- Both Sides Now
Paul Albert Anka, OC (born July 30, 1941) is a Canadian singer, songwriter and actor.
Anka became famous in the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s with hit songs like “Diana“, “Lonely Boy“, “Put Your Head on My Shoulder“, and “(You’re) Having My Baby“. He wrote such well-known music as the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and one of Tom Jones‘s biggest hits, “She’s a Lady“, as well as the English lyrics for Frank Sinatra‘s signature song, “My Way“, which has been covered by many including Elvis Presley. He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2005.
In 1983, he co-wrote the song “I Never Heard” with Michael Jackson. It was retitled and released in 2009 under the name “This Is It“. An additional song that Jackson co-wrote with Anka from this 1983 session, “Love Never Felt So Good“, was since discovered and was released on Jackson’s posthumous album Xscape in 2014. The song was also released by Johnny Mathis in 1984.
Anka became a naturalized US citizen in 1990.
Anka was born in Ottawa, Ontario to Camelia (née Tannis) and Andrew Emile “Andy” Anka, Sr., who owned a restaurant called the Locanda. His parents were both Antiochian Orthodox Christians. Anka’s father was Syrian, his mother was Lebanese.
Anka sang with the St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church choir under the direction of Frederick Karam, with whom he studied music theory. He studied piano with Winnifred Rees. He attended Fisher Park High School, where he was part of a vocal trio called the Bobby Soxers.
Paul Anka recorded his first single, “I Confess“, when he was 14. In 1957 he went to New York City where he auditioned for Don Costa at ABC, singing what was widely believed to be a lovestruck verse he had written to a former babysitter. In an interview with NPR’s Terry Gross in 2005, he stated that it was to a girl at his church whom he hardly knew. The song “Diana” brought Anka stardom as it rocketed to #1 on the Canadian and U.S. music charts. “Diana” is one of the best selling singles ever by a Canadian recording artist. He followed up with four songs that made it into the Top 20 in 1958, including “It’s Time to Cry”, which hit #4 and “(All Of a Sudden) My Heart Sings”, which reached #15, making him (at 17) one of the biggest teen idols of the time. He toured Britain, then Australia with Buddy Holly. Anka also wrote “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” – a song written for Holly, which Holly recorded just before he died in 1959. Anka stated shortly afterward:
“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” has a tragic irony about it now, but at least it will help look after Buddy Holly’s family. I’m giving my composer’s royalty to his widow – it’s the least I can do.
Paul Anka’s talent included the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (reworked in 1962 from a song Anka wrote earlier called “Toot Sweet“; it had been rewritten with lyrics and recorded by Annette Funicello in 1959 as “It’s Really Love“). Anka composed Tom Jones‘s biggest hit record, “She’s a Lady“, and wrote the English lyrics to “My Way“, Frank Sinatra‘s signature song (originally the French song “Comme d’habitude”). In the 1960s Anka began acting in motion pictures as well as writing songs for them, most notably the theme for the hit film The Longest Day (which also was the official march of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, in which he made a cameo appearance as a US Army Ranger. For his film work he wrote and recorded one of his greatest hits, “Lonely Boy“. He also wrote and recorded “My Home Town”, which was a #8 pop hit for him the same year. He then went on to become one of the first pop singers to perform at the Las Vegas casinos.
In 1960, Anka signed with RCA Victor. He bought the rights and ownership of his ABC-Paramount catalog in 1963, but like most North American recording artists saw his career stalled by the British Invasion. By the late 1960s, his career focused on adult contemporary and big-band standards, played regularly in Las Vegas. In the early 1970s he signed with Buddah Records. After more than ten years without a top 25 hit record, he signed with United Artists and in 1974 teamed up with Odia Coates to record the #1 hit, “(You’re) Having My Baby“. The two would record two more duets that made it into the Top 10, “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” (#7) and “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” (#8), and the #15 duet “(I Believe) There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love”. In 1975 he recorded a jingle for Kodak written by Bill Lane (lyrics) and Roger Nichols (melody) called “Times of Your Life“. It became so popular Anka recorded it as a full song, which peaked at #7 in the U.S. pop chart in 1976. The follow-up was another hit that Anka wrote for Sinatra, “Anytime (I’ll Be There)”, peaking at #33. Anka’s last Top 40 hit in the U.S. was in the summer of 1983: “Hold Me ‘Til The Mornin’ Comes”, which included backing vocals from then-Chicago frontman Peter Cetera; it hit #2 on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart.
