The Ingenue: Nancy Sinatra
Nancy Sinatra didn’t always dream of becoming a pop star. As a child growing up in New Jersey, she loved music, studiously tinkering away on the piano in her family home, but she wasn’t the kind of head- in-the-clouds kid who sang in front of the mirror with a hairbrush. The spotlight was destined to shine on her though, and stardom came calling in 1960, when, as a pretty, honey-voiced 20 year old,she appeared alongside her father on his network television special, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis.
She signed to Reprise Records the following year, but by 1965, Nancy, who had quit college to marry sixties heartthrob Tommy Sands, was adrift: divorced, on the brink of being dropped by her label and, too proud to ask her parents for money, penniless. She’d always been resourceful though, and within a year, Nancy Sinatra was an international phenomenon, with a starring film role, a number one hit record and a now-iconic look, complete with a coiffed blonde do, a covetable Carnaby Street wardrobe, and, of course, those infamous go-go boots.
Talking to her today, her childhood pragmatism seems fitting. Now 74, Nancy is as straight-shooting, candid and quick-witted as ever, and one gets the sense that her practical approach to her work has, over the years, spilled into her life. When things got tough for Nancy – including when Hugh Lambert, her beloved husband of 15 years and the father of her two daughters AJ and Amanda, died of cancer in 1985 – she invariably got tougher.
After an extended hiatus from music to raise her children, she handled her comeback with aplomb, gracing the cover of Playboy, collaborating with famous friends including Morrissey and Jarvis Cocker and capturing the hearts of a new generation when her cover of Cher’s Bang Bang soundtracked the opening scenes of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1. As much an icon for her music, films and style, Nancy – once described by Rolling Stone as “groundbreaking, heartbreaking and eternally cool” – is a poster woman for resilience, self-respect and reinvention.
Phoning from Los Angeles where she’s spent the morning at her sister’s house with their extended family, Nancy, the eldest daughter of Frank and his first wife Nancy Barbato, says she’s uncomfortable following a complicated knee replacement operation eight months ago, but plans to “pop a couple of Advil” and put her feet up later. For now though, she’s happy to chat. “You’re my only plan today,” she says when I ask if I’ve called at a good time. “Fire away.”