Story Behind the Song: My Way

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra is best known for his hit, My Way.  To all who heard him sing the song, the song seemed to fit him.   Some even believed he may have written the song himself, but he didn’t.

So it’s not surprising, that the song was written specifically for him by Paul Anka.

Paul Anka was at his home in the South of France in the late 1960s, when he heard a French song, “Comme d’habitude” {translation: As Usual}.  The song was written by Claude Francois and Jacques Revaux.  Anka loved the tune and thought it had much more to offer than the mediocre lyrics about the end of a love affair.

Anka contacted the publisher and with a simple two page contract, garnered the rights to the song.  Francois and Revaux would retain “their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka…created or produced.”

Paul Anka
Paul Anka

When Anka returned to New York, he lacked the inspiration to do anything with the song, and tucked it away where it just sat.   Even David Bowie attempted to write lyrics to the melody, but his publisher did not deemed the demo “unacceptable.”

Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra were friends.  Anka promised Sinatra that one day he would write him a song.

The men meet for dinner one evening while Sinatra was filming a detective movie in Miami, Florida.  Frank complained about being accused of associating with the mob and the hassle others caused him because of this.

At dinner Sinatra said, “I’m quitting the business.  I’m sick of it, I’m getting the hell out.”

Anka returned to his hotel room with the inspiration for a song.  He said he knew he was “writing a defining song for Sinatra, I wanted it to capture who Frank Sinatra was, right down to the way he talked.”

Anka describes that writing session: “At one o’clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, ‘If Frank were writing this, what would he say?’ And I started, metaphorically, ‘And now the end is near.’

I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was ‘my this’ and ‘my that’. We were in the ‘me generation’ and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that.

My Way Frank SinatraI used words I would never use: ‘I ate it up and spit it out.’ But that’s the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys – they liked to talk like Mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows.”

Anka finished the song at 5 am. “I called Frank up in Nevada – he was at Caesar’s Palace – and said, ‘I’ve got something really special for you.’

Anka flew to meet Sinatra in Las Vegas and sang the new version to him.  The song was now full of a powerful cry of defiance.  Sinatra was nonchalant upon hearing the song, but Anka said “he just gave me that wink he had.”

Two months later, Anka received a call from Sinatra who said “Kid, listen to this,” and put the phone to a speaker. Coming from the speaker was Frank Sinatra singing “My Way.”

Sinatra
Sinatra

Sinatra recorded the song on December 30, 1968 and released it in early 1969.  The album was titled, “My Way.”  The song reached #2 on the Easy Listening Chart in the US.  However, the single achieved a record that is still unmatched in the UK.

Anka’s record company was upset he didn’t record the song, but he insisted it was written for Frank Sinatra.

My Way has become one of the most covered songs ever written with over 100 different artists recording versions of the song.

Dorothy Squires was the first to release a rendition in 1970.  Others to record the song include Elvis Presley, Andy Williams, Tom Jones, Patti LuPone, and a punk rock version by the Sex Pistols.  Even Paul Anka would later record a version of the song.

However, the man who immortalized the song grew to hate it.  With each comeback, My Way, seemed to become more burdensome to sing.  In 1984, he was heard to mutter, “I can’t stand the song myself,” when performing at Albert Hall.

Whose way do you do things?
Whose way do you do things?

In a 2000 interview with the BBC show Hardtalk, Sinatra’s daughter Tina said, “He always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent. He didn’t like it. That song stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe.”

Over the years, one can imagine how tired he grew of being asked to sing the song repeatedly.

Even into the early 2000s, My Way was the most popular song requested at British funerals.

Many have chosen to inscribe “My Way” on their tombstones, but Sinatra chose an earlier hit, “The Best is Yet to Come” when he died in 1998.

However, My Way continues to be the song most closely identified with Frank Sinatra.

What have you tried to do “My Way”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *