- - Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Paul Anka cemented a place in the pop music world as a teen idol with hits “Diana,” “Puppy Love,” “Lonely Boy” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” But that was merely the opening act for the Canadian crooner. Six decades after his debut recording, “I Confess,” he is a musical icon, fit as the proverbial fiddle and in demand worldwide.

On Saturday Mr. Anka will perform at Bethesda, Maryland’s Music Center at Strathmore as part of the kickoff of an extensive concert tour that showcases songs from his rich catalog.

“We do our homework before we leave home and have several surprises for the Strathmore audience,” Mr. Anka told The Washington Times. “We mold our concert to the [venue] by playing their favorite songs and even redoing arrangements. Wherever I perform, I travel with 25 musicians, some who have been with me for years.”

While still a youngster, Mr. Anka, set his sights on music by studying piano and theory, and honed the craft of writing by seeking advice from his high school English teacher. He even worked as a cub reporter on the local Ottawa newspaper.

“I applied what I learned in class and at the paper to writing lyrics,” he said. “I achieved a lot for my age. Even at 15, I had confidence in my lyrics because they expressed the honesty of adolescence. From 21 on, after composing ‘The Longest Day,’ I had a lot more confidence. I knew it was important to diversify. If I didn’t have a hit record, I kept working naturally and grew from that experience.”

From the outset, his love songs captivated fans. “Diana” catapulted to No. 1 on the charts when he was only 16. It was inspired by an “older” girl in his church choir, while “Lonely Boy” echoed the despair of many dateless youngsters.

“Because love is the strongest emotion, many of my songs are about love,” he said.

Mr. Anka spent his early years in Hollywood acting with other teen idols Annette Funicello, Mickey Rooney, Tuesday Weld and Mel Torme. While playing an Army private in “The Longest Day,” a 1962 film about the D-Day invasion, he convinced producer Darryl F. Zanuck to let him compose the title song.

Showbiz luck was often on his side. For several years, Mr. Anka lived and worked in Italy and France. While there, he took to a tune he heard on French radio and was subsequently granted permission to use the melody with English lyrics. It became “My Way,” Frank Sinatra’s signature song.

A chance meeting with Johnny Carson in London led to his composing “The Tonight Show” theme, just as his friendship with Tom Jones evolved into writing the British singer’s biggest hit, “She’s a Lady.”

“There’s no substitute for hard work,” Mr. Anka said. “Creativity is the dynamic force in life. I was self-sufficient, and people subliminally gravitate to creativity. I learned in Vegas from the best.”

The CD “Duets” pairs his vocals and arrangements with earlier recordings by Dolly Parton, Gloria Estefan, Celine Dion, Willie Nelson, Patti Labelle and others. He expressly composed “I’m Not Anyone” for Sammy Davis Jr., and also wrote “This Is It,” sung by Michael Jackson. Through fair means or foul, the song was renamed and credited to Jackson before the mistake was acknowledged.

One of Mr. Anka’s favorite current singers is Michael Buble, with whom he partners on “Pennies From Heaven.”

“I did Michael’s first album after learning that he was carrying the banner on pop American music,” Mr. Anka said. “I like not only pop singers but am also a fan of many different artists, such as Coldplay, Sting, Elton John and Adele, so I based my ‘Rock Swings’ album on music that may become the standards of tomorrow.”

Defying age, Mr. Anka’s over-the-top energy on stage and off is a tribute to his lifestyle. He recently chronicled his amazing life in his riveting autobiography, “My Way.”

“As you get older, you are conscious of how you live, eat, rest and take care of the vocal chords,” he said. “I’d like my audiences to remember that somewhere along the way, I made a difference.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: My Music, My Way, An Evening with Paul Anka

WHERE: Music Center at Strathmore, 10701 Rockville Pike, North Bethesda, Maryland, 20852

WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m.

INFO: Tickets: $25-$125 by calling 301/581-5100 or visiting strathmore.org.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide