BY RUTH RICE
A talented vocalist with a love for the Sinatra sound will bring classic music to the area.
Simply Sinatra, starring Steve Lippia, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. May 20 at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township.
Lippia does not consider himself to be a Frank Sinatra impressionist, impersonator or tribute act by today’s definition.
“Thirty years ago when a singer said they were doing a tribute to someone, they were honoring their musical legacy,” Lippia said.
“Then they started to put on costumes and the whole bit and became them. The reason the word tribute is used is to afford protection against lawsuits from the performers and their estates. They’re all some level of impersonator.”
Instead, Lippia brings the grace and style of what he considers to be a great era of American music to a new generation, in a voice that lends itself to Sinatra’s.
“I’m a baby boomer, so the music I consumed has been rock ’n’ roll, exclusively,” Lippia said.
“I’m not a consumer of Sinatra, but the sound is one of the most unique and special created in our country. There is an intrinsic beauty about it – the lyrics and melodies. The generation who wrote this gave it a lot of thought. It’s more inspired, and there’s a demand for it around the world.”
Lippia’s parents are fans of the music, and he knew an appreciation for good music while growing up.
“In my generation, if your parents liked it, it couldn’t be good,” Lippia said.
“I never thought that. I looked at it objectively and thought this is cool music.”
Lippia went from owning a construction business in south Florida to headlining in Las Vegas and national television coverage almost by accident.
He said he was singing with bands in Florida and asked the soundman to record his performance so he could listen and learn.
“I thought it sounded good, so I sent it to my family in Connecticut,” Lippia said.
“My father liked it and sent a copy to his old high school buddy, who was one of the top guys in the William Morris Talent Agency.”
The talent agent was out of the country on business and didn’t hear about the tape until Lippia’s father called the agent’s mother about it.
After some maternal urging, the agent got home and listened to Lippia’s tape, liked it and passed it on to someone who worked for Sinatra’s management team.
“The guy didn’t listen to it and put it in a box with some other tapes,” Lippia said.
“Then he pulled it out when he was reaching for another tape and played it.”
The agent talked with Lippia’s manager, then flew to Florida with conductor Vincent Falcone to hear Lippia in person.
“We struck a deal on a handshake, and I got my big break,” Lippia said.
Lippia can go from listening to Tony Bennett to James Taylor or from Earth, Wind and Fire to Bobby Darrin and doesn’t understand how people can be so narrow in their musical tastes.
He likens it to going to a restaurant with a friend and ordering lasagna and having the friend say, “That’s so 1953,” because that’s when the dish became popular.
“Good art is good art,” Lippia said.
“You don’t look at a Matisse and say, ‘That’s so 18th century.’ Something might seem out of character with the times, but it’s still good art.”
Lippia also performs the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, Bobby Darin, Billy Joel, Elton John and The Beatles, but for his Johnstown show, he will stick to Sinatra.
“It will be mostly Sinatra, but I sneak in a couple others now and then,” he said.
“This is not your grandmother’s music. We have a hard-driving 16-piece band. This is for all generations.”
What: Simply Sinatra, starring Steve Lippia.
When: 7:30 p.m. May 20.
Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Richland Township.
Tickets: $26 and $28.
Information: 269-7200, (800) 846-2787 or www.upjarts.org.
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