His 1998 album A Body of Work was his first new U.S. studio release since Walk a Fine Line in 1983; vocalists and performers included Celine Dion, Kenny G, Patti LaBelle, and Skyler Jett. The album included a new version of “Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes”, once again performed with Peter Cetera. In 2005, his album of big-band arrangements of contemporary standards, Rock Swings, provided a mainstream comeback of sorts that saw him awarded a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto.
On October 12, 2009, Anka stated that Michael Jackson‘s new release titled “This Is It” was a collaborative effort between the two in 1983. According to Anka, after recording the song, Jackson decided not to use it and the tune was then recorded and released by Sa-Fire. After Anka threatened to sue for credit and a share of royalties, the administrators of Jackson’s estate granted Anka 50% of the copyright. An additional song that Jackson co-wrote with Anka from this 1983 session, “Love Never Felt So Good”, was discovered shortly thereafter.
Already locally famous as a teenage idol for his songs in English, Anka hit the Italian market with “Summer’s Gone” in 1960; it was released as “Dove Sei”. The record got immediate success, reaching #4 on Italian hit lists, opening a promising foreign career. Anka then underwent an intense collaboration with Italian musicians of the time, including composer/director Ennio Morricone, singer/songwriter Lucio Battisti, and lyricist Mogol. His official discography reports nine singles released by RCA Italy, but the Italian charts list at least six other songs he interpreted or recorded in Italian. His top hit was “Ogni giorno” which scored #1 in 1962, followed by “Piangerò per te” and “Ogni volta”, which reached both #2, in 1963 and 1964. “Ogni volta” (“Every Time”) was sung by Anka during the Festival di Sanremo of 1964 and then sold more than one million copies in Italy alone; it was also awarded a gold disc.
He returned to San Remo in 1968 with “La farfalla impazzita” by Battisti–Mogol. On that occasion the same title was interpreted by Italian crooner Johnny Dorelli. The pair of singers, however, were eliminated before the final stage of the competition. Anka, maybe only coincidentally, left the Italian scene shortly thereafter. In 2003 Anka came back with an exclusive concert in Bologna, organized by the Italian company Mapei during the CERSAIE exhibition. He recorded a version of “My Way” with alternate lyrics dedicated to the sponsor of the evening.
Anka was married to Anne de Zogheb, the daughter of a Lebanese diplomat, Charles de Zogheb, from February 16, 1963, until 2001. The couple met in 1962 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she was a fashion model on assignment and under contract to the Eileen Ford Agency. Zogheb, brought up in Egypt, is of Lebanese, English, French, Dutch, and Greek descent. The couple married the following year in a ceremony at Paris-Orly Airport. She quit modelling after their second child was born. They have five daughters: Amelia, Anthea, Alicia, Amanda (married to actor Jason Bateman), and Alexandra.
In 1972, a street in Ottawa was named Paul Anka Drive. In 1981, the Ottawa City Council named August 26 as “Paul Anka Day” to celebrate his quarter-century in show business. On September 6, 1990, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Anka has written an autobiography, My Way, co-written with David Dalton.
In the mid-1980s, Anka was secretly recorded while launching a tirade against his crew and band members, berating them for behavior that he considered unprofessional. When asked about it on the interview program Fresh Air, he referred to the person who did the recording as a “snake we later fired”. The recording became widely known after being uploaded to the Internet and a number of quotes from it have since become famous, including “The guys get shirts!”; “Don’t make a maniac out of me!”; and “Slice like a fucking hammer!”. Some of the quotes were reproduced verbatim by Al Pacino‘s character in the 2007 film Ocean’s Thirteen.