Elvis Presley’s 1970 recording of “My Way” remains a controversial yet undeniably popular entry in his vast catalogue. The song, a soulful ballad with a powerful message of self-determination, has become synonymous with the King himself. However, the story behind “My Way” is more complex than meets the ear. Originally composed by French singer-songwriter Claude François with English lyrics written by Paul Anka, the song arrived on Presley’s doorstep with a pre-built identity. This raises the question: Does “My Way” truly represent a facet of Presley’s inner world, or is it a carefully chosen mask that resonated with audiences?

Composed in 1967 by François under the title “Comme d’habitude” (“Just Like Way”), the song explored themes of regret and nostalgia. Anka, recognizing the song’s potential for English-speaking audiences, penned new lyrics that transformed the song into a defiant anthem of self-reflection. While Anka envisioned the song for Frank Sinatra, it eventually landed in the hands of producer Felton Jarvis, who believed it would resonate with Presley.

Presley’s initial response to “My Way” was lukewarm. Anka later recounted Presley’s hesitation, suggesting the song didn’t quite fit his persona. However, Presley eventually embraced the song, delivering a powerful and nuanced performance. His voice, laced with a hint of world-weariness and unwavering conviction, captured the essence of Anka’s lyrics. Lines like “And now the end is near / And so I face the final curtain” and “Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew / When I bit off more than I could chew” resonated with audiences who saw a reflection of Presley’s own struggles and triumphs.

Despite some initial skepticism, “My Way” became a massive success for Presley. Released in 1970 on the album Elvis – Something for Everybody, the song reached number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US and achieved even greater success internationally. However, the song’s legacy remains intertwined with questions of authenticity. Was it truly “Elvis’ way,” or did he simply inhabit the persona crafted by Anka?

Whether a borrowed masterpiece or a hauntingly personal reflection, “My Way” stands as a testament to Presley’s ability to connect with audiences. The song’s enduring popularity speaks to the universal themes of self-reflection, resilience, and facing one’s past. “My Way” invites us to delve deeper into the complexities of The King, and explore the man behind the music.