Written By: Eliza Berman
LIFE’s coverage of Frank Sinatra over the course of his illustrious career was, to put it mildly, ample. But of all the magazine’s photo essays and reviews and bits of gossip, perhaps nothing captured his hold over the American public young women, in particular better than letters sent to the editors in response to an article that deigned to compare Sinatra to one of his contemporaries, the actor Van Johnson:
Don’t you think it quite ridiculous to compare a redheaded, freckle-faced, flabby monstrosity like Van Johnson to a fascinating, slim, brown-haired, blue-eyed, gorgeous hunk of heaven like our Frank Sinatra?
When Norma and Maureen wrote this letter to LIFE in 1944 sandwiched, as it was, between others that expressed the same sentiment Sinatra was just shy of 30 and two years into the budding phenomenon of “Sinatramania.” Not only was he monstrously popular, but he was proving there to be a profitable market for popular music targeted to a budding new group called teen-agers. The singer, born a century ago on Dec. 12, 1915, in Hoboken, N.J., had already developed as recordings continue to prove nearly two decades after his death at 82 one of the most recognizable voices in history. It was, after all, why they called him “The Voice.”
It was also why, between the early 1940s and the early 1970s when LIFE ceased to be a weekly publication, the magazine dispatched a cadre of photographers Peter Stackpole, Gjon Mili, Allan Grant, Bill Eppridge, John Dominis and Michael Rougier to name a few to bring a piece of Ol” Blue Eyes into its readers’ homes week after week. Here, in celebration of Sinatra’s centennial, are their most memorable portraits of the unforgettable singer.
Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.