US singer-song­writer Paul Anka has been a friend and con­fi­dant to mu­sic’s finest ever tal­ents – and now you too can meet the man be­hind the leg­ends

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS - ALAN HOWE

Singer Paul Anka – he wrote My Way, one of the most fa­mous and most cov­ered songs in pop – will never for­get his first trip to Aus­tralia. It was early in 1958 and he was on the bill of leg­endary pro­moter Lee Gor­don’s The Big Show with Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly and the Crick­ets.

“I met a guy called Johnny O’Keefe,” Anka re­calls.

“A rock ’n’ roll guy – we were drunk ev­ery night!”

They drove O’Keefe’s car from Syd­ney to Mel­bourne for four dates at Fes­ti­val Hall.

“I re­mem­ber get­ting stuck with him, Jerry Lee and Buddy Holly. We were driv­ing ... and the damn car ran out of gas,” Anka says with a laugh.

“We were si­phon­ing gas out of these homes we stopped at in the mid­dle of the night. We were never sober!

“I’ll never for­get Johnny O’Keefe – that was rock ’n’ roll. It was a whole dif­fer­ent time.”

Anka is re­turn­ing to per­form in Aus­tralia for the first time in 40 years.

Anka, 71, has more than 900 songs to his credit, in­clud­ing de­fin­i­tive hits for Frank Si­na­tra ( My Way), Tom Jones ( She’s a Lady) and Buddy Holly, whose last record­ing was Anka’s It Doesn’t Mat­ter Any­more.

Holly was killed in a plane crash weeks later and the song be­came the first post­hu­mous No.1 hit of the rock era.

“We were go­ing to start a mu­sic com­pany to­gether,” Anka says of Holly. “I was very close to him.”

Holly asked his friend for a song, and gave him an out­line of it. “He told me the feel­ings he wanted in the song right down to the vi­o­lins.

“(The song is) im­por­tant to me be­cause of my friend Buddy and how big that song was for him. He had his in­cred­i­ble style that put a stamp on that song.”

Anka was 17, but was al­ready a pop star him­self af­ter writ­ing and record­ing the sin­gle Diana two years ear­lier.

He was also re­spon­si­ble for Michael Jack­son’s fi­nal hit, This Is It, af­ter the Thriller star’s death in 2009.

“Michael (Jack­son) used to come to our shows in Ve­gas – I watched the kid grow up.”

In 1980, Anka learned Jack­son wanted to write with him. “He came and stayed at my guest­house for a cou­ple of weeks and we started writ­ing to­gether,” Anka says.

They fin­ished two songs, but Jack­son had be­gun work­ing on what would be­come Thriller and the Anka project stalled, “but he stole the tapes out of the stu­dio”.

Lawyers got in­volved: “I got my tapes back four weeks later. He went in to crazy­land.”

Un­known to Anka, Jack­son had copied the tapes.

Shortly be­fore Jack­son’s death a friend of Anka’s called to say Jack­son’s new sin­gle was one of those ideas from those 1980 ses­sions.

“Sure enough it was the song we wrote, the idea I had called I Never Heard. They took the first line of the lyric, ‘This is it, here I stand.’ I said, ‘That’s the same song! Give me half of ev­ery­thing and you’ve got no prob­lem!’ ”

But Anka knows he will for­ever be in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to My Way, the melody of which is from a mi­nor French hit he heard while on hol­i­day in 1967. Paul Anka plays Jupiters Theatre on Satur­day.

Paul Anka is a show­biz icon in his own right.

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