REMEMBER PAUL ANKA? – Yesterday, Highspeed wrote mainly about Frank Sinatra and “My Way,” the song most associated with the great singer. Today, this column is focused on Paul Anka, who wrote the English lyrics of “My Way,” a French song.
Anka is familiar to Filipinos, especially the teeners of the ’50s and ’60s. Remember his recordings like “Diana,” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “All of a Sudden My Heart Sings,” and “Autumn Leaves”?
He performed in the Philippines several times.
GLOBALIZED – Here is Anka’s first-person account of how “My Way” came to be, as published in the book “The Story Behind the Song.”
I became globalized early in my career. I traveled internationally a great deal as a kid and lived in several countries. I was sitting outside my house in the countryside in France one day and heard a Claude Francois record. As a musician, I hear lots of options in songs and that held true with this one.
It was the late ’60s and, on my way home to the United States, I stopped in Paris. I was pretty well connected there so I found the publisher of the song and met with him and told him I thought the song was interesting. He asked what I wanted and I said, “The rights.” We signed a simple two-page contract that I took back to the States with me. I transformed the record to a piano lead sheet and put it in my drawer to come back later.
I had a close relationship with Frank Sinatra at the time because we worked together many times when the Rat Pack was at the Sands Hotel and I was the youngest performer in Las Vegas. We spent quite a bit time together; he was like a mentor to me. Thus, one of my career goals was to write for him even though I knew he hated pop music. He liked Gershwin, Porter. That was his kind of music.
Don Costa was my A&R/producer and part of my life from age 16 on. I introduced Frank to Don, who subsequently became his record producer.
I played Fontainebleau in Miami and, on one occasion, Frank was doing a detective movie down there. We got together for dinner and he told me that he was tired of the government’s Mafia accusations. They were bugging his phones so he had to change his number every other day. He’d go into rooms and there’d be holes in the walls from pulling out the phones and installing new ones. He said he was quitting the business, getting out of the public eye. I couldn’t fathom him not being in our lives.
FRENCH SONG – I knew that Don (Costa) was doing one more album with Frank so I pulled out the sheet of the French song and thought about what Frank would say if he were writing it. The song morphed itself. I began typing and it wrote itself in about five hours. I typed everything. I was in the habit of using a typewriter from my days working at a newspaper when I had aspirations to be a journalist. I kept the typewriter next to my piano whenever I wrote.
The first line is metaphorical, referring not only to age but to the fact that he was going to quit:
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain.
I called Don and Frank at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to let them know I’d written a song for him and that I wanted to do a piano demo and get it to him. Shortly after that, I was playing the Sahara and had it delivered to him. I got a call that Frank wanted to do it.
THE KID – They recorded it in Los Angeles at United Recording studio. Sinatra said, “Kid, I want you to hear something.” He always called me kid; in fact, he made robes for the Rat Pack and me with our names on them – mine said KID.
Costa got on the phone and put it to the speaker and played the recording. I knew then that this was the turning point in my career and my life. There was something in the mix that Sinatra wasn’t happy with, so after the records were pressed, he had them thrown out, 50,000 records, and press the corrected version. This record turned everything around for him, too.
My record company at the time, RCA Victor, was unhappy. They had wanted me to record it but in my mind, I was old enough to write it but not to record it. It was not proper casting and I knew I had to check my ego at the door. You need the right artist to make a song happen. Lots of people have recorded this song, but his is the important version for me.