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Open Features: My Way

...The history books will tell you that this was written for him by Paul Anka and was based on a French song called Comme díhabitude. The facts are, however, quite different, and the time has come to give credit where it is due...

Brian Lockett brings us the results of fascinating musicological research into how the song My Way came to be written.

(Note to editor: should this have appeared in Open Writing on April 1st?)

It is twelve years since Frank Sinatra died. His long life was a series of highs and lows and there are still arguments about a number of shady episodes which reveal what a complex and contradictory character he was.

Every one agrees, however, that he had an unforgettable voice which had great popular appeal. Songwriters queued to write material for him. Many of his songs have become legendary and continue to give pleasure whenever they are broadcast. None more so than My Way.

The history books will tell you that this was written for him by Paul Anka and was based on a French song called Comme díhabitude. The facts are, however, quite different, and the time has come to give credit where it is due.

I must now take you back to the pre-Sinatra years, the 20s and 30s of the last century, when popular entertainment in the USA was called vaudeville and involved singers, instrumentalists, comedians, jugglers, contortionists and the like who earned their living travelling from town to town, theatre to theatre. It was not an easy life, but it produced household names. Among them one Sophie Tucker (1886 - 1966), a Russian-born singer (real name Sonya Kalish), who spiced up her act with innuendo, knowing winks and smiles and naughty gestures.

Sophie in her prime had what is euphemistically called Ďthe fuller figureí and spent a great deal of time and energy trying to get it under control. She started an organisation which subsequently became known as Weight Watchers with branches in every town where she performed.

Towards the end of her career she shared billing with a very young and ambitious Sinatra at one of the lesser known theatres in Las Vegas and it was there that he heard her singing in her dressing room the song we now know as My Way. On the basis of what he had picked up and largely misheard through several partitions he immediately instructed his agent to buy the song and ensure that no-one else got to sing it before he did.

His agent did as instructed, only to find out later to his horror that Sophie had written the song to celebrate losing quite a few pounds and that it was called not My Way but My Weight. Not willing to tell the explosive Sinatra what had happened, the agent quickly adjusted the lyrics to what we have today. Sophie was kept sweet with generous contributions to her upkeep right up to the time of her death.

But now, at long last, I am able to make public the words of the original piece. Since all the parties involved in this subterfuge are no longer with us I do not imagine that my account will be challenged.

I am currently researching a number of Beatles songs which will be the subject of further revelations in due course.


My Weight]

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final weigh-in.
My friends, Iíll say it clear,
Iíll state my case, know what Iím sayinĎ?

Iíve had my share of cream,
Of spotted dick and roly-poly,
And more, much more than this.
I feel so holy.

Setbacks, Iíve had a few;
But then again, so have the others.
I did what I had to do.
We wanted so much not to become our mothers.

I tried each trendy course;
With lots of greens and rocket salad,
But more, much more than this.
I wrote this ballad.

Yes, there were times, Iím 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 spat it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall,
And tackled my weight.

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

No pain, no gain, they said.
I often wondered was this the right way?
No, oh no, not me,
I did it my way.

What is a girl, what has she got?
If not herself, then she has naught.
To eat the things she truly wants
And not the stuff that really daunts.
The records close, I took the course
And got my weight down!

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