The Untold Truth Of Paul Anka

Paul Anka was always meant to be a musician and a cultural phenomenon. According to Biography, the singer got his start early — he was just a teen when he released his popular song, "Diana," and before he knew it, Paul Anka was gaining fans and getting familiar with the music industry. Anka didn't get to be a regular teen, though. He once said, "My life as a teen ended at 16. I went into another sphere."

Interestingly, despite managing to gain so much attention from music enthusiasts everywhere, in his Canadian hometown, Ottawa, he didn't get much attention. At one of his shows in the 1950s, the crowds booed him and ridiculed the singer. He was so hurt that he didn't come back to perform there for several years. Also, as a popular musician, Anka saw ups and downs in his career, learning from his experiences and making the most of his talent. 

Some of his most popular tracks include "Puppy Love," "You're My Destiny," "I Don't Like To Sleep Alone," and "Put Your Head On My Shoulder." He's still going strong as a musician. Anka told Entertainment Weekly that the COVID-19 pandemic gave the opportunity to work on his music. He said, "I've written a lot of songs and I started the process months and months and months ago, and I don't know, it's just been rolling out of me." This is the untold truth of Paul Anka.

Paul Anka had a happy childhood

Paul Anka was born in 1941 in Ottawa, Canada. As per Biography, his parents were Lebanese-Canadian. His dad owned an eatery called the Locanda, which is where Anka often hung out as a kid, helping his folks in the kitchen. The restaurant was especially popular among the local media professionals and Anka got a chance to interact with some of them.

His childhood was mostly a fulfilling one, filled with memorable experiences and happy memories. As highlighted in the autobiography, "My Way," his mom did her best to support her son and encouraged him to chase his dreams. Anka wrote, "she understood that the more unlikely your dreams are the more fiercely you have to pursue them." The singer also mentioned that his family was loving. He was interested in hockey in his early years, and played it religiously. 

As an athletic kid, he stayed as busy as he could and was always up to something. At the same time, Anka sensed a restlessness inside him, an urge to explore the world beyond the town that he was raised in. He wanted adventure, something that he eventually acknowledged and decided to focus on.

He got into music as a kid

Even as a child, Paul Anka was fascinated by music. According to All Music, it wouldn't be wrong to call him a "child prodigy." He was getting noticed as a performer when he was just 12 years old. In the next couple of years, he would work on his skills further, and end up sneaking out to singing contests without telling his parents. He'd also already started writing songs by himself, and was keen to explore more.

Per Anka's official website, he was also a part of a local church choir and spent some time learning how to play the piano. At the age of 13, he started a vocal group named the Bobbysoxers. Around that time, Anka got lucky and ended up going to New York for a while after winning a competition organized by the Campbell's soup company. His time in New York made the young singer realize that he definitely wanted to give a music career a shot and enter showbiz as a performer.

He considered pursuing journalism

In his book, "My Way," Paul Anka mentions that as a teen, he seriously thought about focusing on a writing career. Before he was certain about music, he spent a couple of years studying English literature and even worked at the Ottawa Citizen, where he wrote some stories and took care of errands in the office. Additionally, Anka managed to rack up school awards for his writing and knew that he had a knack for it. He joked that he thought about copying lines from Shakespeare's work and turning them into song lyrics at some point.

According to the Herald-Mail Media, Anka's journalist father was keen to see his son follow in his footsteps. However, these plans went for a toss when Anka was removed from his shorthand classes, something that upset Anka and made him reconsider his writing goals. He got distracted from journalism and started composing poetry instead.

Diana was for someone special

One of Paul Anka's most well-known songs, "Diana" was no accident. Per his 2013 book, "My Way," Anka came up with this song for someone he knew. He was 15 years old when he first set his eyes on Diana Ayoub, a 19-year-old woman who went to the same church as him. He was attracted to her and decided to try his luck by approaching her and asking her out. Unfortunately, Ayoub wasn't impressed and didn't take much notice.

