On this Day:
In 1968, Frank Sinatra first recorded “My Way” with lyrics written by Paul Anka and based on the French song “Comme d’habitude”.
“My Way” is a song popularized in 1969 by Frank Sinatra set to the music of the French song “Comme d’habitude” composed and written by French songwriters Claude François and Jacques Revaux and first performed in 1967 by Claude François. Its English lyrics were written by Paul Anka and are unrelated to the original French song.
The song was a success for a variety of performers including Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Sid Vicious. Sinatra’s version of “My Way” spent 75 weeks in the UK Top 40, which is 2nd place all-time.
In 1967, Jacques Revaux composed a somewhat syrupy song called “For Me”, with unsatisfactory lyrics in rather peculiar English. According to Revaux, the demo was then sent to Petula Clark, Dalida and Claude François, to no avail. Revaux rejected a version by Hervé Villard and ended up reworking the track with Claude François, after all, as Comme d’habitude (As Usual). It was released in November 1967 and was at the top of the French pop chart for one week in February 1968.
Paul Anka heard the French original, while on holiday in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. He acquired adaptation, recording, and publishing rights for the nominal but formal consideration of one dollar, subject to the provision that the melody’s composers would retain their original share of royalty rights with respect to whatever versions Anka or his designates created or produced. Some time later, Anka had a dinner in Florida with Frank Sinatra and “a couple of Mob guys” during 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 in the morning: “I called Frank up in Nevada—he was at Caesars Palace – and said, ‘I’ve got something really special for you.'” Anka asserted: “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 record the song in 1969 very shortly after Sinatra’s recording was released. Anka recorded it four other times as well: in 1996 (as a duet with Gabriel Byrne, performed in the movie Mad Dog Time); in 1998 in Spanish as “A Mi Manera” (duet with Julio Iglesias); in 2007 (as a duet with Jon Bon Jovi); and in 2013 (as a duet with Garou).
On December 30, 1968, Frank Sinatra recorded his version of the song in one take, featuring session drummer Buddy Saltzman among the band. “My Way” was released in early 1969 on the My Way LP 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.
Although this work became Frank Sinatra’s signature song, his daughter Tina says the singer came to hate the song: “He didn’t like it. That song stuck and he couldn’t get it off his shoe. He always thought that song was self-serving and self-indulgent.” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
“To do is to be.” – Descartes
“To be is to do.” – Voltaire
“Do be do be do.” – Frank Sinatra
Second, a Song:
Here is Frank Sinatra performing “My Way” Live from Madison Square Garden in 1974. Frank is celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the most iconic recordings of all time! (per YouTube.com). I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“People often remark that I’m pretty lucky. Luck is only important in so far as getting the chance to sell yourself at the right moment. After that, you’ve got to have talent and know how to use it.” – Frank Sinatra
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky