You may know Robert Davi from Die Hard, The Goonies, as a Bond villain, or from the prime-time series The Profiler. Those who keep late hours may have seen him on Fox News Channel’s Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld; Davi is out as a Hollywood conservative. But did you know he sings Sinatra? He has cut his first CD, Davi Sings Sinatra: On the Road to Romance. He is both pretty good at it and is having the time of his life. He talks about it to National Review Online.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Isn’t acting enough? Why sing too?
ROBERT DAVI: While acting is rewarding, one is still limited by the part one plays. When I sing, I am able to express much more of who I am; it is a fuller expression of self and closer to who I am. A great composer once said, “music is the closest to the absolute.”
LOPEZ: Are you sick of being the bad guy?
DAVI: I played a good guy for four and a half years in The Profiler and also the film I directed and starred in that won nine awards, The Dukes. So while I played a lot of bad guys, I have played a good guy longer. But as long as it is an interesting, textured character, I like playing them.
LOPEZ: What’s so special about Sinatra?
DAVI: He was the greatest entertainer of all time, the voice of several decades. His contribution to music is as significant as Picasso’s was to art. And the socio-political contribution he made set the standard; he was one of the first stars to come out against anti-Semitism and racial bigotry. The effect he had on all media was staggering.
LOPEZ: How well did you get to know him when you worked with him on Contract on Cherry Street, your first film?
DAVI: Well enough to become friends; he poured me my first Jack Daniels.
LOPEZ: Looking back at that time, what do you wish you knew? That 58-year-old Robert could tell the young guy starting out? That, perhaps, some young man reading this might benefit from?
DAVI: Time goes by very fast. Pursue your dream and be interested in the world around you.
LOPEZ: What was it like to work with Phil Ramone? That’s a big deal for a first-time record deal, isn’t it? Even for a well-known character like you?
DAVI: Phil Ramone is a legend in the music world. It was an absolute thrill to work with him. He is a very caring, gentle soul and guides with the most incredible sensitivity. He makes an artist feel absolutely protected. But you must listen to what he says very carefully, as he will say the most profound and exacting suggestion as if he were asking to pass the salt. And when you realize what he communicated to you it makes a huge impact. I think of him as the Yoda of the music world. I was very lucky because I also worked with the great Al Schmitt, who mixed the record, and Dan Wallin, who recorded it.
LOPEZ: How did you choose the songs you included? Did anything wind up on the cutting-room floor?
DAVI: I chose the songs to go along with the theme of the album. There are also certain songs that had a significance in Sinatra’s life and mine. Fortunately, nothing wound up on the floor.
LOPEZ: What is behind the title, “The Road to Romance”?
DAVI: “The Road to Romance” is a lyric from the song “Nice and Easy.” I wanted to take the listener through different aspects of romance: the journey from seduction to the elation of falling in love, the expression of love, the depth of love — to the falling out of love and the despair of loss of love, back to the discovery, rebuilding of self, and reawakening of love.
At the same time, it is the romance we have with America. I want to reflect the struggle we have in our country — that no matter how difficult times and things seem, America is really “Too Marvelous for Words.” The Great American Song Book is the Shakespeare of America, it is the Golden Age of American Music — it is a music that comes from black jazz artists and jump-blues artists, Italian New Orleans Jazz, as well as the sons and daughters of Jewish immigrants like Harold Arlen, Yip Harburg, Sammy Cahn, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and on and on, who wrote a huge portion of the American Song Book along with guys like Johnny Mercer. And out of this collaboration comes a music that transcends age, nationalities, and ideologies, that brings optimism and hope to the country and the world. It is the music that got our parents and grandparents through difficult times. There is no other music that has such wide appeal and we must bring it back. Women were respected and courted even through song. When you think that in 1958 the song that won the Oscar for best song was “All The Way,” by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen and sung by Sinatra from a movie called The Joker Is Wild, and juxtapose that with a song that won the Oscar several years ago, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” it just about says it all.
Look, I appreciate all kinds of music but the cultural moral decay is reflected in music. We need to get back “on the road to romance.”
LOPEZ: With both the CD and the movie you directed, The Dukes, you are reaching back — to Doo Wop and now Sinatra. Are you trying to recapture something?
DAVI: Making this album is not just about my return to singing, but is motivated by a much deeper purpose. The Great American Songbook is a collection of unforgettable masterpieces that helped the world fall in love with our country. During my parents’ time — while our country faced many difficulties — this music helped it glow with promise and optimism. It reminded them that our country was a place where dreams came true, and inspired people from all over the world to find for themselves the magic that was America. And Frank Sinatra’s voice was the soundtrack for their lives.
Today we find our country and the world in extremely difficult circumstances. We are seeing an erosion in culture and music. This music is as relevant today as it was when it was created. It was romantic without being crude. The songs were poetic, and if there was heartbreak it was sung with a delicate tenderness, not a resentful anger.
My humble mission as a singer, and interpreter of this Songbook, is to help reinvigorate the spirit of America, the spirit that makes it the greatest country in the world.
LOPEZ: What’s your hope for this CD?
DAVI: To reach as many people as possible. The humbling thing is it has been extremely well received critically — absolutely terrific response — and I just want people to know about it. Spread the word! I ask that they go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, TWE stores. iTunes, and have a listen, and if they like what they hear to please support it. It makes a great gift. Also I will be headlining the beautiful Venetian in Las Vegas on February 23, 24, and 25 and then touring the country and the world.
LOPEZ: Will we see original songs from you down the line?
DAVI: Most definitely.
LOPEZ: Speaking of romance, it is no secret that you are conservative. Are you waiting, as some pundits are, for potential voters — especially Republicans and independents — to fall in love with a political candidate? Or is that disordered nonsense?
DAVI: I am still looking at the field.
LOPEZ: You went to Catholic grade school and high school growing up. Has that made a difference in your life?
DAVI: For me it absolutely has. I think any education that includes values of faith, hope, charity, and love is essential and that kind of value should also be brought back to public schools. It was there at one time.