ARTICLE MARK JACOBS
PHOTOGRAPHY HEDI SLIMANE
THE '60s SONGSTRESS RECENTLY RETURNED WITH AN ALBUM INSPIRED BY HER PAST HITS. HERE, THE TIMELESS VIXEN SHARES HER VIEWS ON FEMINISM, HER FAMOUS FATHER, AND GROWING OLDER WITHOUT LOSING HER SPUNK
Nancy Sinatra is an American aristocrat with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born in Jersey City, Frank Sinatra’s first daughter became an international star in 1966, when she collaborated with Lee Hazlewood on the go-go anthem “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and the Cher cover “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” Trendsetting style and social politics define her legacy as well. Most of her boots have been donated to charity.
More recently she released a digital album, Shifting Gears—a collection of standards sung over orchestral tracks from her vaults. Name-checked as an inspiration to both Sky Ferreira and Lana Del Rey (who famously described herself as a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra”), she currently hosts the Nancy for Frank Sirius XM satellite radio show and is producing an extensive HBO documentary about her father. In January, she was pulled into a media firestorm surrounding writer Maureen Orth’s Vanity Fair profile of Mia Farrow, in which Farrow allowed speculation that Ronan Farrow, her son with Woody Allen, is instead the child of Ol’ Blue Eyes, her ex-husband. “[Ronan] is a big part of us,” Nancy had told Orth, “and we are blessed to have him in our lives”—words that Orth would take out of context in order to fit Farrow’s insinuation.
When we meet at her Los Angeles office on a random Tuesday afternoon, Sinatra sits below a framed poster of her 1995 Playboy magazine cover, shot when she was 54 years old.
How did you make Shifting Gears? I heard the Sinatra vaults used to be the Sinatra garage.
NANCY SINATRA [laughs] Not anymore. We were in charge of all of these tapes that were shredding and dying. When we went to transfer them to digital, we even had to bake some of them in ovens, because the emulsion wasn’t sticking anymore. For many of them we only had one shot to get them from the analog reel-to-reel machine into Pro Tools. And we did it in the nick of time! It means a lot to me to give the players credit on the album.
Shifting Gears feels like a bath of warm Sinatra honey and body shimmer.
NS Did you play it loud? You’ve got to play that record loud. [Legendary producer] Michael Lloyd and I have a mutual admiration society, because I always tell him that had it not been for his work we could never have done this. He brought all of these diverse tracks into a cohesive collection. And he says, “No. What makes it a cohesive collection is your voice.”
There aren’t many artists with such a diverse range of admirers. Jarvis Cocker, Jon Spencer, Wilco, Thurston Moore, all of whom you’ve collaborated with.
NS Isn’t it funny? It’s that song [“These Boots Are Made for Walkin’”]. It pulls in kids at five years old and they grow up with it. The kids who have loved it since their grandmothers were playing it, they’re on my Twitter page constantly. They keep reposting the video link. I got very lucky.
Have you met Lana Del Rey?
NS No! But her fans sure pair us up. And I keep telling them not to use that “gangsta” business, because she doesn’t deserve that! She’s her own person who got stuck with this thing. She’s a little more brazen than I was in those days, which is good. We’re freer now.
When did you first identify as a feminist?
NS It was early on. We didn’t have that word. When I was a little kid we would sit around the table and two of my mother’s sisters who were in the workforce would talk about how they were angry because they weren’t getting the same salaries as men. So I grew up knowing that situation. It wasn’t difficult for me to slide right in when it had a name. It was like, Well, sure, I’m in. When Camille Paglia wrote that great article in Playboy—the fact that they paired us together was genius.
Have you heard the phrase “slut-shamed” before?
NS No, but I can dig it.
What do you think of Miley Cyrus, who is alternately slut-shamed and respected?
NS I doubt it has anything do with sexuality. I think she’s very talented and knows how to market her products. On a much bigger scale it’s the same as when I did the Playboy pictorial, because I needed the money for my album. It’s just that she has a bigger forum and more courage than I ever had. You’ve got to make waves. She’s got guts.
You grew up within the extraordinary, far-reaching happening that is your father. Do you feel you have any critical perspective on it?
NS Well, I’m not my father, so I’m an observer—although it has affected my life on a daily basis and sometimes kept me up nights. It was difficult at times, it was hilarious and fun at times.
What about the controversy surrounding Ronan?
NS Oh, Mia is so silly. She sent me an e-mail or something, “Wasn’t that hilarious?” And I wrote back, “I don’t think so.” But she didn’t mean any harm by it. First of all, Mia and Frank did not have a relationship after they broke up. He would have had to be around 80 years old when she conceived.
And your statement in the article?
NS I didn’t say that in connection with her statement. The magazine connected them. My interview with Maureen Orth was way before Mia’s comment.
Would your life be different if you had recorded “These Mules Are Made for Walkin’”?
NS You mean clickety-clackety fuck-me shoes? Uh-uh. No way. Kitten heels are all right, because they don’t throw your body out of whack. [laughs] Don’t get old. Not if you want to wear those stupid shoes that are popular now. Crazy eight-inch heels!
SHIFTING GEARS IS OUT NOW ON AMAZON AND ITUNES
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production kim pollock and yann rzepka