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Frank Military: An appreciation

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He was hardly a household name among fans of the Great American Songbook and its singers, but no one was a greater unsung hero than Frank Military.

Military, who died Mar. 8 at 86, was a music publisher who was associated with Frank Sinatra for over 40 years, not to mention other marquee artists like Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Louis Armstrong, Mel Torme, Bing Crosby, Liza Minnelli, Al Martino, Nelson Riddle and Neil Diamond, to name just a few.

Throughout his 45-year career he was closely involved with composers and lyricists from Hollywood, Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, including Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, Cy Coleman, Richard Rodgers, Burton Lane, Alan J. Lerner, Stephen Sondheim, E.Y. Harburg, Carol Bayer Sager and Jimmy Webb.

Among the many hits that Military had a hand in were were Johnny Mathis’s “Misty,” Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World,” Barbra Streisand’s “My Coloring Book” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” Broadway musicals bearing his imprint include Fiddler On The Roof, Cabaret, Company and Godspell.

Miliitary was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Friars Club. He also received the Songwriters Hall of Fame Abe Olman Award, and the NARAS New York Heroes Award.

And to Tony Bennett, he was “like a brother.”

“We just understood one another and went through life together,” says Bennett. “He found all my songs for me through the years, and when they released a box set of my recordings from 1950 until now [The Complete Collection, in 2011], The New York Times said there wasn’t one wrong performance--and that was Frank’s contribution to me: He found every song that I ever recorded.”

And at Bennett's insistence, these were all “quality, intelligent songs.”

“No matter what the song was, he’d find it, and within one hour the sheet music would be right on my desk in my apartment—that’s how close we were,” Bennett continues. “The warmest thing that ever happened to me was when his son called me the night he died and said--and he was crying--“I just want you to know my father died listening to your records.”

At the Songwriters Hall of Fame's website, president/CEO Linda Moran said, “The industry has lost another great music man.”

Moran, who credited Military for bringing her into the organization, added, “Frank was close to several generations of music legends, namely Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Cahn, etc. He was a Wikipedia of music before there was Wikipedia! He nurtured new generations of songwriters and execs.”

One of those executives, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) executive VP of membership John Titta, idolized Military.

“He was the consummate music man who placed so many iconic songs into our musical landscape--who was universally loved and respected by songwriters, artists, and other executives,” says Titta.

“When we worked together at Warner/Chappell Music, I would watch, on an almost daily basis, a parade of the ‘Who’s Who’ of the greatest names of the entertainment world come in and out of his office--and you could just see the way they felt about him,” Titta recalls. “He wasn't just one of the good guys, he was the ultimate good guy.”

Military’s office was renowned for its “Wall of Fame.”

“There were hundreds of pictures that covered every inch of wall space,” says Titta. “It was a photographic history of the lives and careers that he touched.”

Military, he notes, “was kind, gentle, passionate and at all times a gentleman. To know him and work alongside him for over 20 years has been the highlight of my musical journey.”

And the ultimate song-plugger also wrote the lyric to the beautiful holiday song “Christmas Auld Lang Syne.”

“It was first recorded by Bobby Darin, and I would pitch it every year,” says Titta. “My biggest thrill was to be able to tell Frank I got another cover for him, on his song!”

Military, Titta concludes, “was my friend and mentor, and like a second father to me. I will miss him terribly.”

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