Donald Trump, the newly sworn in President of the United States chose to dance to Frank Sinatra’s hit song “My Way” at the traditional evening ball following his inauguration ceremony. Frank Sinatra’s 1969 hit is no doubt an all-time favorite of people worldwide but not many may know that the song was also a favorite of one of Sri Lanka’s most prominent politicians President Junius Richard Jayewardene.
President J.R. Jayewardene was hosted to dinner at the White House on June 18, 1984 by the then US President Ronald Reagan during his state visit to the USA where the Sri Lankan leader made public his love for Sinatra’s song.
“I haven’t forgotten about the help your country has given us during the last few years. But I didn’t come here to ask for help. That’s not my way. I’m waiting to hear Mr. Frank Sinatra sing “My Way.” [Laughter] That’s one of my favorite songs, but I understand he didn’t like it. I used it in part of my election campaign and asked the people to vote for my way, which they did,” President Jayewardene said during the toast.
And he was not disappointed. President Reagan had made special arrangement to have Frank Sinatra to be present at the White House dinner so that he could sing for the Lankan leader.
According to media reports, Frank Sinatra didn’t have much time to rehearse when the Reagan White House asked him to perform for a state dinner for the Sri Lankan leader in 1984. “Security at the White House was tightened in the aftermath of the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and so bomb-sniffing dogs had to check out everything coming into the mansion, including musical instruments. On the day of the dinner, the dogs became too exhausted to work anymore, and Sinatra’s instruments were stranded outside the East Gate until replacement dogs could be called in,” according to an article published in the victoriaadvocate website in 2009 on White House music vignettes.
However, despite the obstacles, he did perform “My Way” much to the delight of the Sri Lankan leader and other guests.
In an article that Lakshmi Pieris, JR’s former Press Secretary wrote after his demise, she made reference to the historic visit by the late President to the White House and the presence of Sinatra.
“Ronald Reagan was the President and there was a grand banquet in honour of President JR and Madam Jayewardene. Frank Sinatra who was also invited for the dinner made a rendition of “I did it my way”, JR’s favourite song,” she wrote.
Another highlight of JRJ’s state visit to the USA was the gift of an 18 month old elephant named “Jayathu” to President Reagan.The elephant reportedly died at a New York zoo later.