It’s no secret that Tom Waits, the gravel-voiced crooner form the wrong side of the tracks, is a huge fan of Frank Sinatra. The singer has been a long-time admirer of ‘Old Blue Eyes’ but it’s in this cover of Sinatra’s ’50s hit ‘Young at Heart’.
‘Young at Heart’ is an archetypal pop standard, a simplistic but cherishable ballad with music written by Jazz man Johnny Richards and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, that can transcend genres, perceptions, and generations. The song was written and published in 1953, with Leigh contributing the lyrics to what was originally a Richards instrumental called ‘Moonbeam’.
The legendary Frank Sinatra was the first performer to get his hands on the song, which became a million-selling hit in 1953 (and spilling over with popularity into 1954) where it reached the No. 2 spot in the Billboard charts. Astonishingly, the song was such a widespread hit that a movie that Sinatra was filming at the same time with Doris Day was renamed to the song title, and the song was included in the opening and closing credits of the movie, which was released as Young at Heart.
Tom Waits is a huge fan of Frank Sinatra, not only his brilliant handling of a song, of which there is arguably no better but also in Sinatra’s unsung album work. When sharing his favourite albums of all time, Waits offered his opinion on Sinatra’s brilliant LP The Wee Small Hours by Frank Sinatra: “Actually, the very first ‘concept’ album,” he said.
“The idea being you put this record on after dinner and by the last song you are exactly where you want to be. Sinatra said that he’s certain most baby boomers were conceived with this as the soundtrack.”
So when Waits had an option on his 2006 album Orphans to cover one of his favourite songs, there could be only one choice; Sinatra’s ‘Young At Heart’. It’s not the first time the track has been picked up by another artist, Bob Dylan provided a brilliant one, while Michael Buble did his best Sinatra impression on his version. But nobody, nobody, could have done it the way Tom Waits did.
Waits’ version is naturally teeming with the gritty idiosyncracies which land him in the Pantheon of rock’s greatest voices, but more importantly, it feels like a genuine homage to one of Waits’ idols. It’s a version that Waits has steeped in whiskey, gravel and the soul of America’s heartland, it’s a must for any fan of either artist.
Listen below to Tom Waits’ homage to Frank Sinatra with his cover of ‘Young at Heart’.