16 March 2011

Pop Song Philosophy--My Way

A friend, after reading the post on The Greatest Love, wondered if it was comparable in "philosophy" to Sinatra's "My Way" (written by Paul Anka, and recording by him as well almost immediately after Sinatra recorded it).

It's one of my least favorite songs ever and so I can hardly muster the energy to say anything about it. Recorded in 1969, written in 1968, and according to the Wikipedia page (which appears to lack reliability), expressly with Sinatra in mind--and the "rat pack" mentality--as a voice of the "tough" who, at the end of life, has "no regrets". Anka apparently said something like these tough-talking "celebrities" acted "mob" but were scared of their own shadows. Whatever.

It is a song so full of bullshit it strikes me as a "plea" against the realization that the man has lived a life full of "me" (as Anka notes it was written as a comment on the "me" generation) and in the end has only his bullshit to attend him on his deathbed.

It's a truly awful song and if not for its massive popularity I would think as a writer you'd want to disown it. HOWEVER...as Anka makes clear, or as the Anka quoted in Wikipedia makes clear, it is written FOR Sinatra, in the VOICE Anka believes is true to Sinatra. So, maybe this is a very cruel joke by Anka on Sinatra. That's the way I'm going to read it from now on and anyone who sings it with sincerity is ALSO being "joked".

I mean, come on, "without exemption"? Is this a song about taxes? In the end, I prefer Joe Piscopo--and that's saying something!

I'm not sure how to compare it to the The Greatest Love as a song...but it does seem to speak to a generational shift in "performance". I don't think anyone in "reality" would sing this song as an Ode to Self (especially if you have to say "then he has not")...and so it seems unique as a "construction" of an Ideal Individualist. The DREAM of the Western Tough or the Reagan Republican. I don't think anyone could really embody it emotionally. Perhaps mentally some guys might want to imagine they could say this on their death bed but there is nothing in it to praise.

Times had changed 15 years later in order to give us The Greatest Love. But as our culture (and life in general) seems to ebb and flow in a cyclical way...perhaps we're back in the "My Way" mentality and Frank's paean to the Fuck All of You Self will reclaim its eminence--maybe there's video out there of CPACsters at a karaoke bar singing it...or GWB?

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain

I've lived a life that's full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes it was my way


  1. Well, from "My Way" to the "The Greatest Love" you've shifted from an action basted ego to baseless self-entitlement. I mean, at least Frank "planned each charted course / Each careful step along the byway / And more, much more than this." What's Whitney doing besides loving herself?

  2. touche, but Frank's is a very clear fiction. Frank is THE WAY--the man, the "they" who rule...and The Greatest Love is the weakened self's wish against at THEY who destroy the self's tiny dignity.

  3. Evolution has always taken care of the weak. There is rarely such thing as "the weakened", unless you have a responsibility "pass" you'd like to give some individuals without an objective criteria. As far as I can interpret these lyrics they are mostly, maybe exclusively, concerned with the perspective of person subjectively owning his/her actions at an hypothetical end. So how exactly would argue this is wrong or bad, as you imply?