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Italians Who Changed the Music Industry: Nancy Sinatra 

It’s impossible to talk about influential Italian American musicians without delving into the Sinatra family: From Frank Sinatra to his daughter, Nancy, both became legends who not only defined popular music at the height of their fame but shaped the industry for generations to come. 

Born Nancy Sandra Sinatra to Frank Sinatra and his first wife, Nancy Barbato, Nancy Sinatra’s childhood was filled with voice and piano lessons. Together, the Italian American family lived in New Jersey before relocating to California to support Frank Sinatra’s Hollywood career. 

In 1960, Nancy Sinatra made her public debut on her father’s television special, The Frank Sinatra Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis. During the special, she performed with her father. A year later, she was signed to her father’s record label, Reprise Records. Her earliest releases didn’t garner much attention in the U.S. but did earn her an international following. However, before long she was at risk of being dropped by the label.  In an attempt to turn things around, she teamed up with Lee Hazelwood, who had at that point been making successful records for ten years.

To say Hazelwood and Sinatra’s collaboration was a success would be an understatement.  Hazelwood had her cut the now infamous track “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” and in the process orchestrated an aesthetic overhaul from the registry Sinatra sang in down to the clothes she wore. When the song was released, it became a smashing hit in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

The track’s unmistakable melody and sassy lyrics made it one of the time’s greatest female empowerment anthems, making Sinatra a pop culture icon

In the years to come, Sinatra charted several Top 10 and Top 40 singles including favorites like “Sugar Town,” “Something Stupid” (a duet with her father), and “Band Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” Her distinctive sound came from drawing elements of country, rock, pop, and easy listening together. 

While her singles ruled the charts, she also became a style icon. Her signature go-go boots and mini-dresses quickly became the look that encapsulated a whole generation. Today, it’s still one of the first looks to come to mind when one thinks of 1960s fashion. 

While her career peaked in the 1960s, Sinatra remained a presence to be reckoned with all through the following decades, taking opportunities to act all while continent to record studio albums. 

Importantly, Sinatra blazed the trail for female pop artists to come. While today pop artists with sharply defined images are ubiquitous, Sinatra was one of the first to define her artistry this way. Today, the pop music landscape is saturated with empowering songs by fierce female artists. Sinatra’s story reminds us that this wasn’t always the case— that first, she had to put on her boots and blaze the path forward. 

Natalli Marie Amato

Natalli Amato is a music and lifestyle journalist from Sackets Harbor, New York.  Her bylines include Rolling Stone, Vice, and The Boot. She is also the author of several collections of poetry.