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Frank Sinatra onstage in the 1970s. Though the star was ambivalent at best about the song's message, "My Way" became emblematic of this era of his career. David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images hide caption
Frank Sinatra onstage in the 1970s. Though the star was ambivalent at best about the song's message, "My Way" became emblematic of this era of his career.
This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.
It's hard to imagine two occasions more different than the inaugural ball for President Trump and the funeral for murdered rapper Nipsey Hussle, but they have at least one thing in common: The same song played at both. It's a song that has come to represent a particular idea of American individualism, and in some ways feels even more relevant today than when it was recorded in 1968 by Frank Sinatra.
Released the following year, "My Way" was an unusual song for Sinatra. It's not a love song about a girl, a boy or even a city — it's about me, me, me. Among his fans, it is a subject of controversy: Will Friedwald, author of the book Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art, told me it "would certainly be not on the Top 10 list of anybody who I'd consider a real major Sinatra fan." So how and why did Frank Sinatra come to sing this song? It turns out that when is even more important.
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