Receiving strong reviews upon its release, My Life is now regarded as a high point in the discographies of Eno and Byrne. In a 1985 interview, singer Kate Bush remarked that the album "left a very big mark on popular music," while critic John Bush describes it as a "pioneering work for countless styles connected to electronics, ambience, and Third World music." The extensive use of sampling on My Life is widely considered ground-breaking—it was one of the first albums to do so—but its actual influence on the sample-based music genres that later emerged continues to be debated.
Eno and Byrne first worked together while collaborating on More Songs About Buildings and Food, the 1978 album by Byrne's band Talking Heads. My Life was primarily recorded during a break between touring for Fear of Music (1979) and the recording of Remain in Light (1980), subsequent Talking Heads albums also produced by Eno, but the release was delayed while legal rights were sought for the large number of samples used throughout the album.
Drawing on funk and world music (particularly the multi-layered percussion of African music), My Life is similar to Talking Heads' music of the same era. The "found objects" credited to Eno and Byrne were common objects used mostly as percussion. In the notes for the 2006 expanded edition of the album, Byrne writes that they would often use a normal drum kit, but with a cardboard box replacing the bass drum, or a frying pan replacing the snare drum; this would blend the familiar drum sound with unusual percussive noises.
However, rather than featuring conventional pop or rock singing, most of the vocals are sampled from other sources, such as commercial recordings of Arabic singers, radio disc jockeys, and an exorcist. Musicians had previously used similar sampling techniques, but critic Dave Simpson declares it had never before been used "to such cataclysmic effect" as on My Life.
The album was recorded entirely with analog technology, before the advent of digital sequencing and MIDI. The sampled voices were synchronized with the instrumental tracks via trial and error, a practice that was often frustrating, but which also produced several happy accidents.