|Legendary Canadian songwriter and singer Paul Anka will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame tomorrow night.
Ottawa singer-songwriter Paul Anka, who, in his estimation, is responsible for more than 900 recorded songs, is ready to be feted tomorrow night at his induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
But Anka insisted that he sing for his supper, so to speak, so he is scheduled to perform perhaps his most famous song, Frank Sinatra's signature tune, My Way, at the CSHF gala with his longtime friend and producer David Foster accompanying him on piano.
"Obviously, when it comes this late in your career, you get somewhat suspicious," the 66-year-old Anka joked recently down the line from his home in the mountains outside Thousand Oaks, Calif..
"I guess maybe you've done so much work and there is a body of work there, and you just have to take it in stride and appreciate it. I think the fact that it's Canada really makes it more important to me because I've been given awards all over the world, but the fact that it's Canada, where I was really kind of tested and disappointed, it's meaningful for me.
"But I'd rather be the centre of attention performing on stage than the award aspect because I'm not sure everyone would agree (about his induction) -- you can't please everyone."
My Way, however, is an undeniable crowd-pleaser.
"It's a world-wide classic hit in many countries, covered (many times over) and it's really a statement of many people, men, women, and certainly a statement of mine," said Anka, who wrote the English lyrics for the song.
"Coming out in a period, there was a lull in the '60s, but a song that everyone can equate with and probably my most important copyright, even though there are others that earn as much. But I think that really kind of tells the whole story."
To recap, after an early stab at journalism as a cub reporter at an Ottawa newspaper, Anka's musical career exploded as a teen idol in the '50s with such hits as Diana, Lonely Boy and Put Your Head On My Shoulder, before the British invasion of the '60s and subsequent musical movements pushed him aside.
Anka then fell back on a lucrative and successful career as a songwriter, penning the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and Tom Jones' biggest hit, She's a Lady, to name but a few.
"The writing part of my life has been kind of the cornerstone and I think it's helped in terms of my longevity and given me a different credential in the business that most of the other teen idols (of his time) never made that evolution into the next phase," Anka said.
"I think the songwriting aspect has always been my ace-in-the-hole, my foundation, in a sense. The performing is there because I love it and it's fun."
His own singing career has enjoyed highs and lows -- who could forget his 1974 duet with Odia Coates on (You're) Having My Baby -- but recently has gained a new younger audience and critical respect through his previous two albums that included some unlikely cover choices.
2005's Rock Swings featured Anka's interpretations of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun and Oasis' Wonderwall, and last year's Classic Songs, My Way, celebrating Anka's 50 years in showbusiness, included his take on The Killers' Mr. Brightside (Anka hung out with The Killers at a Montreal restaurant when they were both in town for shows) and a reworked My Way featuring Anka and Jon Bon Jovi in duet. (FYI: The New Jersey rocker referenced Anka's song in his band's big hit, It's My Life: "Like Frankie said, 'I did it my way!'")
"I really made Rock Swings (for the critics)," Anka said. "My intent was to get past them first, before the consumer, because I knew that they were the ones that would really shoot this down or give it life -- so my intent was to make sure that every critic got past that one-minute knee jerk 'Anka? Teen Spirit? What's going on? What kind of joke is this?' "
Ultimately, his professional life has never been better, and so is Anka's personal life.
The divorced father of five grown daughters, including Amanda, who is married to actor Jason Bateman, is also a new dad to a 21/2-year-old son, Ethan, with his girlfriend Anna Yeager, a Swedish-born blond, his former personal trainer.
"I finally had the boy!" he said with a laugh.
Huge honour from 'little guy from Shawinigan'
Not everyone can get a former Canadian prime minister to induct them into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
But Paul Anka is nothing if not connected.
"I did call my friend Jean Chretien, who is going to make the main speech," Anka told Sun Media. "I just didn't want anyone from the music community to do it. I thought it'd be different (to have him do it). He's a great speaker. He represents a certain part of Canada, what our profile's about, so I thought instead of a musician or someone in the industry, I said, 'Would you come down and make the main speech?' And he said, 'I'd be happy to.' "
The relationship dates back to the restaurant his uncle owned in Shawinigan, Que., where Chretien is from.
"And I knew him with Trudeau, 'cause as you know he worked with Trudeau, and then I've kept in touch with (Chretien) through the years. He's a good guy. I like him. Our families have known each other for a long time."
The CSHF gala is at the Toronto Centre For The Arts tomorrow night and tickets are still available, starting at $75.
Others being honoured include the late jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, who is getting the Founders Award, and two songs inducted -- Canadiana Suite and Hymn to Freedom.
Anka's Diana, It Doesn't Matter Anymore, My Way (co-written by Claude Francois, Jacques Revauk and Gilles Thibault), Put Your Head on my Shoulder and She's a Lady will also be inducted.