From teen idol to pop legend, Paul Anka has done it his way

June 18, 2002 9:42 AM
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Paul Anka began his illustrious career by collecting enough soup-can labels to win a supermarket-sponsored trip from Ottawa, Ontario to New York City. Remember, he was still just a teenager, but once in the Big Apple, Paul entered amateur contests and sneaked into clubs, trying to gain notice as a singer-songwriter.

His efforts finally paid off when he pitched a song called "Diana" to producer Don Costa. Written about a crush he had on an older girl, the song impressed Costa as well as a pop audience who sent the hit to No. 1 on the charts ”” and turned the 16-year-old into a teen idol.

Since those days in the mid 1950s, Paul Anka has gone on to become one of the greatest songwriters in history. This year marks his 45th anniversary in show business, which he is celebrating with a year-long international tour, singing for record-breaking crowds.

Since the beginning of his career, Anka’s songs have been performed over 90 million times worldwide. Collectively, his record and single sales have totaled more than 50 million. Moreover, he has written over 900 songs, starting with "Diana" and continuing with classics such as "My Way," "Lonely Boy," "The Tonight Show Theme," "Put Your Head On My Shoulder," "Having My Baby," "Puppy Love" and "She’s A Lady." Now performing in his sixth decade in show business, Paul Anka has ­­entertained for heads of state, high rollers in casinos, charitable causes and has shared the microphone with Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Peter Cetera and his daughter Anthea. The most famous performers have recorded his music, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, Donny Osmond, Barbra Streisand and Buddy Holly.

Earlier this spring, Anka returned from his first performance in his native Ottawa, in more than 20 years. While there he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Canadian Liver Foundation and entertained an audience that included senators, ambassadors and Prime Minister and Mrs. Jean Chretien.

In Las Vegas, Anka performs twice a year for "my friends" at MGM Mirage resorts. " I’ve known them for a long time," Anka told GamingToday. "Whatever they ask, I will do."

In addition to Las Vegas, Anka is well-received at other casino venues. He regularly performs at Foxwoods in Connecticut, Hilton Resorts in Atlantic City and in Monte Carlo, Monaco.

Paul Anka has achieved unprecedented success in every venue: stage, screen, television, and recording. His musical compositions are internationally known and have been recorded by the greatest names in the industry.

He reached a milestone by being one of only a few artists to have a record on Billboard’s Top 50 charts for five consecutive decades. Anka has also been named the 21st most successful artist in Billboard’s history, and he has been consistently on top of Billboard’s pop music charts, putting him alongside music greats Elvis Presley and the Beatles.

In addition to a body of musical work that can be characterized as legendary, Paul Anka has also made contributions to television as well. For instance, he wrote the most recognized theme song in history. When Johnny Carson made his debut as host of "The Tonight Show" in 1962, the Anka written theme was there too. Since the debut the theme song has been performed over 1,400,000 times.

In addition, many memorable film and television programs bear the hallmark of Anka’s unmistakable musical signature. In addition to writing the theme music for "The Longest Day," Anka penned the theme music and the title song for Louis Malle’s "Atlantic City" which took top honors at the Venice Film Festival.

Throughout the world, the music of Paul Anka is loved and its creator admired, in no small part due to his own adaptability. In addition to a host of American hits abroad, Anka has recorded more than 10 albums in Japanese, German, Spanish, French and Italian, composing songs culturally tailored to each country. Having lived in Italy from 1964 to 1966, Anka claims a special love for that country and its people. To date he has sold more than 15 million albums and over 3 million singles of the Italian song "Ogni Volta." Seen in this light, Anka’s international celebrity is easily understood ”” a combination of his own hard work and his music’s universal appeal.

Solidifying his position as a top name in the U.S. gaming entertainment industry, Paul Anka recently signed an unprecedented four-year deal with Hilton in Atlantic City, and with Native American-owned Foxwoods in Connecticut for over $6 million. In an industry where two-year contracts are the norm, these contracts acknowledge the drawing power of the Anka name on the marquee.

In addition to his influence on the TV industry, Anka has not gone unnoticed on the Silver Screen. Anka appeared in his seventh film "Mad Dog Time" co-starring Richard Dreyfus and Gabriel Byrne. Also in the works is a sequel to the critically acclaimed documentary of Anka’s early career, "Lonely Boy."

As an actor, Anka made his motion picture debut in 1962 with the Academy Award winning movie "The Longest Day," in which he portrayed a GI. He then went on to appear in a variety of television programs including his initial return to the screen in NBC’s "Perry Mason The Case Of The Maligned Mobster" for which he achieved critical acclaim.

Raised in Ottawa, Ontario, Anka developed a talent for songwriting through school courses in English and Journalism. Anka proved to be a child prodigy, beginning his show-business life at the age of 12 as an impressionist. By the age of 14, he was stealing the family car to drive to amateur singing contests in Montreal. His life was forever altered, however, on that fateful trip to New York with a song he had written for a girl four years his senior. He may have lost the girl, but we won a lifelong career that has been second to none.

FEATHERED FRIENDS ”” Paul Anka is popular at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City.

Paul Anka Hits

Diana

You Are My Destiny

Lonely Boy

Put Your Head on My

Shoulder

Puppy Love

Hello Young Lovers

Fools Hall of Fame

Silvia

Having My Baby

My Way

My Heart Sings

You Are My Destiny

Tonight My Love

No Way Out

Second Chance

This is the First Time

Times of Your Life3