Kyrie Eleison: No, Not My Way

Sean Curnyn is dismayed about the most common choice of popular song at British funerals.  I’ve never liked that song either, and for the same reasons.  He writes:

A survey in Britain has found that apparently about one in two of the populace has prepared a musical playlist for his or her own funeral. It is good to be prepared for that which is inevitable, so this news is initially heartening. However, the survey, by Co-op Funeralcare, found that the most popular song (or record) on such playlists was Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Speaking as a dedicated fan of Francis Albert, I have nonetheless to declare that this is highly dismaying.
“My Way” is an awful song, and everything that is bad about it would only be accentuated in the context of a funeral service of any kind. Sinatra himself hated it.

And this:

“My Way” (lyric by Paul Anka to a previously released French tune), is, to put it bluntly, pompous and crass. It is the song of an individual giving credit to exactly no one and nothing other than himself. We all know the song, so there’s no need to go through it in detail, but consider the final verse in the context of a funeral, emanating, as it were, from the guy in the coffin:

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.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!

Yeah, buddy, and now you’re dead, so I guess you do have “naught.” Glad to hear you never knelt and you “took the blows.” Too bad they obliterated you.

In fairness, you have to imagine that many people put “My Way” on the playlist in a spirit of lightheartedness, thinking people will laugh when they hear it. “Oh, that’s just like old Joe, he did it his way, har har har.” This is saddest of all, because there’s nothing more pathetic than a very tired and obvious joke. A funeral or memorial service deserves better than that

If I had to leave it to a popular record to send a message to my mourners (should any ultimately exist) it would be “The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn,” by Emmylou Harris, in a duet with Ricky Skaggs on the Stanley Brothers’ classic tune. And although I would maintain that that cannot be bettered, there are many popular songs that go to that place and occupy it fairly. The theme just keeps poking its head out and demanding to be expressed, which must mean something.

But if due to some fortunate oversight I should be allowed a Christian funeral, I’d hope for a hymn to be sung that attests to the fact that it was never “my way” that mattered, after all. (Which should by then be quite obvious.)

Read the rest here.


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