Full name, Paul Albert Anka; born July 30, 1941, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; son of Andrew and Camilia (Tannis) Anka (owners of a restaurant); married Anne de Zogheb (a fashion model), February 16, 1963; children: five daughters. Religion: Syrian Orthodox. Addresses: Home --Las Vegas, Nevada; and northern California. Office --c/o United Artists Records, 6920 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, Calif. 90028.

Canadian-born singer and songwriter Paul Anka had his first hit record, "Diana," in 1957 when he was only fifteen years old. His was no one-shot teen novelty recording, either--Anka followed "Diana" with a string of hits that lasted into the early 1960s. When his popularity on the United States rock and roll scene faded, he began to aim his music at older, non-rock audiences and at his European and Asian fans, by whom he was greatly celebrated. A prolific writer, Anka also penned many hits for other recording artists, including Buddy Holly and Tom Jones, and he is responsible for the ballad standard "My Way," a huge success for both Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. In 1974 Anka scored a triumphant pop comeback with "You're Having My Baby" and has since pursued fame with other hits, including "I Don't Like to Sleep Alone," "There's Nothing Stronger Than Our Love," and "The Times of Your Life."

Anka was born July 30, 1941, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. His parents were immigrants from Lebanon who owned a successful restaurant frequented by Ottawa's show people. As a small child, Anka delighted in imitating popular singers and performing for neighborhood housewives, paperboys, and sanitation workers. He soon learned a little piano and taught himself how to play the guitar. Anka was generally uninspired by school, except for writing classes, and once intended to become either an actor or a writer, but the allure of music gradually swayed him from these early ambitions. When rock and roll began to flood the music world, Anka was only in his teens but nonetheless was convinced that he could create songs just as good, if not better, than the ones he was hearing on the radio. He began to compose, taking inspiration from Arabic chant melodies that his parents had brought with them from Lebanon and from the rhyming schemes of poet and playwright William Shakespeare.

Anka also formed a vocal trio called the Bobbysoxers with some friends; they played at local dances and at the Central Canada Exhibition of 1955. He also won a competition at the Fairmount Club in Ottawa, receiving as his prize a week's engagement at the club. Anka took his earnings from this and traveled to Los Angeles, California, in hopes that his uncle, Maurice Anka, a nightclub entertainer, could help him get his music published. Though a recording company there bought one of his songs, it didn't sell, and Anka had to work as a movie usher to earn his way back home to Ottawa.

In 1957, however, when Anka borrowed money from his father to go to New York City in hopes of publishing his music, he scored a resounding success. The fifteen-year-old performed a song he had written about his unrequited love for a girl three years older than himself, Diana Ayoub, for the executives of ABC Paramount. The recording company was so excited by what they heard that, presumably because Anka was a minor, they asked his father to come to New York as soon as possible to sign a contract.

Anka's song, "Diana," was an enormous hit and sold over 8,500,000 copies, making it the second best-selling record ever, after crooner Bing Crosby's rendition of "White Christmas." Anka followed "Diana" with many other records that were snapped up by teenagers, including "You Are My Destiny" in 1958, "Lonely Boy" and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" in 1959, and "Puppy Love," about his then steady date, actress Annette Funicello, in 1960. Anka also traveled across the United States and Canada with rock and roll acts like Buddy Holly, for whom he wrote "It Doesn't Matter Anymore," Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, and Fats Domino. And, as part of being considered a teen idol, he was persuaded by his manager to have plastic surgery on his nose, lost weight, and appeared in the films "Girls Town," "The Private Lives of Adam and Eve," and "Look in Any Window." Anka received little if any praise for his acting in these vehicles but fared better with critics in the 1962 film "The Longest Day," for which he also composed the music.

