"My Way" is a song popularized by Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to music based on the French song "Comme d'habitude" composed in 1967 by Claude François and Jacques Revaux, with lyrics by Claude François and Gilles Thibault. "Comme d'habitude" had in turn originally been written in English, titled "For Me". Anka's English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song or the earlier English version. "My Way" is often quoted as the most covered song in history.
- 1 Themes[edit source | editbeta]
- 2 Certifications[edit source | editbeta]
- 3 Origin[edit source | editbeta]
- 4 Versions[edit source | editbeta]
- 5 In culture[edit source | editbeta]
Themes[edit source | edit]
The lyrics of "My Way" tell the story of a man who, having grown old, reflects on his life as death approaches. He is comfortable with his mortality and takes responsibility for how he dealt with all the challenges of life while maintaining a respectable degree of integrity.
Certifications[edit source | edit]
Origin[edit source | edit]
Paul Anka heard the original 1967 French pop song, Comme d'habitude (As Usual) performed by Claude François, while on holiday in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. In a 2007 interview, he said, "I thought it was a bad record, but there was something in it." He acquired publishing rights at no cost except the melody's rights kept by the authors, and, two years later, had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra and "a couple of Mob guys" at which Sinatra said, "I'm quitting the business. I'm sick of it, I'm getting the hell out."
Back in New York, Anka re-wrote the original French song for Sinatra, subtly altering the melodic structure and changing the lyrics:
"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. I 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 claimed, "When my record company caught wind of it, they were very pissed that I didn't keep it for myself. I said, 'Hey, I can write it, but I'm not the guy to sing it.' It was for Frank, no one else." Despite this, Anka would later record the song in 1969 (very shortly after Sinatra's recording was released). Anka recorded it three other times as well: (1) in 1996 (as a duet with Gabriel Byrne, performed in the movie Mad Dog Time), (2) In 1998 My Way in Spanish as (a Mi Manera) (duet with Julio Iglesias) and (3) in 2007 (as a duet with Jon Bon Jovi).
Frank Sinatra recorded his version of the song on December 30, 1968, and it was released in early 1969 on the album of the same name and as a single. It reached No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart in the US. In the UK, the single achieved a still unmatched record, becoming the recording with the most weeks inside the Top 40, spending 75 weeks from April 1969 to September 1971. It spent a further 49 weeks in the Top 75 but never bettered the No. 5 slot achieved upon its first chart run.
Versions[edit source | edit]
Dorothy Squires version[edit source | edit]
In the midst of Sinatra's multiple runs on the UK Singles Chart, Welsh singer Dorothy Squires also released a rendition of "My Way" in Summer 1970. Her recording reached number 10 on the UK Singles Chart and re-entered the chart twice more during that year.
Elvis Presley version[edit source | edit]
Elvis Presley began performing the song in concert during the mid-1970s, in spite of suggestions by Paul Anka, who told him it was not a song that would suit him. Nevertheless, on January 12 and 14, 1973 Presley sang the song during his satellite show "Aloha from Hawaii", beamed live and on deferred basis (for European audiences, who also saw it in prime time), to 43 countries via Intelsat, the only time that a single entertainer faced such a worldwide audience. In the continental US, the show was carried by NBC, and shown in primetime on April 14, thus achieving very high ratings and eventually helping the show reach a worldwide viewership of over 1 billion.
On October 3, 1977, several weeks after his death, his live recording of "My Way" (recorded for the "Elvis In Concert" CBS-TV special on June 21, 1977) was released as a single. In the U.S., it reached number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in late-1977/early-1978 (higher than Frank Sinatra's peak position), number 6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and went Gold for its successful sales of over half a million copies. The following year the single reached number 2 on the Billboard Country singles chart but went all the way to number 1 on the rival Cash Box Country Singles chart. In the UK, it reached number 9 on the UK Singles Chart.
As early as June 10, 1971 Elvis recorded a version of My Way in RCA studio B, Nashville, Tennessee. This studio version was released for the first time on the 1995 release: The Essential 70's Masters (Walk A Mile In My Shoes), disc 4.
