A strange and shocking story caught our eye in today’s New York Times: Sinatra Song Often Strikes Deadly Chord.

What’s happening is that there’s been a long string of killings in the Philippines, all following karaoke performances of “My Way.”  Karaoke is wildly popular in the island nation, though the Frank Sinatra signature (penned by Paul Anka) is now harder to find on a machine. Belting out a boozy rendition has led to several people being shot, stabbed, or beaten senseless.

If songs are written to express and evoke emotions, one has to wonder if there’s something going on in “My Way” that brings about murderous rage. There’s no obvious explanation. It’s not like people are getting killed after singing “Electric Avenue” or “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The Times article mentions a terrible rampage after one karaoke performance of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — and while that poky folk tune doesn’t justify murder, it’s at least a little easier to make the causal connection.

Is it the unapologetic machismo of the “My Way” lyrics, as suggested by the owner of a vocal school in the Times story? Is the song held in such reverence that angry, armed audiences just can’t bear the sacrilege of a bad performance? 

Karaoke gives anybody a chance to be a vocalist on a spotlighted stage, if only for a drunken moment. Its appeal is not far afield from the fantasies of non-musicians fulfilled by playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band. Most of us musicians, we get it but don’t get into it. Let everybody enjoy a star turn. But to our Filipino friends we have to say, for pete’s sake, pick a different tune. Or stay home and write a killer song of your own.

— Rich Maloof

The Punch-In is edited by Rich Maloof, who has a long history with TrueFire as artist, educator, and producer. Rich’s body of work as a published author and as Editor in Chief of Guitar magazine has been distributed and translated internationally.