Paul Anka

  • Singer and songwriter born in Ottawa Canada in 1941.
  • Anka lived in Canada, born from Lebanese-Canadian parents. He sang in his church choir, and studied the piano. At 12 years old, he was performing as an impressionist, and at 14, he started writing songs and entering vocal contests. His first single, I Confess, was released in 1956. When he was 16, he traveled to New York City with friends who sang together as The Rover Boys – an uncle gave him $100 for the trip.
  • While there, he auditioned for a record label, singing a song he composed about a former baby sitter called Diana. The label liked the song and it was recorded by Anka and released in 1957. It reached #1 on the Best Sellers in Stores chart and #2 on the Hot 100 chart, and it also topped the UK singles chart. Eventually, the single sold over 10 million copies globally. At 16, Anka became an overnight teen idol.
  • In 1958, Diana was included in Anka’s debut studio album, the self titled Paul Anka. Most of the other songs on the album were standards written by other songwriters. Over the following 2 years, 11 more singles were released that were included in 2 compilation albums and another studio album. Seven of the singles reached the top 20, with Lonely Boy topping the chart and one of his most iconic songs, Put Your Head On My Shoulder reaching #2.
  • He also was writing for other artists. In 1958, still only 17 years old, he toured in the UK and Australia with Buddy Holly, and he wrote a song that Holly recorded. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore was Holly’s last hit, as Holly was killed before it was released. Anka gave all writing royalties for the song to Holly’s wife.
  • His popularity naturally led to film work – his first film was Let’s Rock in 1958, and between 1958 and 1965, he performed in 6 films and 4 television shows.
  • He entered the 60s as one of the hottest talents in music. By 1961, he had written over 125 songs, he had his own record label and he was a millionaire – at 19 years old. At the time, Diana was the second best selling record of all time (behind White Christmas by Bing Crosby).
  • He continued to write hits, often for other artists. They included Puppy Love (written for Annette Funicello in 1960, with whom he was having an affair – Anka’s version peaked at #2 in 1960, and Donny Osmond covered it in 1972, taking it to #3), My Way (Frank Sinatra’s signature song released in 1969), Love Never Felt So Good (co-written with Michael Jackson, Jackson took it to #9 when it was released posthumously in 2014), She’s A Lady (Tom Jones’ biggest hit, peaking at #2 in 1971) and one of the most famous theme songs of all time, the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
  • By 1963, teen idols were no longer in vogue, replaced by the British Invasion. He had several top 20 hits in 1960, 1961 and 1962, but by the mid-60s, his music was not selling. He continued his success by grooming his act to appeal to the adult market – he became a regular performer in Las Vegas, he hosted television variety shows, and he took his act to Europe and Asia.
  • After years without a hit, he scored a major success in 1974 with 4 duets with American singer Odia Coates. Their first single was (Your) Having My Baby, which topped the Hot 100 chart. I remember this song very well – I thought it was awful, and it often is mentioned in lists of the worst songs of all time. They followed this with One Man Woman/One Woman Man, which peaked at #7 and I Don’t Like To Sleep Alone, which made it to #8. Their last hit was (I Believe) There Is Nothing Stronger Than Our Love, which peaked at #15 in 1975. That same year, Anka had his final top 10 hit with Times of Your Life, reaching #7 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart – the song originally was a television commercial jingle for Kodak film that featured Anka, and he subsequently recorded it and released it as a single.
  • He managed a couple more songs that were popular on the Adult Contemporary chart – Anytime made it to #2 in 1976, This Is Love reached #3 in 1978, and Hold Me ‘Til The Morning Comes reached #3 in 1982. He continued his popular performances in Las Vegas and abroad, and he continued to release albums into the new century, concentrating on swing jazz covers of rock classics, and duets with other artists like Michael Bublé, Jon Bon Jovi and Celine Dion.
  • I can’t say that I cared for Anka’s songs that he performed, but as a writer, I’m impressed with My Way and She’s A Lady – of course, Sinatra and Jones’ performances of these are legendary. Here is the teenage Anka singing the song made him millions, Diana.

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