Paul Anka posed that musical question in 1975, taking Roger Nichols and Bill Lane’s onetime Kodak film jingle all the way to the Top 10 Billboard pop chart and No. 1 Easy Listening. At that point, Anka could rightfully reflect on the times of his own storied life, nearly two decades in the music business. But could he have imagined that he would still be going strong almost forty years after “Times of Your Life” hit? The Canadian-born singer, songwriter, producer and manager is celebrating 55 years in the music business with the release on April 9 of Duets, a 14-track collection of vocal pairings both old and new. The Legacy Recordings album coincides with the same day’s debut of his autobiography, naturally entitled My Way after the song he co-wrote for Frank Sinatra.
Ottawa-born Anka had his first hit with 1957’s “Diana.” When the song was released, Anka was just shy of 16 years old, and it earned him a No. 1 in the U.S. Best Sellers in Stores and R&B charts, as well as No. 1 in the U.K., Canada and Australia. But overnight sensation Anka was a teen idol with a difference: he was a true singer/songwriter, writing both music and lyrics for his own songs. In 1962, Anka departed his home of ABC-Paramount for the more lucrative pastures of RCA Victor, which is now under the same corporate umbrella of Sony Music Entertainment as Legacy Recordings. Anka followed up his ABC hits like “You Are My Destiny,” “Lonely Boy,” “Puppy Love” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulders” with a string of charting pop singles (“A Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine,” “Remember Diana,” “Goodnight, My Love”) that continued through 1964 when The British Invasion threatened to cut short the careers of artists like Anka and his RCA Victor compatriot Neil Sedaka.
Of course, Paul Anka bounced back. Hit the jump for the rest of the story, plus the full track listing, pre-order link and more about Duets!
Anka had already developed a lucrative career as a live artist, as well as a songwriter for others. (He even penned the theme to Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show!) Anka wrote English lyrics to Claude François’ and Jacques Revaux’s French song “Comme d’Habitude” for Frank Sinatra, re-titling it “My Way” for his friend. Anka soon championed the career of the young folk artist John Prine, proving instrumental in obtaining Prine a recording contract. Such activity only set the stage for his dramatic comeback (in another parallel with the career of Sedaka). And in 1971, the Anka-written “She’s a Lady” gave Tom Jones his biggest U.S. hit ever.
In 1974, following a stint at Buddah Records, Anka signed with United Artists and returned to the top of the pops for the first time in more than a decade as an artist when “You’re Having My Baby,” a duet with Odia Coates, went all the way to No. 1. Three more duets with Coates followed, all hits (“One Man Woman/One Woman Man,” “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” and “(I Believe) There’s Nothing Stronger Than Our Love”) and then in 1976, the previous year’s “Times of Your Life” made the Top 10. Since then, Anka has hardly retreated from view, although he took a recording respite between 1983 and 1998 when he returned with the career-overview album A Body of Work. That Epic Records album paired Anka with many artists including Celine Dion, Tom Jones and Frank Sinatra, and Duets serves as an update of sorts to that seminal collection.
Four songs on the new Duets have been reprised from A Body of Work in versions recorded for that album: “You Are My Destiny” with Patti LaBelle, “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye” with Celine Dion, “She’s a Lady” with Tom Jones (of course!), and “Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes” with Peter Cetera. The latter song was originally recorded with Cetera, as well, and was Anka’s final Top 40 U.S. hit in the summer of 1983, also reaching No. 2 on the AC chart. Other songs, from A Body of Work and elsewhere, have been reworked with new vocals and/or instrumentation, including the Sinatra duet on “My Way” and duets with Dolly Parton (“Do I Love You”), Willie Nelson (“Crazy”), and others. Among these reinvented tracks is “This Is It,” the song which Anka co-wrote with Michael Jackson. “This Is It” first appeared on the soundtrack to the posthumously-released Jackson documentary of the same name, and this marks Anka’s re-production of the song. Three wholly new tracks round out the set: “Find My Way Back to Your Heart” with Tita Hutchison, “I Really Miss You” with Leon Russell, and “Pennies from Heaven” with Michael Bublé.
Paul Anka’s Duets reflects on one of the most remarkable careers in popular music, and arrives from Legacy Recordings on April 9. You can pre-order below!
Paul Anka, Duets (Legacy Recordings 54848 98676 2, 2013)
- Walk A Fine Line – with George Benson and Michael McDonald
- Find My Way Back To Your Heart - sung by Paul Anka, background vocal by Tita Hutchison
- Do I Love You (Yes, In Every Way) – with Dolly Parton
- This Is It – with Michael Jackson
- I Really Miss You – with Leon Russell
- Think I'm In Love Again – with Gloria Estefan
- Pennies From Heaven – with Michael Bublé
- Crazy – with Willie Nelson
- You Are My Destiny – with Patti LaBelle
- Les Filles de Paris – with Chris Botti
- It’s Hard To Say Goodbye – with Celine Dion
- She’s A Lady – with Tom Jones
- Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes – with Peter Cetera
- My Way – with Frank Sinatra
Track 1 previously unreleased; original version of song from Walk a Fine Line, Columbia FC 38442, 1983
Tracks 2, 5 & 7 are new tracks/previously unreleased
Track 3 previously unreleased; original version of song from Paul Anka, Buddah LP BDS 5093, 1971 and re-recorded on A Body of Work, Epic CD EK 69405, 1998
Track 4 previously unreleased; original version of song from This is It, Epic CD 88697 60674 2, 2009
Track 6 previously unreleased; original version of song from RCA single PB-12225, 1981
Track 8 previously unreleased; further information TBD
Tracks 9, 11-13 from A Body of Work, Epic CD EK 69405, 1998
Track 10 previously unreleased; original version of song from Paul Anka, Buddah LP BDS 5093, 1971
Track 14 previously unreleased; original duet version of song from A Body of Work, Epic CD EK 69405, 1998