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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. Johnny Mathis also released the song in 1984.
Anka was born in Ottawa, Ontario in Canada to Andy and Camelia Anka who owned a restaurant called The Locanda there. His parents are of Assyrian descent. 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 love struck 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 who he hardly knew. The song, "Diana", brought Anka instant stardom as it rocketed to number one on the Canadian and U.S. music charts.
"Diana" is one of the best selling singles 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. Anka stated shortly afterward –
“It Doesn't Matter Anymore" has a tragic irony about it now, but at least it will help look after Buddy Holly's family. I'm giving my composer's royalty to his widow - it's the least I can do”.
His talent went beyond 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") since Anka composed Tom Jones' biggest hit record "She's a Lady" and wrote 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, in which he made a cameo appearance as a US Army Ranger. 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 signed with United Artists and in 1974 teamed up with Odia Coates to record the number one hit, (You're) Having My Baby. They would record two more duets that made it into the Top 10, I Don't Like to Sleep Alone (#8) and One Man Woman/One Woman Man (#7). In 1975 he recorded a jingle for Kodak written by Bill Lane (lyrics) and Roger Nichols (melody) called Times of Your Life. It became so popular Anka recorded it as a full song, which peaked at #7 in the U.S. pop charts in 1976. His final Top-40 hit in the U.S. to date was Hold Me Til The Mornin' Comes that debuted in the summer of 1983, which included backing vocals from then-Chicago frontman Peter Cetera.
His 1998 album A Body of Work was 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. The album also included a new version of "Hold Me 'Til the Morning Comes," once again performed with Peter Cetera. On September 6, 1990, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 2005, his album of big-band arrangements of contemporary standards, Rock Swings, provided a mainstream comeback of sorts that 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 underwent an intense collaboration 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 top hit has been "Ogni giorno" which scored #1 in 1962, followed by "Piangerò per te" and "Ogni volta", that reached both #2 in 1963 and 1964 respectively. "Ogni volta" ("Every Time") was sung by Anka during the Festival di San Remo of 1964 and then sold over one million copies in Italy alone; it was also awarded a gold disc.
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, 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 with Mireille Mathieu).
A single release in Japanese (Kokoro No Sasae / Shiawase E No Tabiji) is also reported on his discography.
In 1993 he recorded a duet with Philippine singer Regine Velasquez entitled "It's Hard to Say Goodbye" included in her album Reason Enough. This song was re-recorded several years later by Anka and Celine Dion and was included in his album A Body of Work.
Anka was married to Anne de Zogheb, the daughter of Lebanese diplomat Charles de Zogheb, from February 16, 1963 to September 28, 2000. He met Zogheb, a fashion model on assignment and under contract to the Eileen Ford Agency in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1962. Zogheb, raised in Egypt, is of English, Lebanese, French, Dutch and Greek descent. The couple married the following year in a ceremony at Orly Airport in Paris. She quit modeling after their second child was born. They have five daughters (youngest to oldest): Amelia, singer and writer Anthea Anka, Alicia, Amanda (wife of actor Jason Bateman) and Alexandra.
Anka has a son (Ethan, born 2005) with Swedish model and actress Anna Anka (maiden name Åberg and earlier married Yeager), and is the stepfather of Anna Anka's daughter Elli, born 2002. Anka and Anna Åberg (she reverted to her maiden name after the divorce) were married in Sardinia during the summer of 2008. She is thirty years his junior. Paul and Anna divorced in 2010 and share custody of their son, Ethan.
Anna was featured in the Swedish TV3 show Svenska Hollywoodfruar (Swedish Hollywood wives).
In 1981, Ottawa City Council named 26 August 'Paul Anka Day' to celebrate his 25th anniversary in show business. A street in Ottawa was named 'Paul Anka Drive' in 1975 in his honor. He attended Fisher Park High School as well as Lisgar Collegiate Institute.
The woman that inspired 'Diana' lives with her family in Ottawa. After receiving a negative review for a 1981 performance in Ottawa, he swore off performing there and did not play there again for almost twenty years, until an April 2002 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.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s he starred in a couple of teen exploitation films including Girls Town (1959) and Look in Any Window (1961) in which he played a peeping tom.
Anka played a yacht broker in the 1992 film Captain Ron. In October 1995, he appeared in "Treehouse of Horror VI" on The Simpsons. 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 has also made several appearances on the NBC TV series Las Vegas. 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 played a part in the film 3000 Miles To Graceland as the Pit Manager and was the subject of the 1962 National Film Board of Canada documentary Lonely Boy, considered a classic work of cinema verite.
Anka wrote and performed songs in a 1985 Canadian children's Christmas cartoon, George and the Christmas Star.
In American Idol's Seasons 2 and 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.
In an episode of the animated TV series The Simpsons entitled "Treehouse of Horror VI", he guest stars as himself.
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.
Anka's song "(You're) Having My Baby" was featured on the first season of the TV show Glee, namely in Episode 10, "Ballad", in which the character Finn sings the song to his pregnant girlfriend, Quinn.
Sometime in the mid-1980s, Anka was secretly recorded while launching a tirade against his crew and band members, berating them for unprofessional behavior in the show they had just played. (Asked about it on the interview program Fresh Air, Anka referred to the person who did the recording as a "snake we later fired"). The recording became widely known after being uploaded to the internet, and a number of quotes from it have since become famous, including "The guys get shirts", "Don't make a maniac out of me", and "Slice like a fucking hammer". Some of the quotes were reproduced verbatim by Al Pacino's character in the 2007 film Ocean's Thirteen.
On the TV show Gilmore Girls, Lorelai's dog was named Paul Anka; series co-creator Dan Palladino said he chose that name after hearing the Rock Swings album.