When the advent of British groups like the Beatles caused Anka's popularity with American teenagers to wane, he began to concentrate on adult nightclub audiences, such as those who frequented New York City's Copacabana, Los Angeles, California's, Coconut Grove, and Las Vegas, Nevada's, Sahara. He toured Europe with great success, and focused more on his songwriting abilities. "I like to have four or five songs going at once," Anka explained to a writer for Time magazine. Among the hits he has composed for other artists, in addition to the stunning "My Way," is "She's a Lady," recorded by Welsh singer Tom Jones. Anka also wrote the theme for Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show."

But in 1974, Anka came back with a controversial hit of his own, "You're Having My Baby." Inspired by the childbearing experiences he shared with his wife, Ann de Zogheb, "Baby" includes the passage, as quoted by Time, "'Didn't have to keep it/ Wouldn't put you through it/ You could have swept it from your life/ But you wouldn't do it,'" that caused "both right-to-life and pro-abortion groups" to protest the song. "So did feminists," continued Time, "although Baby is rare among macho pop songs in that it acknowledges a woman's autonomy." Maureen Orth, commenting in Newsweek, labeled the song a "musical miscarriage" but quoted Anka's response to charges of sexism: "I can't hand out a pamphlet every time I write a song." Anka has since had other pop successes, including the mellow "The Times of Your Life," which began as a commercial jingle for Kodak film.

by Elizabeth Thomas

Paul Anka's Career

Singer and composer with vocal trio the Bobbysoxers, beginning 1955; moved to Los Angeles, Calif., c. 1956, and tried to establish himself as a songwriter; sold one song and worked as a theater usher to earn enough money to return home to Canada; moved to New York City, 1957, and signed a contract with ABC Paramount to record his first hit, "Diana." Has appeared in a number of films, including "Girls Town," 1959, "The Private Lives of Adam and Eve," 1960, "Look in Any Window," 1960, and "The Longest Day," 1962. Host of his own syndicated television variety show, 1973.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

February 9, 2005: Anka was named an Officer of the Order of Canada. Source: Globe and Mail, February 10, 2005.

April 2005: Anka's album, Rock Swings, was released. Source: Globe and Mail, April 29, 2005.

June 5, 2005: Anka was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in Toronto, Ontario. Source: Globe and Mail, June 6, 2005.

Further Reading

Sources

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 6 years ago

paul anka is not the composer of the song all of a sudden my hart sings in the movie the young widow by jane russell thy play that song it was 1947 paul anka would be 5 years old

about 7 years ago

The truth that Paul Anka is from Lebanese origin, he's Maronite an eastern Catholic church that uses "Syriac i.e Aramic" instead of Roman, Maronites are Catholics even the president of Lebanon is always Maronite

over 7 years ago

Paul Anka can hardly be called Mustapha as he is neither Muslim nor Arab but Syriac/Aramaic.And as such he can simply be Catolic or Orthodox. /Jack

about 8 years ago

For what it's worth, I have seen Paul in concert a number of times in the past decade. During the most recent one, a couple of years ago, during some between song banter about his youthful rise to stardom, he referred to himself as "being a good Catholic boy." I do know that his ex-wife of 37-years, Anne, was indeed Roman Catholic. Perhaps he was originally Orthodox and converted for her but I'd have no reason to doubt him. Thanks.

over 8 years ago

The fact is that he has Arab background! Then, Paul Mustapha Abdi Anka (full name) belongs to visible minorities (as they say in Canada) even though he is White... In Canada contrary to the States, Arabs are not Caucasian but colored!

over 8 years ago

He is a Syrian Orthodox Christian, and indeed his family roots are from North/Northwest Syria, where most Syrian Orthodox Christians are.

over 8 years ago

what about his time in tenafly ........and didnt he hae a sister mary

almost 9 years ago

There are some mistakes in the article. Canadian Who's Who 2008 identifies him as a Roman Catholic, not Syrian Orthodox. Sorry.

almost 9 years ago

I think that there is some mistakes in this article, His parents are originaly from Syria, Latakia. But it is great to know that he is Syrian Orthodox (Aramic).