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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Finally this hour, the seductive blend of Frank Sinatra and bossa nova. Back in the 1960s, Frank Sinatra and the Brazilian musician Antonio Carlos Jobim recorded an album together. It features one particular song that still inspires singer/songwriter David Gray, and it's the song that he brought us for our series You Must Hear This.

Mr. DAVID GRAY (Singer/Songwriter): Ten years ago on an American tour, I was relaxing in my luxuriant motel suite at the Red Roof Inn when I heard for the first time "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars."

(Soundbite of song, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars")

Mr. GRAY: It's taken from the 1967 album entitled "Francis Albert Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim." The album is a coming together of two of the greats of mid-20th century music and was recorded in Hollywood.

From the moment you step into this song, you can't help but gaze in wonder at the glorious architecture of a musical age gone by. The song is perfect in its simplicity: the arrangement, elegance itself; and the execution by the musicians', faultless. Frank sings his first line:

(Soundbite of song, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars")

Mr. FRANK SINATRA (Singer): (Singing) Quiet nights of quiet stars…

GRAY: And leads us by the hand into a dreamlike scene of starlight and almost magical stillness. Then the lyric unfolds in a series of meditative haiku, subtly gathering pace, until bang, with barely more than a minute on the clock, there is a dramatic change of chords and an equally dramatic confession.

(Soundbite of song, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars")

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) I, who was lost and lonely, believing life was only a bitter tragic joke, have found with you the meaning of existence, my love.

Mr. GRAY: What we are getting from Frank here, it seems to me, is not his usual showmanship but rather a glimpse of something not so commonly seen. This is not Sinatra the big-time entertainer, all polish and bluster, but someone whose voice sounds cracked and vulnerable, someone with doubts and scars: Sinatra the man.

The lyric he is singing describes a moment of bliss, and yet everywhere you turn in this song, the strongest impression you get is the sense that it might all disappear at any moment. It would seem that what gives this little song its great power is not its description of two souls in the throes of their love, but more what it seems to imply about the darkness that surrounds them.

Back to the song, and the orchestra steers us effortlessly on, Frank repeats his confession, and the whole thing is over in little more than two and a half minutes. There is real magic here, and it is all so perfectly concise that I don't think I've ever got to the end of this song and not wanted to go back for a second listen. They simply don't make them like this anymore.

(Soundbite of song, "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars")

Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) I, who was lost and lonely, believing life was only a bitter, tragic joke, have found with you the meaning of existence, oh, my love.

SIEGEL: Singer/songwriter David Gray's albums include "White Ladder." His pick for our series You Must Hear This is "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars" with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Frank Sinatra. You can find that song and a lot more You Must Hear This recommendations at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of credits)

SIEGEL: I'm Robert Siegel.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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