Certifications[edit source | edit]
|Canada (Music Canada)||Platinum||150,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Gold||1,000,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
Sid Vicious version[edit source | edit]
Sex Pistols' bassist Sid Vicious did a punk rock version of the song. This version, in which a large body of the words were changed and the arrangement was sped up, charted at No. 7 in the UK in 1978. The orchestral backing was arranged by Simon Jeffes.
Interviewed in 2007, Paul Anka said he had been "somewhat destabilized by the Sex Pistols' version. It was kind of curious, but I felt he (Sid Vicious) was sincere about it."
Vicious did not know all the lyrics to the song when it was recorded, so he improvised several lyrics. Vicious' reference to a "prat who wears hats" was an in-joke directed towards Vicious' friend and Sex Pistols band-mate John Lydon, who was fond of wearing different kinds of hats he would pick up at rummage sales.
An edited version of the Sid Vicious cover is played during the closing credits of the movie Goodfellas and Juan of the Dead a Cuban satire zombie movie which played as part of the Miami Film Festival 2012.
In her album The End, released in conjunction with the film Nana 2, singer and actress Mika Nakashima performs a cover of Sid Vicious' version of the song with what sounds like an audience singing background vocals.
In the film The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle the original footage for the track shows Sid Vicious at the end taking out a hand gun and opening fire on the audience, hitting two of the audience members. Sid then sneers, throws the gun away, and flicks the V's at the audience and ascends the staircase he walked down to the stage from. For the music video version, director Julien Temple removed the original footage featuring actors playing the audience and the final graphic violence and replaced a few of the audience cutaways with stock footage of a theatre audience from the 1950s (he also drowned out Sid's use of the F-word in the third verse with audience applause). Although the censored version was still controversial, it merely showed Sid wildly shooting a gun towards the crowd. All of the footage of the bullet impacts and corpses were removed. The music video was recreated for director Alex Cox's film Sid and Nancy, with the final person Sid (Gary Oldman) shooting girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb), eerily foreshadowing her alleged murder at Sid's hands. However, in the film, she gets up and the two embrace as the stage lights are turned off.
Chris Mann version[edit source | edit]
In 2012 Anka revised the lyrics of the song for Chris Mann's debut album Roads. In Mann's version the song is presented from the perspective of a young man looking to the future instead of an older man reflecting on his life.
Other versions[edit source | edit]
"My Way" is thought to be one of the most covered songs ever written. However, "Yesterday" by the Beatles is considered to take that credit. Here is a very brief listing of some of those covers.
Jocelyne prior to her untimely death in 1972, the French pop star recorded it in English.
Nina Simone had success with her re-arranged version of the song, released on 1971's Here Comes the Sun, which was more upbeat and melodic, and included a syncopated rhythm highlighted by the addition of conga drums. It became a staple of her live concerts.
In 1970 British singer Samantha Jones won the music festival held in Belgian Knokke-Heist with a version of "My Way", which subsequently reached #4 on the Dutch charts.
Brook Benton hit the pop, R&B, and easy listening charts with a recording of the song in 1970.
Andy Williams sang this song in his show in 1969.
Shirley Bassey recorded the song for her 1970 album Something. She also performed it live on numerous occasions notably the 1976 Royal Variety Performance. In the weeks following Sinatra's death in 1998, Bassey sang it as a tribute to him on her "Diamond" concert tour.
The leading gorilla, Ape, in 1997's George of the Jungle performs the song at the movie's conclusion.
The Romanian rock singer Dida Drăgan recorded this song in 1977, with Romanian lyrics, accompanied by National Radio-Television Pop Orchestra, conducted by Sile Dinicu.
Nina Hagen released a version of "My Way" as a single in 1980. It contained "My Way" (4:25), "Alptraum" (4:06) and "No Way" (1:05).
Gipsy Kings, a group which popularized the Rumba Flamenca, covered the song using the traditional gipsy sound. Their version is entitled "A Mi Manera (Comme d'habitude)", though most fail to recognize that this is a cover due to the lyrics being sung in Spanish
Gary Chaw sings the song switching from tenor to falsetto.
One of Argentina's top rock performers, Andres Calamaro released "My Way" in an interesting reggae version in his Las otras caras de Alta Suciedad album.
