Paul Albert Anka, OC (born July 30, 1941) is a Canadian singer, songwriter, and actor. He became a naturalized US citizen in 1990.
Anka first became famous as a teen idol in the late 1950s and 1960s with hit songs like "Diana'", "Lonely Boy", and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder". He went on to write 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", and the English lyrics for Frank Sinatra's signature song, "My Way".
In 1983, he co-wrote with Michael Jackson the song "I Never Heard," which 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," has since been discovered, and will be released in the near future.
Anka was born in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada. His parents were immigrants from Syria to Canada, who owned a successful restaurant in Ottawa. He sang with the St. Elias Antiochian Orthodox Church choir under the direction of Frederick Karam, with whom he studied music theory. He also studied piano with Winnifred Rees.
Anka recorded his first single "I Confess" at age 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 instant stardom as it rocketed to number one on the Canadian music charts. "Diana" is one of the best selling 45s 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 made #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 and then, with Buddy Holly, he toured Australia. Anka also wrote "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" a song written for Buddy Holly which Holly recorded just before he died in 1959.
His talent went beyond singing the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (reworked in 1962 from a song Anka wrote earlier called "Toot Sweet" which had been rewritten with lyrics and recorded by Annette Funicello in 1959 as "It's Really Love"); Tom Jones' biggest hit record "She's a Lady"; and the English lyrics to "My Way," Frank Sinatra's signature song sung by many well known artists.
In the 1960s Anka began acting in motion pictures as well as writing songs for them, most notably the theme for the hit movie The Longest Day. From his movie work, he wrote and recorded one of his greatest hits, "Lonely Boy" and also "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. Anka returns to Canada several times a year, regularly playing to sold out crowds at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, Ontario in Canada. In 1960, he appeared twice as himself in NBC's short-lived crime drama Dan Raven, starring Skip Homeier and set on the Sunset Strip of West Hollywood.
In 1960 Anka signed with RCA Records, but like most North American recording artists, saw his career stalled by the British Invasion. By the late 1960s, Anka's career centered around 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 hit record, he then signed with United Artists, and in 1974, he teamed up with Odia Coates to record the number one hit, (You're) Having My Baby. They would record two more duets that both made it into the Top 10. These were I Don't Like to Sleep Alone (#8) and One Man Woman/One Woman Man (#7). In 1975, he recorded a jingle for Kodak called Times of Your Life. The jingle, written by Bill Lane and Roger Nichols, became so popular that Anka recorded it as a full song, and it became a hit a year later, peaking at #7 in the U.S. pop charts.
His 1998 album A Body of Work, despite a name that makes it sound like a compilation, is actually his first new U.S. studio release since Walk a Fine Line in 1983; vocals and performers include Celine Dion, Kenny G, Patti LaBelle and Skyler Jett. On September 6, 1990, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 2005, his album Rock Swings, comprising big-band arrangements of contemporary standards, provided a mainstream comeback of sorts and saw Anka 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 musicians, and that it was co-written by Anka in 1983. According to Anka, after recording the song, Michael Jackson decided not to use it, and the tune was then recorded and released by singer Sa-Fire. After he threatened to sue for credit and a share of royalties the administrators of Jackson's estate granted Anka fifty percent 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, and will be released in the near future.
Already locally famous as a teenage idol for his songs in English language, in 1960 Anka tried to hit the Italian market with Summer's Gone, released as Dove Sei? with lyrics translated into Italian. The record got immediate success charting #4 in Italian hit lists opening a promising foreign career. Anka then underwent an intense cooperation with Italian musicians of the time, including composer/director Ennio Morricone, singer/songwriter Lucio Battisti and lyricist Mogol. His official discography reports nine 45rpm records released by RCA Italy, but the Italian charts list at least six other songs he interpreted or recorded in Italian language, his greatest success being Ogni giorno which scored #1 in 1962, followed by Pianger?? per te and Ogni volta that reached both #2 in 1963 and 1964 respectively. The latter was sung by Paul Anka during the Festival di San Remo of 1964. Anka went to San Remo again in 1968, this time with the song La farfalla impazzita by Battisti-Mogol. In that occasion, the same title was interpreted by Italian crooner Johnny Dorelli; however, the pair of singers was 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 Italian company Mapei during the CERSAIE exhibition. He also recorded a version of My Way with alternate lyrics dedicated to the sponsor of the evening.
In 2006, Paul Anka recorded in duet with 1960's Italian hitmaker Adriano Celentano a new cover of Diana, with Italian lyrics by Celentano-Mogol and with singer/songwriter Alex Britti on the guitar. The song immediately reached #3 on the charts.
With less success than in Italy, Anka tried the French market as well. At least two songs by Anka with French lyrics are known: one reported by the Italian charts (Faibles femmes, 1959) and another reported by his official discography (Comme Avant).
