Written by Julie Ann Shaw
Jazz and adult contemporary artist, Paul Anka, is paying tribute to his late friend, Frank Sinatra, the only way he knows how…his way. With nearly 30 albums, hundreds of songs, and dozens of timeless classic hits under his belt, Anka is truly a living legend. I was born too late. I will never see Sinatra perform in person. A tragedy, really. If like me, you can never experience Sinatra for yourself, there is only one man alive who can do his songs any kind of real justice, and that is the unparalleled Paul Anka.
He opened the show, His Songs, My Songs, My Way!, in a true showman fashion, by entering at the back of the venue and working his way to the stage while singing “You Are My Destiny.” He shook hands, posed for photos, and hugged members of the audience without missing a single beat. He arrived at the stage and immediately transitioned into “All Of Me” and “Diana.” Every aspect of his show is reminiscent of old Las Vegas lounge shows, from the simple stage setup of boxed platforms for the band to the single spotlight on Anka at all times, to his friendly, casual, and humorous banter.
He continued to perform classics that have become markers of beautiful memories for us all, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Strangers In The Night,” and “That’s Life.”
What came next was unexpected. Anka first told some delightful anecdotes of his late friend, Sammy Davis, Jr., before allowing us all to focus on the screen behind him to watch and listen, as a video of Sammy Davis Jr. playing the song Anka wrote for him, “I’m Not Anyone,” was shown. Anka was seated for the first half of the song and then joined the video in a duet.
Throughout the set, members of the audience continually decided to engage Anka in a conversation, rather than simply allow him to banter. One woman was very determined to hear the song “Papa.” Anka had not planned on singing “Papa” just then but reassured her that he would accommodate her request at some point in the show.
Instead, he dedicated the next song to his family, to all our families, and asked us to remember what is truly important in this life. As a slideshow of his late friends from the past, and of his family played behind him, he sang “Times Of Your Life.” He took a moment to announce that the next song, “(You’re) Having My Baby,” would be dedicated to two members of the audience who are about to have their first baby.
He was supposed to sing “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” next, which he eventually did, while he came out into the audience and slow danced with a woman in the front row while singing. he told the band that before that happens, he wants to perform “Papa” for the woman in the audience, as promised.
Anka continued the show with songs that he wrote, for himself, and for others, with songs like “Puppy Love,” “She’s A Lady,” which was made famous by Tom Jones, and also the song, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” which he wrote for Buddy Holly shortly before he passed.
Anka then performed a solo version of the duet he recorded with Dolly Parton on his album, Duets, “Do I Love You? (Yes, In Every Way)” which transitioned into “Purple Rain” and back into the song, “Do I Love You? (Yes, In Every Way).”
Of course, as one of his last songs, Anka had to perform THE song. The rising popularity of pop music and the inescapable Beatlemania in the 1960s led Sinatra to believe that the time of the Rat Pack was over. He asked Anka to meet him for dinner, along with Mia Farrow, so that he could inform Anka that he was quitting show business after recording one last album, for which Ol’ Blue Eyes requested Anka write him a song.
Inspiration hit Anka when he heard the French song, “Comme d’habitude,” and immediately purchased the rights to the music. Anka wrote new lyrics specifically for Sinatra, based on what Anka thought he would say to maintain his “tough guy” image, and sent it off to Sinatra. The Chairman of The Board was overcome with a renewed sense of purpose when he heard the song that would be celebrated and covered by artists of all genres for decades to come: “My Way.”
How does one follow “My Way?” How do you close a completely spectacular show after a song like that? With “New York, New York,” of course.
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