Robert Davi kicked of his glittering four-decade film career in 1977 when he appeared alongside Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, in Contract on Cherry Street. As such, it only seems natural that when Davi took the plunge into the world of professional singing, he chose Sinatra as his starting point again. After releasing his debut album, Davi Sings Sinatra – On The Road To Romance, to massive acclaim in 2011, Davi has toured the world and become known for evoking Sinatra’s iconic sound in his performances while still bringing his own unique flavor to some of the world’s most beloved music.
Robert Davi triumphantly returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below May 16 and 17 at 7:00pm with his new show Davi Sings Sinatra: A Tribute to the Great American Songbook. We spoke to Davi about his upcoming performances, why he loves singing at Feinstein’s/54 Below, and how Sinatra’s music still resonates today.
CR: Why do you think the music of Frank Sinatra still connects with audiences today?
RD: If you listen to the music of today, most artists are fans of or have been influenced by Sinatra. Also, his canon as an actor is such that it is still alluring to actors. Add to that his social contribution to America, whether it was the dignity he helped give to Italian Americans and their immigrant parents, his abhorrence of racial bigotry and anti-Semitism, his charity work, or his love of America. It is because of his MUSIC, Picasso-like in its influence and originality, that he is the towering figure of the 20th century. There is a very deep, ongoing, and authentic connection to his ART. He personalized the lyric and song like no other before him. When he sings, you are listening to the truth, not just a song, and that is what resonates and connects on a universal level. He is singing for all of us. I call him the first “method singer” in that he personalized a lyric by imbuing it with his interior world. One must also give credit to the family, Tina and Nancy, and the grandchildren for continuing to come up with ways to keep his music and memory alive.
CR: If you had the chance to sing with Sinatra, which song would you choose and why?
RD: That is an impossible question to answer because there are SO MANY wonderful songs!!! How does one choose? I think “My Way” would be a gas or even “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” Another one that I would love, and I think it is a perfect time for it, is “The House I Live In.” Sinatra’s passion, understanding, and love for America are reflected in this song, which won a special Oscar in 1945. At that time, bigotry, racism, and social division were rampant in this country and today we have a similar situation. I can deeply relate to Sinatra’s love for our Nation, expressing patriotism, and the PEOPLE, not the politicians, that make our wonderful nation the special place it is today. This song makes that clear.
CR: What’s something special that audiences can expect from this show, Davi Sings Sinatra: A Tribute to the Great American Songbook?
RD: I want to provide the audience with an experience, an event, a thrilling evening of song and stories using all my talent and heart. As an artist, I want to communicate deeply to those in the audience and remind them that this music is the Shakespeare of America. I want to toast to the Chairman of the Board and share stories of my friendship with him. This month was the 20th anniversary of his passing, LET’S HONOR HIM!!
CR: You’re no stranger to the Feinstein’s/54 Below stage. What keeps you coming back?
RD: Feinstein’s/54 Below offers exquisite ambience underground the historic Studio 54. I remember reading about the days of the Copa Cabana and am thrilled that this venue is similar to playing there. I also have great respect for Michael Feinstein and his love of the music. I love the intimacy of the stage and audience, here in the greatest city in the World!
CR: Looking back on your career, what has been your most memorable experience on stage?
RD: There have been many moments! One that is quite remarkable was when I was in Tallinn, Estonia, in an arena filled with 5,000 people, and they would not let me off the stage — we had a 12-minute standing ovation. Luckily it is recorded, so when I am a feeling a little low and I may not have gotten a part or venue I wanted, I can put it on in my car and listen to it while driving. IT puts a smile on my face!!!
Robert Davi performs at Feinstein’s/54 Below on May 16 & 17. Tickets and information at www.54below.com.