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‘My Way’: The Unlikely Story Behind The Frank Sinatra Classic

Recorded at a time when Frank Sinatra considered retiring, ‘My Way’ has become a timeless anthem for the generations that followed.

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Frank Sinatra
Photo: Martin Mills/Getty Images

Frank Sinatra‘s recording of “My Way” has spent longer on the UK singles chart than any other song – an amazing 124 weeks. That’s almost twice as long as its nearest rival, which you might be surprised to know is “Amazing Grace” by Judy Collins. It’s a timeless anthem that, even in a digital world where songs can be streamed endlessly at the touch of a button, will never be superseded, no matter the prevailing trends.

Sinatra recorded the song on December 30, 1968, at Western Recorders, in what was a rare event for The Chairman: an afternoon recording session. At around 3 pm, 40 musicians, conducted Sinatra’s long-standing pianist Bill Miller, began working on what would become an anthem for Frank – and whole generations to follow. The song was, however, originally composed as “Comme d’Habitude” (“As Usual”), written by Jacques Revaux and Gilles Thibault along with Egyptian-born French singer Claude François. Canadian singer Paul Anka added the English words, turning it into the classic we now know.

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Anka’s attempt to write an English lyric for “Comme d’Habitude” was not the first. A few months before Anka, David Bowie had a crack calling it “Even A Fool Learns To Love,” but his demo (containing the lyrics “There was a time, the laughing time/I took my heart to every party/They’d point my way/How are you today?”) was rejected.

An anthem

Sinatra’s version of “My Way” entered the Billboard chart in the last week of March 1969 at No. 69; it was the highest new entry of the week. Six weeks later, it reached its peak of No. 27, where it stalled – surprisingly, given the song’s subsequent status as an anthem. ‘My Way’ made No. 5 in the UK, which accounts for the fact that the LP of the same name did significantly better in Britain in the summer of 1969.

Besides now being a karaoke classic, “My Way” has been recorded by a whole mass of artists. Brook Benton took it into the US charts in 1970, and, seven years later, the song made it to No. 22 in an Elvis Presley version that was The King’s first posthumous single. In Britain the following year, Sex Pistol Sid Vicious took it to No. 7; almost twenty years after that, Shane McGowan, the lead singer of Irish band The Pogues, took it into the Top 30.

None of these versions top Sinatra’s, but they underscore how “My Way” continues to speak to people from every walk of life.

Listen to the best of Frank Sinatra on Apple Music and Spotify.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mark

    April 2, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    He hated the song, he once quipped “if I had it My Way I’d never sing that damn song again.”

  2. Yo Daddy

    January 10, 2023 at 3:55 am

    ELVIS version of MY WAY Blows Frank sinatra version away. Or you could just say Frank sinatra blows compared to ELVIS.

  3. John Davis

    April 23, 2023 at 12:41 am

    so true. I”ve heard that when Frank had Elvis’s version played for him, and asked what he thought about Elvis’s singing ‘his’ song, Frank said, It’s not my song any more,it’s his”.

  4. Tom Bogash

    June 27, 2023 at 3:26 am

    For 25 yrs now..since Frank died
    in may 98..I went about redoing my way..its very good.of course better than anka version of course..Never put an effort into my lyrics..finally I did because Frank most definitely hated doing the song.I was Frank’s Chauffeur during the early 70s on 1_occasion to Ali/Frazer fight in 71 with Burt Lancaster with him needless to say it will stay only with me..since I’m Frank’s age when he died @_82..that’s the way somethings don’t happen but the junk out there today

  5. tombogash

    November 19, 2023 at 5:57 pm

    My own better version

  6. jbass

    May 11, 2024 at 4:28 pm

    Elvis was a fraud. He stole others music and wouldn’t record anything without putting his name on it and stealing 50% of the publishing rights. Comparing that bloated overrated charlatan with Frank Sinatra is beyond absurd. Sinatra had more talent in a bowel movement than Elvis EVER had in his entire career.

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