The Frank Sinatra Song That Kills

“I faced it all, and I stood tall, and I did it my way.” —Frank Sinatra, “My Way”

In A Nutshell

Frank Sinatra once told the audience at Caesars Palace, “I hate [“My Way”]—you sing it for eight years, you would hate it, too.” Well, apparently, quite a few other people get worked up about this song. In Filipino karaoke bars, choosing to sing Sinatra’s “My Way” can be deadly. The Filipino news media have even given the song its own crime category: the “My Way Killings.” Not all music elicits a negative response, however. In 2005, music from the Green Day album “American Idiot” awakened nine-year-old Corey George from a two-week coma.

The Whole Bushel

We’ve already told you how Frank Sinatra hated his iconic song, “My Way.” Even though his listeners insisted that he end every show with his trademark song, he once told the audience at Caesars Palace, “I hate this song—you sing it for eight years, you would hate it, too.”

Well, apparently, quite a few other people get worked up about this song. In Filipino karaoke bars, choosing to sing Sinatra’s “My Way” can be deadly. “I used to like ‘My Way,’ ” barber Rodolfo Gregorio said to the New York Times about singing the song at his neighborhood karaoke bar. “But after all the trouble, I stopped singing it. You can get killed.”

The Filipino news media have even given the song its own crime category: the “My Way Killings.” No one has an exact count of how many people have been murdered in the Philippines for singing “My Way” in a karaoke bar. But Filipinos are known to have a culture of drinking, machismo, and violence. They like to get together to sing karaoke and they have a lot of illegal guns.

Nevertheless, the question remains: Why does this song spark so many violent deaths while other songs don’t?

Some people think it has to do with the singer singing out of tune. In some cases, bar patrons will jeer, laugh, or simply become enraged. That can lead to violence. Certain people also hog the microphone or select a song that was recently sung. However, another theory says the song’s lyrics push people to act out against the singer. ” ‘I did it my way’—it’s so arrogant,” Manila singing school owner Butch Albarracin told the New York Times. “The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.”

Many Filipino bars have simply banned the song from karaoke playlists to reduce violence. Some families have followed suit at family gatherings. It’s just not worth the risk to have a song provoke murder, although the level of violence is out of proportion to the alleged offense. In 2007, a security guard yelled at 29-year-old Romy Baligula in San Mateo for singing “My Way” out of tune. Baligula continued to sing until the guard shot him dead. The Sinatra song appears to provoke the most violence, but karaoke killings have occurred in other countries and with other songs.

Not all music elicits a negative response, however. In 2005, music from the Green Day album “American Idiot” awakened nine-year-old Corey George from a two-week coma. The young boy had been seriously injured when a car hit him on his birthday. “His mother played his favorite Green Day album and within an hour he had opened his eyes,” Corey’s father, Martyn, told the BBC.

A 2009 study also found that certain music, especially songs from Kenny Rogers, has helped stroke victims with their recoveries. Researchers believe that the songs cause patients’ brains to release more dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates emotion, to damaged areas of the brain.

Show Me The Proof

Featured photo credit: Oreos
NY Times: Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord
The Telegraph: ‘My Way’ deaths lead karaoke bars in Philippines to ban song
BBC: Green Day awakens boy from coma
Wired: The Kenny Rogers Effect