Anka flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. By this time, he was very well known throughout the world for his song-writing and recordings. He managed to get the publishing rights to the song at no cost, although the melody's rights remained with the original writers, Francois and Revaux.
Sometime later, Paul Anka had dinner with Frank Sinatra. He'd dreamed of writing something for Sinatra and when Old Blue Eyes said "I'm quitting this business, I'm sick of it, I'm getting the hell out," Anka saw what he thought might be the last opportunity to fulfill that ambition.
Back in New York, Anka pulled out the song that he had acquired in Paris, he began to ponder on ways to make it a song for Sinatra and then changed the lyrics completely. He was thinking about Sinatra's announcement, about ending his singing career.
In an interview, Paul Anka said, "At one o'clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, 'if Frank were writing this, what would he say? 'And I started, metaphorically... And now the end is near. I read a lot of periodicals and I noticed that everything was "my this" and "my that". We were in the me generation, and Frank became the guy for me to use, to say that. I used words that I would never use 'I ate it up and spat it out' but that's the way that Frank talked."
By 5am, the song was finished and Anka recalls,"I called Frank, up in Nevada, he was at Caesar's Palace. I said I've got something really special for you."
Anka's record company were less than impressed when they heard that he had passed the song on to Frank Sinatra. They wanted him to keep it for himself but Anka insisted that Frank was the guy for the song. (Later, Anka did record the song, several times, though, each time it was as a duet: with Gabriel Byrne, Julio Iglesias, Jon Bon Jovi and Garou).
Frank Sinatra released My Way as a single in early 1969. It was also the lead track on an album of the same name. It was a so-so hit in America but here in Britain, we went wild for it and My Way spent 75 weeks on the UK singles chart, from April 1969 to September 1970!
My Way became Frank Sinatra's signature song, but according to his daughter Tina, he loathed it. In an interview in 2000, she said that her father always thought that the song was self serving and indulgent. The song stuck and he couldn't get it off his shoe.
While Sinatra's version was still at the top of the UK chart, Welsh singer Dorothy Squires released a cover of My Way. It reached No. 10, in the summer of 1970.
During the mid 1970s Elvis Presley began including My Way in his concerts, despite Paul Anka telling him that the song didn't suit him. However, it wasn't until October 1977, after Elvis' death, that a live recording of Elvis singing it was released.
In America, Elvis' version was a bigger hit than Frank's!
Several years later, in 1978, Sid Vicious, famous as the bassist in The Sex Pistols, did a punk rock version of My Way. He changed a large portion of the lyrics and the tempo was quickened considerably.
Allegedly, Vicious didn't know all the words to the song when he recorded it, and improvised with a lot of explicit and insulting lines. It's said that his line about "a prat who wears hats" was an in-band joke about Sex Pistol's front man John Lydon. This version made it to No. 7 in the UK chart.
A few months after the release of the Sid Vicious recording of My Way, Vicious was found dead, in his apartment, after a heroin overdose. He had just been released from jail after being arrested for assault.
I heard from a conspiracy enthusiast that there might be more to Sid's death than meets the eye. Maybe Frank and the mob didn't like him screwing up Frank's Signature song!
Well, wherever Frank Sinatra went, there was always a whisper of something shady. Unlikely to be true, but it's a good story anyway!