Paul Anka Biography

30 July 1941, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. A prolific songwriter and child prodigy, Anka was one of the major teen-idols of the 50s. He burst onto the scene in 1957 with the self-written ‘Diana’, an intense ballad describing the frustration and unrequited love of a young teenager for a slightly older female. With its distinctive rhythm pattern, the song was powerfully evocative and stayed at the top of the UK charts for a lengthy nine weeks, as well as reaching number 1 in the USA. It sold a reported 10 million copies worldwide. Anka followed it with a series of hits such as ‘You Are My Destiny’, ‘Put Your Head On My Shoulder’ and ‘Puppy Love’. Adolescent worries and the desire to be taken seriously by condescending parents were familiar themes in those songs and contributed greatly to his success. As the 50s drew to a close, he wisely moved away from teen ballads and planned for a long-term future as a songwriter and cabaret artist. His moving ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ was a posthumous UK number 1 for Buddy Holly in 1959. By this time Anka had begun an acting career, appearing in Let’s Rock and Girls Town, the latter of which included the huge US hit ‘Lonely Boy’.

During the 60s the former teen star was a regular at New York’s Copacabana and Los Angeles’ Coconut Grove, and was much in demand on the nightclub circuit. Additionally, he attempted a serious acting career, making an appearance in The Longest Day (for which he also composed the title song). For much of the decade, however, he was earning large sums of money appearing at Las Vegas hotels. The success of Donny Osmond, meanwhile, who took ‘Puppy Love’ to the top in Britain, kept Anka’s early material alive for a new generation. Songwriting success continued, most notably with Frank Sinatra’s reading of his lyric to ‘My Way’ and Tom Jones’ million-selling ‘She’s A Lady’. In the 70s, Anka himself returned to number 1 in the USA courtesy of a risqué duet with his protégée Odia Coates, with the song ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’.

A spree of hits followed, punctuated by regular supper-club appearances. As late as 1983, the former 50s teen star was back in the charts with ‘Hold Me Till The Mornin’ Comes’. He continued to play lucrative seasons in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, and toured Europe in 1992 for the first time in 25 years. The following year he threatened to sue Dulux, a UK paint manufacturer, when their television commercial portrayed a sheepdog apparently singing a parody of ‘My Way’. In 1996 he released his first album aimed at the Latin market, with some of his greatest hits sung in Spanish and duets with artists including Celine Dion, Julio Iglesias and Jose Luis Rodriguez. The next release of note came in 2005 with Rock Swings, on which Anka bravely/foolishly (delete as appropriate) performed big band versions of modern pop and rock classics including Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Soundgarden’s ‘Blackhole Sun’

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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