Paul Anka has been doing it his way for decades – and he has zero plans to slow down.
The celebrated singer turned the big 8-0 on July 30 and fans from across the country came together to celebrate his influence in music with a special birthday tribute.
Not missing a beat, the star recently released a new album, titled “Making Memories,” which is now available on all streaming platforms. It features duets with artists including Olivia Newton-John, Michael Bublé and Andrea Bocelli.
“It’s just good to still be doing what you’ve loved, doing [it] all your life, and being recognized by your friends and fans,” Anka told Fox News. “… People who have reached out to me, I don’t want them to go unnoticed. They were very much a part of the whole scene.”
Anka explained that the concept for the new album came from the past year when he was surrounded by nostalgia while isolating at home.
“You write the way you feel,” he said. “You’re looking at what’s happening in the world. You’re looking at relationships and it all starts to manifest itself… There [are] some strong social comments in there of what I felt… I’m really proud of this album, just by the mere fact that I’m still putting out things and songs and the way I feel.”
It was 1956 when the Canadian performer convinced his parents to let him travel to Los Angeles, where he would call every record company listed in the phone book in hopes of an audition. While a meeting with Modern Records resulted in the release of his first single, titled “Blau-Wile Deverest Fontaine,” it wasn’t a hit. That came in 1957 when he met with Don Costa of ABC-Paramount Records in New York. Anka performed several jingles, including “Diana,” which became his first number one hit, catapulting him to stardom.
“’Diana’ – I know it in my sleep, unfortunately,” Anka said with a chuckle. “But I still sing it.”
But one song that forever impacted the former teen idol was “My Way.” During a visit to France, Anka came across the torch song “Comme d’habitude,” which was performed and co-written by French pop singer Claude François, NPR reported. According to the outlet, Anka bought the rights to the song and kept its music but rewrote the lyrics in English with his hero in mind – Frank Sinatra. In 1968, the “chairman of the board” himself recorded the song. “My Way” revamped Sinatra’s career and it quickly became a pop culture phenomenon.
Paul Anka wrote “My Way” for his idol Frank Sinatra, which the singer turned into a smash hit. (Getty Images)
The track, celebrating its 50th anniversary, remained on the charts for years, the outlet noted. It was named the most played song at funerals and it has been covered by both Elvis Presley and Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.
“Sinatra was quitting show business and I felt really wrong about it to where I had to sit down [and write],” Anka explained, adding that the lyrics came to him within five hours. “It was going to be his last album that he was going to do.”
Anka can still vividly recall when he heard Sinatra sing “My Way” for the first time.
Singer Frank Sinatra (front center) holds a Grammy Awards as he is honored by celebrity friends Paul Anka, Glenn Ford, Phil Harris, Rich Little, Red Skelton, Julie Styne, Dean Martin, Dina Merrill and Henry Mancini during a 1979 banquet at Cesear’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nev. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
“I was in New York [in] my apartment,” he said. “He was in a studio in Los Angeles with my producer Don Costa. I had introduced Sinatra to Don Costa. He said, ‘Kid, listen to this.’… He put the phone next to the speaker and he said, ‘Listen.’ And I heard the song for the first time over the phone from LA to New York.”
“And I started crying,” he continued. “I felt the difference. I heard the difference because, in my low period in the ‘60s, I was still doing my thing, but I hadn’t really written anything like that. And I just started crying. I mean, they were happy tears of, ‘Wow, this is something. This is going to change my life.’ And it changed both our lives in a sense. But I was very moved.”
Anka added he still gets a kick out of artists recording the track.
Paul Anka got his start as a sought-after teen idol. (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty Images)
“It never ever gets dull,” he said. “I think Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols moved me when he did ‘My Way.’”
Sinatra died in 1998 at age 82. Today, Anka is paying tribute to ol’ blue eyes by hitting the road. This fall he’ll be kicking off a tour titled Anka Sings Sinatra: His Songs, My Songs, My Way! It’s expected to run through spring 2022.
His goal now, he said, is to help keep the legacy of Sinatra alive through song.
Paul Anka has gone viral on TikTok thanks to the classic hit “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.” (Photo by Larry Busacca/WireImage/Getty Images)
“I’m a huge fan [of Sinatra] – always was,” he explained. “And I love him as a person. He was really good to me. I do Sinatra stuff to keep the songbook alive. It’s like what attracted me to Michael Bublé when I first heard him. He’s keeping it alive and I’m proud of him. But what I do whenever I can is keep that core and that foundation of what our music was founded on. We should never forget.”
“And that demographic of people that I perform to now [includes] the TikTok crowd, which I hope to entertain with those songs,” he continued. “[They] need to hear those songs. And they need to remember Frank Sinatra because a lot of places I go, they don’t remember Johnny Carson. They don’t know Sammy Davis Jr. And it’s scary, you know? So I said, ‘OK, this tour is going to be a little bit of Frank, a lit bit of what I do. We’ll do something for the new album… And then everybody gets educated in a small way.'”
The star has been loving the newfound attention his track “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” has gotten on TikTok, a video-sharing app, among younger audiences.
Paul Anka (right) wrote “She’s a Lady,” which was then recorded by Tom Jones. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
“You know, I love it,” he said on the 1959 song being remixed on social media and going viral in 2021. “I thought it was innovative in a sense that it was very cute… I got a huge kick out of it.”
These days, Anka is thinking about what’s ahead for him. He hinted that a documentary and musical chronicling his career would be in the works soon.
“[Performing] – I miss that,” he said. “That’s what I am. That’s why I am. And as long as the health prevails, you know? … This has truly been a blessed journey.”
FOX’s Ashley Dvorkin contributed to this report.