For Paul Anka, doing things his way meant not only having hits as a vocalist, but also using the power of composition to write hits for others.
“I knew I was a writer, and with writers, the power was always in the pen,” Anka said in his official bio on his website. “When I started writing for Buddy Holly and Connie Francis (in the late ‘50s), I felt that it made me different for people — they’d say, ‘Hey, you can write, you can fall back on something.’”
Whether it’s one of those songs or one of his many solo hits, Anka still performs these classics live and will make a stop on Oct. 6 at Silver Legacy.
Music was always at the forefront of Anka’s life. Born in 1941 in Ottawa, Canada, he played piano and sang in church from an early age. Anka’s first foray into performing was with a teenage doo-wop group called the Bobbysoxers.
As a late teen, Anka traveled to Los Angeles and New York to hit the record-company audition rounds. By the time 1957 rolled around, he was signed by ABC-Paramount Records. They released “Diana,” his own composition and a smash right out of the gate, going to No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts.
Anka said in his biography on his website that all of his early songs were autobiographical.
“I was alone, traveling, girls screaming, and I never got near them,” Anka said. “I’m a teenager and feeling isolated and all that. That becomes ‘Lonely Boy.’ At record hops, I’m up on stage and all these kids are holding each other with heads on each other’s shoulders. Then I have to go have dinner in my room because there are thousands of kids outside the hotel — ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulder’ was totally that experience.”
Extensive touring helped Anka continue his career long after his wave of teen idol stardom subsided. He also composed songs for others during the ‘60s and ‘70s, including the theme for “The Tonight Show,” heard mostly from its years hosted by Johnny Carson. One of his best-known songs is “My Way,” made famous by Frank Sinatra. Anka also wrote Tom Jones’ big hit, “She’s a Lady,” and wrote the Oscar-nominated theme for the 1962 film, “The Longest Day.”
Anka had a chart renaissance during the ’70s with big hits such as “You’re Having My Baby,” “Times of Your Life” and “One Man Woman, One Woman Man.” Among his work in subsequent decades were “Hold Me ’Til the Morning Comes” in 1983 (which featured a guest spot from singer Peter Cetera), a Spanish-language album called “Amigos” and “Body of Work,” which featured duets with Sinatra, Celine Dion, Patti LaBelle and Tom Jones. It also featured Anka with his daughter, Anthea.
He would also continue to be known for writing songs for others, as two ’80s co-writes with the late Michael Jackson became posthumous hits for the superstar, “This is It” and “Love Never Felt So Good.”