Thursday, July 21, 2016

50 years ago: Frank Sinatra “Strangers in the Night” hit #1

Strangers in the Night

Frank Sinatra

Writer(s): Bert Kaempfert (music), Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder (lyrics) (see lyrics here)

Released: April 1966

First Charted: May 7, 1966

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 13 UK, 12 AU, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 6.0 radio, 48.9 video, 134.75 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The music for “Strangers in the Night” was written by German jazz composer Bert Kaempfert. His friend Avo Uvezian, Croatin singer Ivo Robić, and French composer Michel Philippe-Gérard all claimed they composed the song but all three lost their cases in court. WK Kaempfert wrote it as an instrumental for the score for the spy spoof movie A Man Could Get Killed, starring James Garner, Melina Mercouri, and Sandra Dee. Jimmy Bowen, Frank Sinatra’s producer, said Sinatra would record it if they came up with lyrics for it. KLBD Meanwhile the publisher had given the song to Jack Jones and Bobby Darin. KL There are also reports it was offered to Mercouri, from the movie, but she turned it down, thinking a man’s vocals would be better suited to the melody. WK

Sinatra was rushed into the studio to record the song – with Glen Campbell on guitar – and released it as a single within 24 hours. FB While Sinatra was fresh off back-to-back Grammys for Album of the Year for September of My Years and the compilation A Man and His Music, no one would have gambled on the 50-year-old singer landing a #1 song in the middle of America’s obsession with the Beatles and the British Invasion. In an interesting bit of chart trivia, Sinatra was the featured vocalist on Tommy Dorsey’s recording of “I’ll Never Smile Again,” which topped the first singles chart published by Billboard on July 20, 1940. FB

Sinatra reportedly hated the song, SG saying it sounded like it was about two gay guys at a bar, although his actual words were less PC. KL The song is supposed to be “a tale of two people who share a moment of fleeting but meaningful eye contact, a moment that leads them to fall in love before the end of the night.” SG Regardless of who the lovers are, the song is, according to Stereogum columnist Tom Breihan, “pure fluff. It’s the sort of drippy throwback orchestral cheese that should’ve been beneath Sinatra. And so Sinatra sings it with a cold kind of sneer.” SG Bob Dylan called it “the song of the lone wolf” in which “tramps and mavericks…[are] enraptured with each other.” BD

An interesting bit of trivia – Iwao Takamoto, who created the cartoon Scooby-Doo, said he got the name for the namesake dog from the “dooby dooby doo” lines Sinatra sang in “Strangers in the Night.” SG


  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Frank Sinatra
  • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 202.
  • BD Bob Dylan (2022). The Philosophy of Modern Song. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Pages 300-304.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Pages 121-3.
  • SG Stereogum (9/11/2018). “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 11/2/2022.

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