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The History Of 'My Way'

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While singer-songwriter legend Paul Anka has left a long trail of hits over his 60-year career, he admits that early on, he was terrified to pen a tune for Frank Sinatra.  “He’d always tease me, ‘Hey kid, when are you going to write me a song?’” Anka remembers.  “But I couldn’t. I was scared to death.

I was writing all this teen stuff.”  Of course, there are few music lovers today who aren’t familiar with the poignant ballad Anka eventually crafted for Sinatra, “My Way.”  Some dub it the most powerful of Anka’s many earworms, which also include classics like “Puppy Love,” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and even Johnny Carson’s theme song for “The Tonight Show.”

Anka didn’t think twice 55 years ago when Sinatra called him out of the blue and declared, “Kid, we’re going to dinner.”  “When Sinatra says, we’re going to dinner, you drop everything and you go to dinner,” recalls Paul, who as a budding Vegas headliner in the 1960s had a friendly tie with the Rat Pack.

During the meal, Sinatra dropped a stunning surprise: He was about to quit showbiz.  “He said,  ‘I’ve had it. I’m fed up.  But I’m doing one more album,’” Anka remembers.  “He said, ‘and you never wrote me that song.’”

Anka felt the pressure.  Still reeling over the news at 1 a.m. in his apartment, he found himself toying with lyrics to a melody.  “I thought, ‘What would Frank do with this melody, if he were a writer?’” Anka says. “And all of a sudden, it just came to me: ‘And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain.’” He finished the song at 5 a.m. and called Sinatra on the spot, promising him a song for his final album.  “I knew I had something I wouldn’t be afraid to give him,” Anka says.

The next day, he recorded a demo of the song and flew to Las Vegas, where Sinatra lived.  “I played him the song and he looked at me and said, ‘I’m doing it.’”

Two months later, Sinatra called Anka again.  This time, with better news. “He says, ‘kid, listen to this,’ and puts the phone up to the speaker,” Anka remembers. “I heard ‘My Way’ playing for the first time, and I started to cry.”

Paul Anka never knew what a legacy he had created when, at the request of Ol’ Blue Eyes, he wrote this song for Frank’s (presumed) retirement.  Frank Sinatra had a mega smash hit with it, followed by the Three Tenors, Pavarotti and numerous other big stars who covered the song over the years.


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