The Story of “I Did It My Way” the Defiant Theme Song of the Postmodern Age


Article #326

by Bill Nugent


The famous song “I Did It My Way” (Usually titled just “My Way”) was written in 1968 at the height of the tumultuous 1960s. The lyrics were written by Paul Anka, a performer who gained fame in the 1950s and sung by Frank Sinatra, who first gained fame in the 1940s.


Paul Anka heard the French pop song “Comme d’habitude” (as usual) while vacationing in France. He was so struck by the catchy tune that he immediately negotiated to buy the rights to it. Back in the US, he had a burst of lyrical creativity and wrote completely new lyrics specifically to be sung by Frank Sinatra. Anka insisted that the song was to be sung by Sinatra. Other artists, including Anka himself, Elvis, and Sid Vicious later recorded it, but it was written for Sinatra.


Sinatra recorded “My Way” in late December 1968 and it was released to great acclaim. It rose up the charts in the US but interestingly was far more popular in Britain. “My Way” made the top 40 for an unprecedented 75 weeks in the UK. No other song has made the British top 40 for that long, before or since.


Paul Anka has said that he wrote it to capture the “me generation” attitude of the 1960s. I would say he succeeded. The lyrics describe an older man looking back on his years and wistfully and stridently singing about the ups and downs of his life. The iconic refrains “I did it my way” or “my way”  appear no less than six times in the nine brief stanzas. All commentators on the song, whether Christian or nonchristian, agree that it’s boastful and self exalting.


The song’s defiance of God is overtly stated in the eighth stanza “For what is a man, what has he got, If not himself, then he has naught, To say the things he truly feels And not the words of one who kneels.”


It’s commonly played at funerals in Britain and in the United States. In fact, I’ve read that it’s the most frequently played song at funerals in Great Britain. “My Way” is a popular karaoke song in the Philippines and strange things have occurred when it’s sung there. Many singers have been murdered by drunken patrons in karaoke bars in the Philippines as they sung “My Way.” The phenomenon is called “My Way killings.” In those cases, they’re singing the song before their funerals. (Wikipedia)


Jesus said: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?”( Luke 9:25). A funeral is no occasion to be arrogant against God. When they say “Rest in peace”  where will your soul be?


Unfortunately for Frank Sinatra, the song became his signature. Of all the love songs and melodies that Sinatra recorded, the defiant, “My Way” is regarded as his signature. In his later years it’s reported that Sinatra grew to hate the song for its self-assertiveness and pride. He didn’t want his name to be connected to that song forever. Andy Williams’s signature song is “Moon River.” James Taylor’s signature is “Fire and Rain.” Bette Midler’s is “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Sinatra would have liked to have had an uplifting legacy.


My Way” is the song of self exaltation which is the exact opposite of the Christian concept of self-denial and reliance on God for salvation. “My Way” is the theme song of the postmodern era. In western civilization, there are really just three basic philosophical worldviews: the Judeo-Christian, the modern and the postmodern.


The Judeo-Christian worldview maintains that there are moral absolutes and these absolute truths are given to us by God by revelation and are written in the Bible. Biblical morals include the Ten Commandments, the teachings of Jesus, the sacredness of human life and the dignity of man. God’s commandments apply to all people at all times in all cultures. Moral absolutes are universal, objective truths. America was founded in 1776 as a Christian country. The Judeo-Christian worldview was dominant.


The modernist worldview claims that moral absolutes can be discovered by human reason alone without the aid of divine revelation. Modernism, since it arose in post-renaissance Christian Europe, was nevertheless influenced by the Christian concepts of justice and morality. Modernism is also dependent on Natural Law as a starting point for its reasoning. Modernists looked to nature rather than the Bible but they still believed in moral absolutes. The absolutes were manmade principles derived from rationalism, empiricism and pragmatism. America became predominantly modernist during the period roughly from 1870 to 1960. Famous modernist philosophers were Descartes, Hume, Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau, Hegel and the American pragmatist, William James.


The postmodernist worldview claims that no moral absolutes exist. Morals are simply made up by the will of each person. This is radical existentialism and moral relativism. American culture and education, especially the universities, made the shift from modern to postmodern during the 1960s. “Do your own thing”  became a definitive slogan of the sixties. “Perform random acts of kindness” was popular by the 1990s.


Postmodernism is irrational, emotional, sophistic, barbaric, pessimistic, existentialistic and radically individualistic. Postmodernism is so scattered and atomized that most commentators define it only in terms of linguistic analysis and deconstructionism but those are only the putrid eruptions of the postmodern sore.


Once a person embraces moral relativism, there’s no real search for truth. Linguistic analysis and deconstructionism are merely ways of tinkering with language and literature which are just the tools of knowledge, not knowledge itself. Postmodernist philosophers include Nietzsche, Heidegger (Hitler’s favorite), Camus, De Man, Derrida and the famous French existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre. The ancient Greek Sophist philosophers taught many things we would call postmodern. The Bible says “there is no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).


Many postmodernists despair of finding real truth in their introspective musings. As a result, some have taken a fresh look at Christianity. The Christian faith is not a blind faith but is based on real evidence that God has provided. Such evidence includes the fact that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 prophecies recorded in the Old Testament hundreds of years before His birth. Additionally there are many miracles that have been performed by Christ and by His followers down through the centuries and even in our present day.


The ancient biblical prophets foretold that Christ would suffer and die, taking the penalty of our sins upon Himself. They foretold that Christ would rise from the dead to offer forgiveness of sins to all who turn to Him in repentance. I invite you to turn to Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins.


Steps to salvation:

Jesus said “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

  • 1) Believe that God created you and loves you and sent the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for Christ) to redeem you.
  • 2) Believe that Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 Bible prophecies to die for you, to take upon Himself the penalty of your sins (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 6:29, Romans 4:5, First Peter 3:18).
  • 3) Turn from sin and call on the name of Jesus to receive forgiveness of sins (Romans 10:13).
  • 4) Receive Jesus as Savior and experience the new birth (John 1:12, Acts 2:38).
  • 5) Follow Jesus Christ as Lord (John 14:21).

Prayer to receive salvation:

“Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

To receive the salvation that Jesus purchased for us at the terrible cost of His suffering and death on our behalf I invite you to pray this simple prayer:

“Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for sending Jesus, the promised Messiah, to die for my sins. I admit that I am a sinner. I repent of my sins and I ask for your forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ask you to fill me with your Holy Spirit to empower me to serve you under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

If you prayed this prayer in the humble sincerity of your heart then you have received everlasting life, which includes power to live right in this life and entrance into heaven in the afterlife!

(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

3 thoughts on “The Story of “I Did It My Way” the Defiant Theme Song of the Postmodern Age

  1. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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