Paul Anka looks back in a new memoir

Singer Paul Anka is pictured in a Toronto hotel room as he promotes his book My Way on Tuesday April 16, 2013. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

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First aired on Q (16/4/13)


Before Justin Bieber, Justin Timberlake, Davy Jones and David Cassidy, there was Paul Anka. Anka is the original teen idol. The Canadian shot to fame in the 1950s after his song "Diana" topped both Canadian and American charts at just 17-years-old. He developed an intense following, comprised of mostly young, mostly female, fans. But, unlike many teen idols in the years since Anka's heyday, he didn't end up on a "Where Are They Now?" special on VH1. Instead, Anka would go on to have a long and illustrious career as a singer and songwriter, penning the theme song for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and hit songs such as Frank Sinatra's "My Way," and he chronicles it all in his recent memoir, My Way.

Anka was known for his clean-cut image, and it's one he was happy to promote, even if the truth wasn't quite as clean as his fans were lead to believe. He enjoyed his fame and really enjoyed the women that came with fame, but he stayed away from anything that would affect his career. At first, it was because his managers told him to. "Back then, you were prompted, you were told how to behave," he told Q host Jian Ghomeshi in a recent interview. "I just loved to sing and they just drummed it in me -- you gotta stay clean." But as he became more immersed in Hollywood and started palling around with the Rat Pack (Anka saw himself as their "mascot" because we was much younger than they were), he realized that their hard-partying ways affected their voices, and in turn, their careers.

"I was not a smoker. I was not a heavy drinker. I was always taking care of my body. I was always taking care of my throat because I ultimately saw these guys that were older having problems with that," he said. "I didn't want to lose the life and the career that I had because I really felt that there was a lot more in it."

Anka's squeaky clean image was only part of his equation for success, however. The other reason he was able to stick around for so long was because he could write catchy, chart-topping tunes. "Being the writer separates you from everybody," he said. "You think I could have walked in somewhere without my own music with everything that I had not going for me? I wouldn't be getting a job. It wasn't going to happen."

However, being involved in the creative process didn't just open doors for Anka. It also brought him joy and gave him a sense of purpose. "It was all about the music," he said. "The whole energy for me was I was writing, I was publishing, I was producing, I was singing the songs." 

At 71-years-old, this is still the case. In addition to his memoir, Anka recently released his twentieth album, DuetsAnd despite being in what he calls the "September" of his life, he's looking forward to making more music and remains in awe of what he's accomplished in the past fifty-odd years.

"Now, can I figure out why [all this happened to me]?," he asked. "I have no idea. I've always believed that there was somebody out there better than me. They just didn't get the chance."

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