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Robert Davi: Revered Hollywood actor and singing star Special

Posted Dec 3, 2015 by Adrian Peel
In 2011, Robert Davi, star of such films as "Licence to Kill" and "Die Hard," began to actively pursue a career in music. On the strength of his debut album, 'Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance,' it appears he made an inspired decision.
Robert Davi
Robert Davi
Robert Davi
I first heard of Robert Davi in late 1989 when I watched (open-mouthed) that year's hard-hitting James Bond film Licence to Kill on video (I was too young to see it in the cinema, as I was only 10 and it had a 15 rating). To this day, I can honestly say it is my favourite of all the 007 flicks and that, for me, Timothy Dalton is James Bond.
Davi, a veteran of countless movies and TV shows and a formidable presence on stage and screen, played the film's villain so convincingly that even today his portrayal of Latin American drug lord, Franz Sanchez, is rightly regarded as one of the best and most believable in the entire series.
In recent years, the imposing and instantly recognisable singer, who studied opera as a young man - both in Italy (the land of his grandparents' birth) and in his native New York - has sought to spread his wings artistically, embarking on a so far very successful singing career.
October 2011 saw the release of Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance, a highly acclaimed 12-track album, featuring some of Sinatra's most famous songs - among them "Witchcraft," "I've Got the World on a String," "The Best Is Yet to Come" and "Summer Wind" - that reached number six on the Billboard Jazz Chart. It was a fitting and heartfelt tribute to one of the greatest talents the world has ever seen.
"I'm doing a big show on Sinatra's birthday, December 12, in Connecticut" reveals the constantly working entertainer, who when deciding on the setlist for each performance chooses from a selection of about 80 songs, commenting on his upcoming projects, "and I'm also releasing three songs on that day that are all going to charity."
The three songs to which he refers are "Pennies from Heaven," "My Way" and "New York, New York," three timeless classics that have obviously been sung numerous times by various artists over the years.
However, rather than just deliver them in the style to which audiences have become accustomed, Robert Davi demonstrates his immense talent as a vocalist and storyteller by fully immersing himself into the music, and in doing so asserting the kind of authority that has rarely been seen since Ol' Blue Eyes shuffled off this mortal coil in 1998.
"The Great American Songbook was the Shakespeare of America, the Golden Age of American Music," explains the well-known patriot, going into more detail about where his passions lie, musically speaking. "It was a time when we were all pulling together and it was a gentler time in our lives."
Robert Davi live on stage.
Robert Davi live on stage.
Robert Davi
Discussing what it is about Sinatra that particularly appeals to him, the charismatic 62 year old, primarily known for his tough guy roles, states, "That's a combination of answers... My grandparents were Italian immigrants, from Sicily and Naples, and during the turn of the last century The New York Times said the Italian was 'lower than the negro.'
"So Sinatra and my grandparents grew up at a time when the Italians were looked at as greaseballs, daegos, wops... Like any immigrant population that comes into a society for the first time that's the way they're treated.
"Sinatra grew out of that and gave a dignity to the Italian immigrants. He became the first singer and actor who came out against any kind of racial bigotry. He was also the first singer to bring the Bel Canto technique to popular music.
"The Bel Canto technique is the Italian style of singing opera, i.e. Caruso and Franco Corelli and Pavarotti. Sinatra made the lyric such a personalised experience, so you felt when you listened that he was living it.
"As an actor, musician and singer that appealed to me - that depth of emotion. There was an experience behind the tone, and then his film career... I wanted to act, so it was a combination of all of that, and then doing my first film with Frank Sinatra in 1977 and becoming a friend of his."
Robert Davi s upcoming show.
Robert Davi's upcoming show.
Robert Davi
Was it always this old romantic's intention to one day pay tribute to Sinatra through song? "No. It was always my intention go back to the music... What happened was in 2007 I did a film that won nine awards called The Dukes.
"I sang one song in that film and people said I should sing more. I knew at some point I was going to do music again, but I didn't know when and I didn't know in what form. I had always liked the American Songbook, but Sinatra was around for many years so there was no need for me to put my hat in the ring in terms of singing.
"In 2010 I called up a friend of mine who was the chairman of Disney Music at the time, Bob Cavallo, and told him I wanted to go back to the music. He said (voice coach) Gary Catona is the best, so I started working on the voice.
"Then the idea formulated that I wanted to do this tribute to Sinatra and the American Songbook because I felt there was a lack of this music in the world and of the experience that Sinatra gave people. I got in touch with Phil Ramone, one of the greatest record producers of all time, and we did my album at Capitol Records and formulated the show I wanted to do.
"I wanted to do it attributing the man who was so influential in my life, as an artist and also as a friend. Sinatra had that edge, he had that masculinity, he had that fire - so you have that tough guy combined with the poetry.
"I felt there was a void in terms of that experience and from the feedback I'm getting from people like Quincy Jones and Emil Richards, who plays with me sometimes - and from the critics and the audiences - I seem to be providing something they long for."
Clearly in demand as a skilled interpreter of these wonderful songs - songs I believe need to be sung with a certain amount of life experience, of the kind Mr. Davi possesses, in order to be truly convincing - the star already has "a bunch of shows" lined up for next year in Europe and America.
The able performer also informed me of his plans to bring out a new album in 2016, to follow it up with a Holiday release, to possibly reinterpret some of Bob Dylan's music at some stage (he appeared in the video for "The Night We Called It a Day") and to put music to some of his own lyrics.
Despite all his critical and commercial success as a musician, I couldn't finish the interview without bringing up the subject of Licence to Kill and the fact that Robert Davi's chilling portrayal of Franz Sanchez remains a textbook example of how to bring pure evil to life on the big screen.
"Yeah, GQ Magazine in Britain recently called me one of the top three Bond villains of all time," says the grateful actor. "It was fun being part of that Bond franchise, of course, and this new one that came out they named the character Franz (Franz Oberhauser)..."
Why is Timothy Dalton still so underrated as James Bond? "Well, he did the two films and the second one now people are looking at it and going, 'He paved the way for Daniel Craig - it was ahead of its time.' That's just life sometimes and that's okay.
"I'd rather be looked at as groundbreaking and ahead of my time than out of fashion or dated. Licence to Kill has not dated. The film did well internationally, but in America perhaps it didn't get the push it needed.
"Don't forget you had Lethal Weapon 2 and Batman and that was the first year where all these films were competing. That had not happened before... I think the film came out in the summertime and Bond's do better if they come out in the fall."
Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance can be purchased from iTunes.
The star will be performing at Foxwoods Resort Casino on December 12, to celebrate what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday.
He will then travel to Estonia for a show on December 28.
For more information on the extremely versatile Robert Davi, visit his official website.