Bobby Solo does a recording of the song in Italian called "La Mia Strada". Another Italian version "La Mia Via" lyrics by Andrea Lo Vecchio was recorded by both Fred Bongusto in 1975, and Frank Michael in 1990. Popular Ukrainian rock band Okean Elzy performed the song (the only one of the set in English) during their symphony-accompanied renaissance tour.
The German Euro Disco artist Fancy covered the song on his 2008 album Forever Magic.
J-pop artist Chara covered the song on her 1996 album Montage.
Jacky Cheung performed the song at the 30th Hong Kong Film Awards, on April 17, 2011.
Vicente Fernández Spanish version titled "A Mi Manera".
Dutch singer and painter Herman Brood covered the song. It was part of his posthumous greatest hits album My Way (2001). The title song was released on single and became his first No. 1 single in the Dutch top 40.
University of Massachusetts Minuteman Marching Band traditionally covers this song at every post-game show. They also sing it at non-performance events as a way of ending their meetings.
On September 13, 2011, Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. performed the song during the finals of the sixth season of the NBC reality television series America's Got Talent. The following evening he was crowned the winner, and was awarded the show's $1 million grand prize. Later that year, a studio version of the song appeared on Murphy's debut album, That's Life.
The Japanese rockband Kishidan has covered the song in concerts, and will release a recorded version in December 2011.
The Barry Sisters sang "My Way" in Yiddish on their 1973 album Our Way. The lyrics for "Mein vayg" were translated by the Yiddish theater actor Herman Yablokoff.
Australian alternative rock band Faker covered the song on their 2005 EP The Familiar/Enough.
In the 2006 animated movie Happy Feet, Robin Williams (voice of a penguin) sang a cover of the song in Spanish.
The Romanian singer, showman and entertainer Horia Brenciu ro:Horia Brenciu recorded this song in 2012, with original lyrics, accompanied by HB Orchestra Big Band , in a video produced by HB Media Entertainment .
Italian singer Andrea Bocelli performed the song in Italian during his 2013 "Love in Portofino" concert.
Volkswagen used the song to introduce their new Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk7 during the Geneva Motor Show in 2013, showcasing how, like the singer and the song ... their car is "Often copied, never equalled"
In culture[edit source | edit]
- "My Way" was found to be the song most frequently played at British funeral services.
- Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder requested the song for his final military sendoff (Zapfenstreich (in German)) prior to the inauguration of Angela Merkel.
- The chorus of Bon Jovi's "It's My Life" (subsequently covered by Paul Anka on Rock Swings) references the song in the line "My heart is like an open highway/Like Frankie said, I did it my way."
- The pop duo Sparks released a song titled "When Do I Get to Sing 'My Way'" on their 1994 album Gratuitous Sax & Senseless Violins, mentioning Sinatra and Sid Vicious by name.
- Rapper Jay-Z has made reference to the song several times over his career and on The Blueprint 2 he samples the tune for his own song entitled "I Did It My Way".
- The identification of the song with Sinatra became so strong, and the song so iconic, that the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev jokingly referred to its policy of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other Warsaw Pact countries as the Sinatra Doctrine.
- David Bowie, then a little known musician, was originally contacted to write the words for the English version, and started to work on it, only to have the deal revoked by the producer later on before he could submit his material. He wrote "Life On Mars?", in retaliation.
- The song appears at the conclusion of Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas.
- The song was spoofed on Sesame Street as "Just Throw It My Way", Oscar the Grouch's anti-litter anthem. Oscar laments that he hates to see trash all over the place figuring that it's going to waste. Instead he urges Muppet boys and girls to throw it his way.
- "My Way" is a popular karaoke song around the world, to the point that it has been reported to cause numerous incidents of violence and homicides amongst drunkards in bars in the Philippines, referred in the media as the "My Way Killings".
- In the 2003 Filipino TV Series, Basta't Kasama Kita, the two main protagonist Ambet and Princess, who are both NBI agents, solved a serial killing case with all the victims sang "My Way" before they got murdered.
- Jarkko Ahola sings My Way on the 2008 album Rethrone by the Symphonic Metal band Northern Kings
- The song was referenced by Eric Forman in an episode of That '70s Show entitled "The Relapse".