Born July 30, 1941, in Ottawa, Canada, into a close-knit family, Paul Anka didn’t waste time getting his life in music started. From an early age he sang in a choir, studied piano and honed his writing skills with journalism courses, even working as a cub reporter at the Ottawa Citizen. By 13, he had his own vocal group, the Bobbysoxers. Blinded by determination, he would take his mother’s car and drive to perform at every amateur night he could across the river in Quebec. Soon after, he won a trip to New York by winning a Campbell’s soup contest that required him to spend three months collecting soup can labels. After visiting the music hub of New York, was there that his dream to make it as a singer composer was solidified. There was not a doubt in his young tenacious mind.
In 1956, he convinced his parents to let him travel to Los Angeles to visit his uncle, where he hitchhiked to a meeting with Modern Records that led to the release of Anka’s first single, “Blau-Wile Deveest Fontaine.” The inspiration for the song came from a book he was reading for a report he had to write for Fisher Park school by the former Governor General of Canada, John Buchan. Although it was not a hit, Anka kept plugging away. He went so far as to sneak into Fats Domino’s dressing room in Ottawa to meet him and his manager. In the dressing room, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry were sitting there and Anka sang his music to them. They told him to stay in school. When Anka returned to New York in 1957, he scored a meeting with Don Costa, the A&R representative for ABC-Paramount Records, playing him a batch of songs that included “Diana”. Costa was duly enthusiastic about the potential of the young singer and songwriter. The rapid and enormous success of “Diana”, his first number one hit, made him a star at the young age of 15.
Soon Paul found himself traveling by bus with the ‘Cavalcade of Stars’ with the top names of the day. He honed his craft surrounded by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Frankie Lymon, and Chuck Berry. Anka was the youngest entertainer to ever perform at the Copacabana.
After a few hit songs, Anka confident in his talent as a writer wisely knew that being a songwriter meant the power was in the pen. As a result, he went on to write for Connie Francis, Leslie Gore, and Buddy Holly (including the last song Holly ever recorded, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”). Other hit songs include the Academy Award-nominated theme for the 1962 film in which he starred, The Longest Day. He notably penned the longest running theme in television history for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Songwriting and performing “are what gave me the confidence to keep going,” he says. In the early 60’s, he became a junior associate of Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Even with the British invasion, Anka still had chart records. He moved to Italy and outsold the Italians, selling an astonishing 4 million records there. In the late 60’s, Anka wrote “My Way” for Frank Sinatra and by the 70’s, he had another string of hits like “(You’re) Having My Baby”, “Don’t Like To Sleep Alone”, and “Times Of Your Life” which confirmed his status as an icon of popular music.
His later achievements as a recording artist included the charted song, “Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes,” a hit duet with Peter Cetera in 1983, the Spanish-language album Amigos in 1996, and Body of Work, a 1998 duets album that featured Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion, Tom Jones and daughter Anthea Anka. If this wasn’t enough, it was revealed upon its release in 2009, that Anka co-wrote Michael Jackson’s posthumous #1 worldwide hit, “This Is It,” which has further cemented his place upon the most prolific and versatile songwriters of any generation.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Rock Swings and Classic Songs, My Way – ingeniously featured songs originally created by some of the biggest rock performers of the day. Anka, of course, did the songs ‘his way.’ Rock Swings went Top 10 in the UK, and was certified gold in the UK, France, and Canada, hit No. 2 on Billboard’s Top Jazz Albums chart and went on to sell half a million units worldwide.
On November 15, 2011, Anka released his first Christmas album in decades. Songs of December featured lush romantic versions of popular Christmas songs such as “Let It Snow”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. All were recorded with a full orchestra in the renowned Capitol studios and sung by a music legend. It is a true holiday classic.
In April 2013, Anka released his New York Times Bestselling autobiography, published by St. Martin’s Press, entitled My Way. This autobiography is a remarkable story of a decades-long career as an entertainer, actor, and songwriter. During the same time, his new 14-song album entitled Duets was released by Sony Music Entertainment and featured artists such as Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones, Celine Dion, and Michael Bublé (who Anka was with from the start of his career as well as co-producer on his self-titled album in 2003). Duets provides a musical journey through the life and times of Paul Anka and includes heartfelt liner notes written by Anka himself as an introduction to the classic songs he and his collaborators have chosen. Duets set a milestone in Billboard Chart history because with the CD, Anka became the only artist to have a CD on the Billboard Top 100 Chart for seven consecutive decades.
In 2014, Anka saw the release of another song he co-wrote with Michael Jackson entitled “Love Never Felt So Good” off of Jackson’s album Xscape. The song was also recorded as a duet with Justin Timberlake. As lead song off of Jackson’s CD and it’s first single, it has received massive radio, sales, and critical success and reached #1 in over 50 countries!