This is the follow up to my previous blog about a 1983 album Paul Anka released. My Way was published in 2013.
This blog is about his memoirs, naturally titled, My Way, an obvious reference to the song he wrote for Frank Sinatra. Frank looms large in this story.
My intention was to only read the sections of the book on the 1970s and 1980s, related to my prior blog; yet, I became fascinated with the emphasis of Anka’s story. Certainly, he lived an interesting life with a dream-like career, but their were two reoccurring storylines: the British Invasion (or rock and roll in general) and Frank Sinatra.
For someone who loved and respected Sinatra, Anka dished a lot of dirt and low points in Sinatra’s life. Anka spends lengthy sections of his own book on Sinatra’s Las Vegas period. True, he got to know Sinatra quite well in those years and observed Sinatra firsthand. The question is why dish so much on Frank, and why not instead some of that ink on his own life? The answer is that the book is really only a skin deep memoir, and obviously not a very self-reflective one.
The arrival on rock and roll was an immediate threat to Anka’s style of music, yet he successfully co-existed with Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and the early wave of rock and roll, even traveled with some of them on Dick Clark type tours across the country. The arrival of the Beatles were a different matter, signaling a tectonic shift in contemporary music. Anka knew he had to make major changes in his career to survive the 1960s and beyond, as his years landing hits on the charts and radio airplay might be at an end. It is fascinating how he did this, shifting his focus to Vegas, and touring overseas. And, he focused more on writing songs for others, and finding niche audiences for his kind of music. Doing this, he not only survived, but lengthen his career into his 80s.
Anka is part of a past generation and it is reflective of his music and his attitude towards women. He describes the Rat Pack era of boozing and broads. The Las Vegas scene was hookers and showgirls, women were objects to be fucked and discarded. Pardon for the crudeness, but that is essentially what women were to these guys. A good time. It was mainly a man’s world of opportunity and a playground of bad behavior. To be worshipped by the audience and catered to, with very little accountability.
“(You’re) Having My Baby”, written and performed by Anka in the early 1970s was a big hit. I never liked or understood it. The sexist backlash, in my opinion, was deserved. He didn’t think so, saying as a tribute to his wife, was a testimonial to a committed relationship. Okay.
“She’s a Lady” was a song he wrote for singer Tom Jones, and was a song Anka did not like. Jones had a huge hit with it, and Anka, who owned his publishing, made a ton of money from its success. Okay.
Anka seems to prefer to write about life on the road, his hits, songwriting and important people in his life. His focus is primarily his successes and accomplishments, and very little about the man. Sure, the swinging times hanging with Frank, Dean and Sammy; the Beatles in London, Elvis in Vegas; and dating Annette Funicello, are all interesting to read about.
Beyond the great times, famous people and extravagant lifestyle, you do not really get much more. Take it on that level, My Way is a fun read, not an important one.
I have great respect for Paul Anka’s contributions to popular music. He was a bridge between the crooners and rock and roll. He was smart with business and tweaking his style to maintain a long and successful career. He did it his way.