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Nancy Sinatra Then And Now: Young Pop Icon Who Changed Footwear Forever

Icons | February 26, 2020

Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns

Nancy Sinatra in go-go boots singing "These Boots Are Made For Waking" is an era-defining image and sound. No time capsule of the '60s would be complete without it. This shining moment of mod fashion, lounge pop, and even quasi-feminist empowerment overshadows Sinatra's larger recording career -- yes, she had other hits, like "How Does That Grab You, Darlin'?" and "Sugar Town" -- and even her celebrity-offspring status as Frank Sinatra's daughter.

Nancy Sinatra Had Showbiz In Her Genes

Source: (reddit)

The elder daughter of Frank Sinatra, Nancy was born on June 4, 1940 in Jersey City, NJ. In 1945, her father sang about her in the song "Nancy (With The Laughing Face)." Although she began her life in New Jersey, when she was a toddler, the family moved to California so Frank could pursue his acting career. In California, she took dancing, acting, piano, and voice lessons.

In Her Father's Footsteps, Wearing Her Own Boots

With her parents at NYC's Stork Club in 1944. Source: (hollywoodreporter.com)

She went to college and continued to pursue these studies at University of California, Los Angeles, but dropped out after one year. She made her professional debut in 1960 on a television special, "Frank Sinatra’s Timex Show: Welcome Home Elvis," singing a duet with her father, “You Make Me Feel So Young/Old”. She also met Elvis for the first time prior to the show when she was sent to the airport to pick up him when he returned from his service in the army. That year, she also married Tommy Sands, a marriage which ended in divorce in 1965.

Frank's Little Girl Comes Into Her Own

Young and slightly older Nancy Sinatra taking a dip. Source: picsofcelebrities.com

In 1961, her father’s label, Reprise Records, signed her. Her first single was not noticed, although subsequent singles charted in Europe and Japan; because of her initial lack of success, she was almost dropped by her label in 1965. However, she started to sing in a lower key and changed her image. She bleached her hair, started wearing Carnaby Street fashions, frosted her lips and wore heavy eye make-up. She has credited Lee Hazlewood for her vocal success since he taught her to sing lower and rougher.

New Image And A Hit Song

Source: (bestclassicbands.com)

By 1966 with this new image, she had her first hit, “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” Lee Hazlewood auditioned the song for her originally, only sharing two verses. When she asked him to write a third verse, he indicated that it was more of a man’s song. However, Sinatra said that as a guy’s song it was too harsh, but would be perfect as a song sung by a woman. The song reached number one and she received three Grammy nominations. 

Nancy Sinatra Was Made-For-TV Music Before MTV

Left: Nancy Sinatra and her girls in the video for her signature song. Right: Sinatra in her ever-present boots. Sources: YouTube; Daily Rock Box

"These Boots Are Made For Walking" also foreshadowed the coming of the MTV era, in that it had a video to accompany it. That video was a Color-Sonics film that played on Scopitone jukeboxes. The film was shot with go-go dancers, whose moves were choreographed by Robert Sidney. The location of the boots today, although they became iconic, is unknown. Sinatra thinks she may have donated them to a club, although she is not sure.

After 'Boots,' Nancy Sinatra Continued To Be Provocative

LEft: Poster for 'You Only Live Twice.' Right: Sinatra's controversial 'Sugar' album cover. Sources: you-only-blog-twice.blogspot.com; Amazon

From 1966-1972, she had 22 top ten singles, including a duet with her father, “Somethin' Stupid” and "You Only Live Twice,” a song that was the theme for the James Bond film of the same name. In the mid-1970s, she stepped back from her career in order to raise her children from her second marriage to Hugh Lambert.

She was a fashion icon and her style went well with the changes happening for women during the time. However, her album Sugar was banned in some cities because of the album cover. She was only wearing a pink bikini and it was deemed too racy. Her 1976 song “Kinky Love” was removed from the playlists of some radios because of its provocative lyrics. During the Vietnam War, she was a pinup girl as well.

Nancy Sinatra, The Actress

In 'Speedway.' Source: (IMDB)

Her career in entertainment also extended to acting, with appearances on both television and the big screen. She had a first on television: the first interracial kiss, with Sammy Davis Jr. Her film appearances included lead roles in films. She starred alongside Peter Fonda in 1966’s The Wild Angels, and Elvis Presley in Speedway in 1968.

After The '70s

Source: (Palm Springs Life)

In the mid ‘90s, she did a nude photo spread for Playboy. Quentin Tarantino chose her cover of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” for the opening credits in Kill Bill Vol. I. She also started working with younger artists to collaborate for her third album, an eponymous album that includes musicians such as Bono and Morrissey. In fact, she credits Morrissey, who she originally met in 1995, with acting as a mentor. She has also released two books about her father. Her acting career also continued, with an appearance as herself in the final season of The Sopranos. Her influence has also lived on in the music of the younger generation including Madonna and Jessica Simpson, and she has often been credited for her role in transforming music for women. She continues to be active in charitable causes and has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Tags: Fashion In The 1960s | Frank Sinatra | Go-Go Boots | Ladies | Music In The 1960s | Nancy Sinatra | Pinup

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Cyn Felthousen-Post

Writer

Cyn loves history, music, Irish dancing, college football and nature. Social media is also her thing, keeping up with trends and celebrities with positive news. She can be found outside walking or hiking with her son when she's not working. Carpe diem is her fave quote, get out there and seize the day!