A single release in Japanese (Kokoro No Sasae / Shiawase E No Tabiji) is also reported on his discography.
He was married to Anne de Zogheb, the daughter of Lebanese diplomat Count Charles de Zogheb, from February 16, 1963 to September 28, 2000. Anka met de Zogheb in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1962. Of English, Lebanese, French, Dutch and Greek descent, she was a fashion model on assignment and under contract to the Eileen Ford Agency. The couple married the following year in a ceremony at Orly Airport in Paris. De Zogheb quit modeling after their second child Amanda was born. They have five daughters: Amelia, Anthea, Alicia, Amanda (wife of actor Jason Bateman) and Alexandra.
Anka has a child (Ethan, born 2005) with Swedish model and actress Anna Anka (born ??berg and earlier married Yeager), and is the stepfather of Anna Anka's daughter Elli, born 2002). Anka and Anna ??berg (she reverted to her maiden name after the divorce) were married in Sardinia during the summer of 2008. Anna is currently one of the women in the new Swedish TV3 show Svenska Hollywoodfruar (Swedish Hollywood wives).
In Canada, Ottawa City Council named 26 August 1981 'Paul Anka Day' to celebrate his 25th anniversary in show business. A street in Ottawa is named 'Paul Anka Drive' in his honour. He attended Fisher Park High School. The woman that inspired 'Diana' still lives and has a family in Ottawa. After a 1981 performance for which he received a negative review, he swore off performing in Ottawa and did not play there again for almost twenty years. He returned for a performance in April 2002 at a fundraiser gala at the Ottawa Congress Centre.
In 1991, he signed an investment agreement with the new Ottawa Senators NHL franchise. The agreement ended up being dissolved in an out-of-court settlement in 1993.
Some sources identify Anka's religion as being Catholic, others as Syriac Orthodox. According to Anna Anka, Paul is non-religious.
In popular culture
In 1962, he was the subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary Lonely Boy, considered a classic work of cinema verite.
Anka played a yacht broker in the 1992 cult classic movie Captain Ron starring Kurt Russell and Martin Short.
In the popular video game Hitman: Contracts, in the Abbatoir party mission, in the room where the player finds a girl hanging upside down and severely mutilated, 'Put Your Head On My Shoulder' is playing from a music player on repeat on the desk.
In October 1995, he appeared in "Treehouse of Horror VI" on The Simpsons.
He was also featured in the Molson beer commercial's I Am Canadian, The Anthem portion, where a clip of an old performance was shown in a montage of significant events of Canadian history for the ad.
On The CW show Gilmore Girls, Lorelai named her new dog Paul Anka. He made a guest appearance as himself in the episode 'The Real Paul Anka', which aired April 11, 2006.
He also made a guest appearance as himself in episode 'Red's Last Day' in the sitcom That '70s Show. The scene is like an episode of Playboy After Dark, but in Kelso's old van. He also made a few appearances on the NBC TV series Las Vegas.
In American Idol's Season 3, he made a special appearance and sang an adapted version of "My Way" that mocked the format of the show, as well as participants, participants of past seasons, judges and the host. The performance was praised as "One of the Best Moments in American Idol" by several members of the cast.
He became infamous among musicians, and more recently, Internet users for a mid-1970s after-show tirade which was secretly recorded by a 'snake we later fired' (Anka: Fresh Air interview). The diatribe, in which Anka berates his crew and band members, has spawned a number of in-joke references and quotations, the main ones being: 'The guys get shirts', 'Don't make a maniac out of me', and 'Slice like a hammer.' Some are reproduced verbatim by Al Pacino's character in the film Ocean's Thirteen.
"Crazy Love" (1958)
"You Are My Destiny" (1958)
"It's Time to Cry" (1959)
"Lonely Boy" (1959)
"I Miss You So" (1959)
"(All of A Sudden) My Heart Sings" (1959)
"Put Your Head on My Shoulder" (1959)
"Puppy Love" (1960)
"Tonight My Love, Tonight" (1961)
"Eso Beso (That Kiss)" (1962)
"Do I Love You" (1972)
"(You're) Having My Baby" (1974) - Duet with Odia Coates
"I Don't Like to Sleep Alone" (1974) - Duet with Odia Coates
"One Man Woman/One Woman Man" (1974) - Duet with Odia Coates
"Times of Your Life" (1975)
The Painter (1977)
The Music Man (1977)
"Walk a Fine Line" (1983)
"Hold Me 'Til the Morning Comes" (1983)
"It's Hard to Say Goodbye" (1986) - Duet with Regine Velasquez
"Somebody Loves You" (1989)
"It's Hard to Say Goodbye' (1998) - Duet with Celine Dion
Rock Swings # 9 UK (2005)
Classic Songs, My Way (2007)
Music of Canada