Crime + Investigation Podcast
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In East Asia, karaoke is one of the most popular pastimes. However, the widespread popularity of public singing has led to some frightening occurrences. Several people in the Philippines and China have actually lost their lives during renditions of Frank Sinatra's 1969 hit “My Way”. We look into the strange circumstances surrounding what have become known as the “My Way” killings.
There are said to have been as many as twelve “My Way” karaoke related murders since 2002. One of the earliest and most well documented cases took place in 2007.
The Philippine Star reported that 29-year-old Romy Baligula was halfway through his rendition of “My Way” at a karaoke bar in San Mateo, when a security guard complained he was off key. Romy ignored the complaint and continued to sing, which proved to be a mistake.
The 43 year old guard, Robilito Ortega, was so enraged that he pulled out a .38 calibre pistol and shot the singer in the chest. Baligula died instantly and Ortega was detained by an off duty police officer soon afterwards.
Another high profile "My Way" killing took place in the central Chinese city of Xi'an in 2012. A family had gathered at a local karaoke bar for a singing session. A four-year-old boy had the microphone and was singing along to "My Way", much to the amusement and adulation of his parents. Two of the boys’ uncles however, began to point the finger at Mr Yun and his wife for having raised a spoilt child; a "Little Emperor", as the Chinese say. The argument turned to a fight, with pushes, shoves, and even punches being thrown. At this point Mr Yun's nephew - Mr Hu - fled to the nearby noodle shop where he worked, and promptly returned with a meat cleaver.
Mr Hu attacked the two uncles with the cleaver, hacking each more than ten times. Both men died at the scene from their wounds.
The violence inspired by the song has led to “My Way” being completely banned in many karaoke bars across the Philippines, where some of the “My Way” murders have taken place.
Butch Albarracin, the owner of Center for Pop, a Manila-based singing school has posited a theory that the lyrics of the song might be the key to its inspiring such anger and animosity in unhappy listeners. Written by Paul Anka, "My Way"s lyrics are an unapologetic, some would say arrogant, summing up of a person's life. They reveal that the singer has come through all these different adversities because, basically, they're just an awesome person who can deal with anything life throws at them.
“‘I did it my way’ — it’s so arrogant,” Mr. Albarracin said in an interview with 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.”
It is not only "My Way" which gets people's blood boiling. In March 2008, a man in Thailand shot eight people, including his own brother-in-law, after he became enraged with their rendition of John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads". Weenus Chumkamnerd, the killer, told local media: "When I began shooting nobody pleaded for his life because they were all drunk. I warned these people about their noisy karaoke parties. I said if they carried on I would go down and shoot them. I had told them if I couldn’t talk sense into them I would come back and finish them off.”
All things considered, unless you have an independently confirmed great voice, it might be best to stick to singing in the shower. That is, just so long as it doesn't annoy your neighbours too much.