However, for Anka, she was a mystery, a source of joy. Anka wrote, "Diana was my inspiration, the fantasy girlfriend — and imagined problem." Also, Anka knows that some stories have claimed that Ayoub was his babysitter, which was never the case. He has said that she may have been a babysitter to his siblings, but that wasn't the case with him. Things never really moved forward between them but Anka couldn't help but write a song about his crush anyway. As the singer admitted, "...that's where songs come from: out of stories you tell yourself in your mind."

Interestingly, "Diana" is reported to have been the inspiration behind Princess Diana's name. The Independent reports that Anka was told by a friend of the royal's that Diana's mother, Frances, was a fan of the song and named her daughter after it.

Paul Anka shared a connection with Buddy Holly

In 1959, musicians and friends Paul Anka and Buddy Holly worked on a song together called "It Doesn't Matter Anymore." According to News 4 San Antonio, Anka said that he wrote this song for Holly, who died in a plane crash a few weeks after the song was finished. Anka made sure to give all the royalties from the song to Holly's heartbroken wife.

Anka wrote about his friend and the devastating plane crash in "My Way," saying "when you're very young and something like that happens, everything seems to come to a standstill. ... Buddy's death left a big hole in my life, an enormous silence." Anka was in a state of disbelief. He lost his friend suddenly, someone he had spent a lot of time with and gone on several music tours with. In "My Way," he says that he toured less after the incident, and that "the road just wasn't the same anymore."

He went through a low point

Paul Anka went through a difficult period in the late 1960s. In "My Way," he describes wondering how he could reinvent himself as an artist. He wrote,"...after 13 years I was wondering if I could still find a new place for myself in the business. I knew I could survive performing my old hits — but what else was I going to do?" Anka had already realized that music tastes were evolving and artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were starting to make their presence felt in the music scene.

The rise of the Beatles was something that made Paul Anka feel "intimidated." He could see that younger musicians were getting a lot of attention and things were changing quickly. Anka said, "...these weren't just cultural changes; we were looking at our own mortality as performers in terms of making a living in the industry." Things were getting competitive and Anka had to figure out a way to stay relevant. To his credit, he created solutions and worked hard to keep himself going during the difficult times.

He worked in nightclubs for a long time

Paul Anka wasn't just a teen music sensation who managed to enthrall his listeners with his voice. According to Macleans, the star also took to performing in nightclubs later in his career, playing music for older audiences in the U.S. He was pretty self-aware about his approach and said, "look, I broke into this business when rock 'n' roll music was commercial. Naturally I exploited it. I can sing better songs and I can write better music. I'm a showman."

The singer considered this as a milestone in his career. He wrote in his book, "My Way" that in the late 1950s, his "second incarnation" took place when he started performing in nightclubs. One of his major shows was at Lotus Club in Washington D.C. where his work was appreciated. He quickly started getting more offers to perform in other clubs across the U.S., something that really helped build his image and contributed to his growth as an artist.

Per Buffalo News, Anka was heavily involved in the Las Vegas scene. He even owned clubs and was a regular, hanging out often with stars like Frank Sinatra. He also got a chance to get a closer look at the city's mobster culture, which was prevalent in those days. 

Losing his mom was very difficult

1961 was a particularly tough year for Paul Anka. According to the Globe and Mail, he lost his mom that year. She was only 37 at the time, and her death was attributed to complications related to diabetes. The singer said, "she was my ally. She made the difference." He was referring to how supportive she'd been about his career choices.

As per "My Way," Anka's mom had been suffering for a long time. The singer writes that healthcare wasn't as advanced in those times, and that she had severe complications from her condition. Anka also mentioned, "if my family was my core, my mother was the source of my strength — I got it all from her until the day I buried her." Her funeral was attended by hundreds of people who showed up to pay their last respects. 

The singer revealed that losing his mother was heartbreaking for the family. His dad didn't know how to deal with the loss and was by himself for a long time. After her death, it was Anka's responsibility to support his siblings and help them finish their education.

