Frank Sinatra (1915-98) had such a long and successful career that he had signature songs for multiple generations. Back in the ’40s, many considered “All or Nothing at All” to be the one. In the following decades, “Witchcraft” (’50s) and “Strangers in the Night” (’60s) had to be near the top of the list.
In the third decade since Sinatra’s death, the scene has shifted somewhat. “Strangers in the Night” remains one of his most-played tracks, but two other ’60s Sinatra classics have moved to the top (especially on streaming services): “Fly Me to the Moon” and “My Way.”
“My Way” embodies a good deal of what Sinatra stood for (or hoped to stand for): iconoclasm, grit, coolness in the face of adversity. While the song didn’t take the U.S. charts by storm, its historic run in the U.K. may have predicted its current standing in the Sinatra canon.
Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ stayed on the UK charts a whopping 122 weeks
When singer-songwriter Paul Anka bought the rights to the original French song that became “My Way,” he wrote English lyrics specially for Sinatra. “I told myself, ‘Just write it the way he talks,'” Anka recalled in his 2013 autobiography My Way. “Ate it up … spit it out.”
One night at dinner, Sinatra told Anka he was planning to retire. Having promised him a song long ago, Anka quickly got cracking on the lyrics for “My Way.” By the end of the night, he had a draft. When he played it for Sinatra later in ’68, the Chairman of the Board loved it. He recorded it at the close of the year.
In March ’69, the “My Way” single hit the airwaves and started climbing the charts. While it made a decent showing on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at No. 27), it didn’t immediately look like a blockbuster. But the legend began growing, especially on the other side of the Atlantic.
Over on the U.K. charts, Sinatra’s “My Way” cracked the top 10 in May ’69 and stayed there until late June after peaking at No. 5. And it hung around the British charts until January ’70. After several more runs in ’70 and ’71, the recording spent a total of 122 weeks there.
‘My Way’ long held the record for staying 75 weeks in the UK top 40
While a 122-week stay on the U.K. charts is astounding, it’s even more impressive when you see “My Way” spent 75 weeks in the chart’s top 40. Its last appearance there was in October ’71, some two-and-a-half years after it first broke in.
For decades, that 75-week stay in the top 40 was a record in the U.K. In December ’20, The Pogues finally bumped Sinatra’s “My Way” aside when the group’s “Fairytale of New York” notched its 76th week in the top 40.
Needless to say, Sinatra’s return with “My Way” meant he wouldn’t be retiring anytime in the near future. As Anka recalled it, even the recording felt like magic. After a week of rehearsals, Sinatra showed up at the recording studio and sang “My Way” in a single take.