Frank Sinatra Described 1 of His Most Famous Songs as ‘Torturous’

TL;DR:

  • Frank Sinatra reinvigorated his career with the Paul Anka-penned song “My Way.”
  • “My Way” brought Frank Sinatra a great deal of success, but he hated it.
  • Frank Sinatra was generally selective of the songs he performed.
A black and white picture of Frank Sinatra wearing a tuxedo and holding a microphone.
Frank Sinatra | Icon and Image/Getty Images

When Frank Sinatra introduced the song “My Way” into his repertoire, it quickly became one of his most widely requested tunes. For a time, he closed out concerts with the song. Despite the success it brought him, Sinatra abhorred the song. He grew tired of performing it and often wasn’t afraid to tell audiences just how fed up with it he was.

Paul Anka wrote ‘My Way’ for Frank Sinatra

In the late 1960s, writer and performer Paul Anka was in France when he heard the song “Comme D’habitude” by French artist Claude François. 

“I heard this song on the radio, a mediocre hit by a French singer which was called “Comme D’habitude,'” Anka told American Songwriter

Though he didn’t love the song, something about it stood out to him. He contacted the publishers to get a hold of the song. He penned English-language lyrics when he heard Sinatra say that he was seriously considering retirement. Anka put together a demo and brought it to Sinatra.

“Two months later, he calls me,” Anka said. “He’s in L.A. I’m in New York. I put the phone on the speaker. He said, ‘Paulie? You did it. This is the one.’ That was it for me. I started to cry. It was a turning point in my life.”

Frank Sinatra grew to hate ‘My Way’

Though Sinatra was excited when he first heard the song, his feelings toward it began to sour. 

“Frank Sinatra hated that song,” songwriter Bill Zehme said, per a 1998 article in Newsweek. “He thought it was pompous and self-aggrandizing, two things he never was.”

Sinatra eventually had to be talked into performing “My Way” because audiences practically demanded it. If he ended a show without singing it, they would expect it in the encore. He made his distaste for it clear, though.

“I hate this song — you sing it for eight years, you would hate it too!” he told an audience in 1978, per the Wall Street Journal.

He described singing it as “a torturous moment” for himself.

“I hate this song,” he told an audience in 1979, repeating, “I hate this song! I got it up to here [with] this goddamned song!”

Anka shared his take on Sinatra’s dislike of the tune. 

“That song was all him,” he said. “He’s the only one that heard it, he was the first to record it. But it became so overplayed and oversung by people — that’s where the embarrassment came in. His tendency was to go the other way to take the heat off himself. But he loved the song. He and I would sit in the room at Caesars Palace. I remember him saying to me, ‘I don’t care how big you are, who you are. Man, it’s great to have a hit record.'”

Those close to the singer said he was very selective about the songs he sang

Sinatra placed a high value on the lyrics in his music, which made him very particular about the types of songs he sang.

“It was the lyric that mattered to him,” his daughter Tina told AZ Central in 2015. “And that’s what makes him unique and so lasting. Not to mention he was singing the best music ever written in history.”

His friend Dean Martin’s wife Jeanne always knew Sinatra’s legacy would be a long one because of his taste in music.

“Frank’s taste was exquisite,” she said. “He only sang the great songs from the great writers. And Dean didn’t want that. Dean just wanted to be funny. Frank lived for the music.”

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