Paul Anka: Once A Teen Idol, Now A Classic

Paul Anka i i

Paul Anka wrote the theme song for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, ensuring that his music was heard by millions on a regular basis. Volker Hartmann/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Volker Hartmann/Getty Images
Paul Anka

Paul Anka wrote the theme song for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, ensuring that his music was heard by millions on a regular basis.

Volker Hartmann/Getty Images

Paul Anka has one of the century's most enduring music careers. While most teen idols from the 1950s and 1960s faded into obscurity, Anka is still putting out albums and performing to sold-out crowds.

Last month, the singer-songwriter was awarded the 2008 Johnny Mercer Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Anka began his career at age 14 and skyrocketed to fame at the age of 16 with the hit single "Diana," one of the best-selling 45-rpm record singles in music history.

The Canadian-American singer also wrote a number of pop classics, including Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and Tom Jones' most popular hit "She's A Lady."

His album Rock Swings features his own takes on more contemporary classics — including Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and Van Halen's "Jump."

Anka also had an acting career and was one of the first pop singers to perform in Las Vegas.

This interview was originally broadcast Aug. 8 and 10, 2005.

Paul Anka Spins Pop His Way with 'Rock Swings'

'Rock Swings' on Verve Records is Paul Anka's latest recording. Credit: Verve Records.

'Rock Swings' on Verve Records is Paul Anka's latest recording. Verve Records hide caption

itoggle caption Verve Records
Paul Anka sings in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1964. Credit: David Rubinger/Corbis. i i

Paul Anka was an established star creating a new image for himself when this 1964 photo was taken in Stockholm, Sweden. David Rubinger/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption David Rubinger/Corbis
Paul Anka sings in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1964. Credit: David Rubinger/Corbis.

Paul Anka was an established star creating a new image for himself when this 1964 photo was taken in Stockholm, Sweden.

David Rubinger/Corbis

One of the surprise critical hits of the summer is a new Paul Anka album called Rock Swings.

Paul Anka with a guitar in New York at age 18. Credit: Bettmann/Corbis. i i

Paul Anka in New York at age 18. He was only 15 when he first tasted success as a singer and songwriter. Bettmann/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Bettmann/Corbis
Paul Anka with a guitar in New York at age 18. Credit: Bettmann/Corbis.

Paul Anka in New York at age 18. He was only 15 when he first tasted success as a singer and songwriter.

Bettmann/Corbis

The teen-idol turned Vegas lounge singer puts a crooner's spin on some latter-day rock classics, including Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and Van Halen's Jump.

This from a man who became famous in the late 1950s for writing and singing the pop tune Diana. That song was the first of a string of hits that put a very young Paul Anka on the road, singing to screaming fans on tours that included musical contemporaries like Buddy Holly and Bobby Darin.

Then the adulation ended abruptly in the 1960s and he reinvented himself as an adult, in the mold of Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.

Anka, who turns 64 at the end of July, survived the transition and has remained in the public eye, more or less, ever since. When he wasn't making hit records, Anka found some success acting in movies.

But it is music where he made his mark. Anka's Diana, Lonely Boy and You're Having My Baby were all number-one songs on U.S. charts. He hit the top 20 with 22 songs, and the top 40 saw him 33 times.

In total, Paul Anka has over 900 songs to his credit. Performers from Elvis Presley to the Gypsy Kings have covered his material.

Although he is now an American citizen, Anka's successful career earned him a place in the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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