Anka has said that he was grateful that his mom got to hear him play all his major hits at home, and revealed that he dedicated a song to her, "You Are My Destiny." He attributed his success to her faith and wrote, "it was her faith in me that had driven me throughout my life."

Paul Anka's personal life has been topsy-turvy

Paul Anka's romantic relationships have been tricky. As per The Express, he regrets not being able to make his three marriages work, and that he couldn't be involved as a parent when he was with his first wife, Anne de Zogheb. He said that he did attempt to give family life his best shot, but he was often away on account of his work commitments. When the relationship fell apart, Anka blamed himself.

His second marriage was messy. He said that he decided to tie the knot with personal trainer Anna Aberg after she told him that she was pregnant. They reportedly only had a casual relationship before they found out about the baby. It didn't last: the couple parted ways 18 months after they got married. Anka was given full custody of the child after the divorce.

His third relationship was with Lisa Pemberton, and Anka has said he simply didn't feel happy when they were together. The musician recalled one example, saying "one day I pulled out my birth certificate and said, 'See this? How much longer do I have? I can't live like this any more!'" They separated in 2020.

He was once caught being mean to his crew members

Paul Anka hasn't been able to completely avoid controversies in his career. In the 1980s, the singer was secretly filmed lashing out at his band members for their performance and appearance, including them wearing t-shirts on stage. Anka's rant was leaked and and shared. In fact, it went on to inspire dialog for Al Pacino in the movie "Ocean's 13" — specifically, "I slice like a f***ing hammer."

When Anka was asked about the incident, he didn't take to it kindly and said that the footage was shot by "a snake we later fired" (via VH1). One of the things he said in the recorded rant was, "I have a new philosophy. I don't care if it's Jesus Christ. I'm the only important one on that stage. If you don't do it my way, then it's the highway."

He knew Frank Sinatra really well

For Paul Anka, Frank Sintra was one of his greatest musical icons. According to "My Way," the singers spent a lot of time together in Las Vegas, and Anka admired Sinatra for his star power. Anka wrote, "He took no sh** from anyone. He was a people's star. We all wanted to emulate him but knew we couldn't. He was the boss."

According to Anka's official website, the musician revered Sinatra and was fascinated by the kind of songs he wrote. When the crooner told Anka that it was time for him to bid adieu to rock n' roll, he was deeply affected and ended up penning the iconic song, "My Way" for Sinatra. As per Closer Weekly, Anka wanted to ensure that Sintara went out on a high note. Anka mentioned that Sinatra had opened up to him. "He was being hassled, had all kinds of things going against him, but he wanted to do one last album. I realized that if I wanted to write for him, it had to be now," Anka said.

According to CBC, "My Way" was inspired from a French track titled "Comme d'habitude." When he was done writing the song, Anka was quite overwhelmed by what he'd managed to pull off, saying that he was sure that it was going to be a massive hit. He was correct. Sinatra's recorded version of "My Way" is iconic.

Paul Anka takes his songwriting seriously

According to the Shropshire Star, Paul Anka really values the fact that he's able to write. When he was experiencing tough times as a musician during the rise of other popular names such as the Beatles, Anka worked extra hard on his songwriting skills and didn't lose focus. He said, "the only thing that probably saved me was the fact that I started out as a writer, not a singer."

Additionally, Anka considers himself an artist and believes that it is a timeless thing to have. He explained, "you have this feeling inside of you, you have an audience that is there to support you, you are continually active, so it is a very hard situation to walk away from." This makes sense considering that Anka has felt a strong urge to write ever since he was in school. It has been a medium for him to express his thoughts on paper. As Anka said, "the part of my life...  the writer aspect, the creative aspect is what has been the core of my longevity." Plus, as many would acknowledge, it was Anka's songwriting skills and dedication to "My Way" that put the spotlight back on him and Frank Sinatra.

