By Megan Harlan
Updated November 18, 1998 at 05:00 AM EST

Even if you think you know why Sinatra matters, this slim biographical essay proves the most intimate and thoughtful eulogy for “the Voice” yet. Pete Hamill distills Sinatra’s career to look at the specific ways that he affected American culture: his breakthrough immigrant status during an era of virulent anti-Italian bigotry; his early personification of a new masculinity, “the Tender Tough Guy”; and, most important, the way his approximately 1,300 recordings possess one undisguised subject — loneliness — delivered in the first distinctively “urban American voice.” Hamill’s concise, eloquent musings leave you wanting not to read a full-blown biography but to listen again to Sinatra’s best songs.

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