Because her biggest hit, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” was so huge, there is a tendency to overlook the rest of Nany Sinatra’s recording career. That’s a shame because she lent her voice to some very good pop records in the mid to late Sixties. Her partnership with producer-songwriter Lee Hazelwood also saw her blending rock with more country-influenced sounds long before the Eagles and others would explore the same territory in the Seventies.
Nancy was the oldest of Frank’s daughters, born to his first wife (also named Nancy) in 1940. She made her singing debut in 1960 on a TV special that saw Frank teaming with Elvis Presley!
Naturally, she signed to Reprise Records, the label her father founded. Her first few recordings sold in Europe and Japan, but attracted zero interest in the States. What happened that changed her career?
On the verge of being dropped by her record label. Nancy met Lee Hazelwood, a man previously best known for his collaborations with Duane Eddy. It was Hazelwood who changed Nancy’s image. He wrote and produced most of her hits. He had her sing in a lower key and wrote songs that he thought would fit her obviously sultry look. He also had her dye her hair blond and dressed her in then-current Carnaby Street fashions, making the girl he nicknamed “Nancy Nicelady” into a sex bomb.
As her career progressed, Hazelwood would often sing duets with Nancy. His rough, gravelly voice contrasting effectively with her more polished vocal style.
Nancy actually racked up a pretty impressive set of chart hits including:
- These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ (#1 – 1965)
- How Does That Grab You, Darlin’ (#7 – 1966)
- Friday’s Child (#36 – 1966)
- Sugar Town (#5 – 1966)
- Somethin’ Stupid (#1 – 1966, with Frank Sinatra)
- Love Eyes (#15 – 1966)
- Jackson (#14 - 1966, with Lee Hazelwood)
- Lightning’s Girl (#24 – 1967)
- Lady Bird (#20 – 1967, with Lee Hazelwood)
- Some Velvet Morning (#26 - 1967, with Lee Hazelwood)
In addition, Sinatra also sang one of the most haunting of all the themes for a James Bond film, “You Only Live Twice” and recorded a cover of Sonny & Cher's "Bang, Bang" that many consider to be superior to the original version.
Her collaborations with Hazelwood on “Some Velvet Morning” as well as another single that just missed hitting the Top 40, “Summer Wine,” are credited with creating a style of music that has come to be known as “psychedelic cowboy” and both stand as two of the strangest little pop ditties to emerge from the Sixties. Her 1968 album, featuring 11 duets with Lee Hazelwood, Nancy and Lee, is considered one of the top 100 albums released during the Sixties.
While the hits eventually dried up, Nancy Sinatra has continued recording and performing. At 55, she also became one of the oldest women to ever appear on the cover of Playboy (as well as posing in the all-together on the inside). She can also be frequently heard on the SiriusXM radio channel dedicated to her father.