Paul Anka's son-in-law is Jason Bateman

Paul Anka is from Canada, where hockey is a national sport and collective obsession, and it's what led his daughter into a relationship with someone about as famous as her father. According to Parade, Amanda Anka (Paul Anka's daughter with his former wife, model Anne de Zogheb, per The Globe and Mail) met actor Jason Bateman at a Los Angeles Kings game in 1987 when they were teenagers, but didn't start dating until the late '90s, after they'd become close friends and when Bateman neared the end of a prolonged drinking and partying phase, according to GQ. The pair married in 2001, making Bateman the son-in-law of iconic singer Paul Anka.

The younger Anka and Bateman also made a grandparent out of the singer, with daughter Franny and Maple arriving in 2006 and 2012, respectively. The latter's impending birth was actually announced to the world by the proud grandpa. "I'm going to be a grandfather again," Paul Anka told Entertainment Tonight Canada in August 2011. "Amanda, my daughter, and Jason Bateman, the actor in the family, just told me they're having another baby girl." Anka heaped praise on his son-in-law, whom he called "a wonderful guy for my daughter" and a "smart boy."

Paul Anka wrote Johnny Carson's theme song

Most every songwriter hopes to score at least one big hit, a song that endures and gets played for years on radio and on TV that brings in royalty payments and helps establish their musical legacy as it enters and never leaves the collective consciousness. Paul Anka wrote the words and music for some of his own biggest hits, including "Diana" and "Lonely Boy," but the song for which he's arguably best known is an instrumental: "Johnny's Theme," the brassy intro music for "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson." And it was essentially done as a favor to a colleague.

"I was doing a show in England and I needed some comic relief from all the music and I hired Johnny," Anka told the AARP about his late '50s-era about his first introduction to the still relatively unknown comedian. "He ended up in New York and called me and said, 'I've got this TV show that I'm going to be doing for maybe a couple of years — ha ha ha — and can you write me a new theme?'" So Anka wrote the song, which heralded the beginning of "The Tonight Show" five nights a week for nearly 30 years. "I got paid every time it got played," Anka said. According to the Los Angeles Times, Anka (and Carson, who received a co-writing credit), made about $400 with each airing, which totals up to about $3 million.

He wrote many popular songs for other artists

Primarily known as a singer in the classic, crooner mold, Paul Anka landed 32 records in the top 40 of the Billboard pop chart between 1957 and 1983. He wrote the words and melodies to almost all of those hits, many of which became even more successful and well-known when performed by other artists, along with other bespoke compositions Anka put together for other pop superstars.

Anka came up with "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," Buddy Holly's final single before his death in 1959, Connie Francis's hit "Teddy" the following year, and in 1969, Frank Sinatra recorded Anka's "My Way," an often covered anthem which would become his signature song (per the BBC). Anka seemingly specialized in writing other singers' most iconic songs — Tom Jones' "She's a Lady" and Donny Osmond's "Puppy Love" are similarly definitive versions of the writer's originals. (The latter makes it quite fitting then that Lorelai Gilmore on "Gilmore Girls" named her dog Paul Anka.)

Michael Jackson's most notable posthumous hits are both Anka tunes. "Love Never Felt So Good" (presented as a duet with Justin Timberlake) was a top 10 hit, while "This Is It" gave a name to Jackson's ill-fated concert residency and a compilation album. The tune was based on a demo Jackson recorded at Anka's studio in the early 1980s, which Anka told the AARP that the King of Pop stole from him, which wasn't discovered until 2009.

Paul Anka is keeping up with the times

Paul Anka turned 80 in 2021, and his name hasn't even graced the label of a hit record since 1984, but he tries to stay relevant and keeps putting his name and his music out there well into the 21st century. In 2020, rapper Doja Cat sampled Anka's late '50s pop standard "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" in her formerly SoundCloud-only hit "Freak." Anka voiced his approval of the use of his old song on Twitter on multiple occasions.

That same year, Fox aired the fourth season of its guess-the-costumed-performer musical game show "The Masked Singer." In the ninth episode, the celebrity identified as "Broccoli," dressed up like a giant, bug-eyed stalk of the cruciferous vegetable, was revealed to be Anka, correctly guessed by panelist Robin Thicke, after performing Lionel Richie's "Hello" and Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" (per Variety).