Thursday, August 02, 2007

885 Most Memorable Musical Moments: Elvis & "My Way"

My mom was a bit of an Elvis Presley fan in the 1950s, and like millions of others on August 16, 1977, was a little shaken after hearing of his death. Two months later, we sat down to watch the CBS broadcast of "Elvis In Concert". Comprised of performances taped from his last tour that summer, the special showed Elvis was not a well man: he was quite overweight, and appeared pale and sweaty. Still, he had some power left in his voice, especially in gospel songs like "How Great Thou Art". When he sang "My Way", however, it all became clear to Mom: Elvis knew he was going to die.

"My Way" was written in 1968 by Paul Anka, who based the melody on a French song, "Comme d'habitude". The lyrics are about a man, facing death, who looks back at his life's ups and downs, and is proud of being true to himself:
I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fails, 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, no not me
I did it my way
It was a big hit for Frank Sinatra in the early 1970s, becoming one of his signature songs. And, Elvis had performed it for a couple of years, including his previous TV concert, the 1973 special, Aloha From Hawaii. But here, in the summer of 1977, he invests the song with additional poignancy: there is sadness in his eyes, as if he was sensing that his life really was ebbing away.

Elvis, 1977:

Over the years, "My Way" has become something of a cliche; it's a popular selection in karaoke bars as well as at funerals(!). Then there are the interesting interpretations:

"My Way" by Sid Vicious

"Your Way", a version of "My Way" by William Shatner, at a George Lucas tribute

EDIT: I almost forgot Nina Hagen's!

UPDATE: My post on the XPN site can be found here

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