Interview: Robert Davi talks singing Sinatra and not being modest

Robert Davi comes to Long Island to sing the songs of Frank Sinatra.
Credit: Stuart Kortakaas Photography

Robert Davi can be pretty convincing when he wants to be. So the venerable ’80s action movie mainstay is more than up to the task of explaining why you should make the trip out to Long Island’s Eisenhower Park this Saturday to hear him sing Sinatra — as he’s done plenty of times before, to surprisingly large crowds. Take it away, Mr. Davi.

He knows you recognize him from somewhere: “They don’t know exactly where. If you’re Bond fan, it’s ‘License to Kill.’ ‘Goonies,’ ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Showgirls,’ ‘Cops and Robbersons,’ on and on and on, different genre pictures. I also had a TV series, ‘Profiler.’ That was another thing, four and a half years of doing the good guy thing.”

The concert is pretty popular: “Last year I had 10,000 people. And the album went to number six on Billboard Jazz, so it did have, you know, awareness.”

He knows the difference between humility and modesty: “I’m not modest at all. Humility is great, that’s something you work at, but modesty, that’s something else. What is it, being modest? I don’t know. With all that white noise out there, how the hell do you break through? That’s why Miley Cyrus does that twerky tongue thing. I mean, come on. But I say talent still wins out, and class and elegance. Because it’s not of the moment, it has longevity. I’m not saying it’s the reason, but when I did my album in 2011 there was a billboard on Sunset Boulevard for months of me in a suit and tie. Now, what did Jay Z and Justin Timberlake do a year and a half later? Not that I’m saying this, but I kind of brought it back. It had a striking image. I’m not saying that I necessarily had that effect, but it’s curious to me.”

Despite all the film and TV work, he was always meant to be a singer: “Had you asked anyone in my family when I was growing up what I was going to do, they were going to say, ‘He’s going to sing.’ Whether it was the opera or the American songbook or Broadway or something to that effect, I was going to be a singer. It’s kind of a funny term, but I feel like I’ve been let out of prison in a certain way because you express yourself fully through music. I think it was Gustav Mahler who said music is the closest to the absolute. There’s nothing more intimate or higher than that kind of communication on a mass level.”

Why he’s qualified to take up Sinatra’s tough guy persona: “There was one other singer in history who if he said, ‘I’m going to break your legs,’ you would believe him, and that was Frank Sinatra, who I did a film with [ed. 1977’s “Contract on Cherry Street”]. I think if I say that, people believe that. I love Michael Buble, but if he said, ‘I’m going to break your legs,’ I wouldn’t believe him. Harry Connick Jr., the same thing. I ain’t going to buy it, sorry. He’s wonderful, but I ain’t going to buy that.”

‘Davi Sings Sinatra — The Second Time Around,’ Eisenhower Park, Sat., July 19, 8 p.m. Free. 1899 Hempstead Turnpike, East Meadow, NY

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick


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