’s unexpected death on Christmas Day at the age of 53, Sinatra publicly brushed off Michael’s concerns about the burdens of celebrity and gave the young star some advice.
“Talent must not be wasted,” wrote Sinatra. “Those who have it — and you obviously do or today’s Calendar cover article would have been about Rudy Vallee — those who have talent must hug it, embrace it, nurture it and share it lest it be taken away from you as fast as it was loaned to you.”
Sinatra continued: “The tragedy of fame is when no one shows up and you’re singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn’t seen a paying customer since Saint Swithin’s day. And you’re nowhere near that; you’re top dog on the top rung of a tall ladder called Stardom, which in Latin means thanks-to-the-fans who were there when it was lonely.”
In case Michael needed additional bona fides from Old Blue Eyes, Sinatra ended his letter by noting, “Trust me. I’ve been there.”
While it’s unclear whether Michael ever saw the letter, it is clear that everyone could learn something from Sinatra.