If you want to make a request at Paul Anka’s show, whistle a tune in the lobby, especially if it’s from one of his latest swing CDs. Anka says he never takes his fans for granted.
That’s why he still performs “Diana,” “Lonely Boy” and the other classics that turned him into a teen idol in the 1950s. And, of course, he always sings “My Way,” which he wrote, recorded and had made famous by Frank Sinatra. But today Anka’s musical set also includes tracks from 1995’s “Rock Swings” and last year’s “Classic Songs, My Way.”
As he tells Valerie Kellogg, new projects are on the horizon for Anka, 67, who has remained an icon not only in music but film, TV and the Internet.
Q. You’ve written some of the most memorable songs of all time, from “Diana” to “The Tonight Show” theme to “My Way.” What do you most enjoy performing?
A. Songs people wouldn’t realize. “Do I Love You” ... “I’m Not Anyone” ... “Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes.”
Q. I read that you planned to record “Billie Jean” on “Swing Rocks.” Is there a story behind why you never did?
A. I couldn’t sing it. I just didn’t feel it when I was doing it. So I dropped it. And I changed it to the other song, “The Way You Make Me Feel.”
Q. The 2007 film “Ocean’s Thirteen” quotes you from a secretly recorded infamous little talk you once had with your band members that was widely distributed on the Internet. What did you think of that?
A. Oh, the “shirts” with Al Pacino? Well, I guess it was flattering. ... We had a guy who worked for us a month or two. He was basically a snake who brought a tape recorder into a meeting. I take what I do very seriously. And it’s not unlike Tommy Lasorda on the mound, or the Orson Welles tapes and thousands of others we’ve all heard. My band was fluffing off. When I’m in front of my audience ... respect the fact that they paid a hard buck for the show ... I run a business. That tape was 25 years old. I stand by it.
Q. How did it feel having a dog named after you in the TV show “Gilmore Girls”?
A. I thought it was cool. ... The producers and the writers - they were fans, apparently. I was flattered by it, actually, because I think it’s a well-written show and very intelligent.
Q. Do you plan to do another CD of covers?
A. The record company wants me to do a third CD ... originals.
Q. What else is coming up?
A. I’m a little overwhelmed at the moment because I’m trying to finish my book, which I’m writing for St. Martin’s Press. ... I also have some overtures from Broadway to do my story. I’m taking meetings over the next month regarding that.
Q. If you could get any young pop singer today to cover one of your songs, who would it be and what would they sing?
A. John Mayer, Beyonce and John Legend - between those three - I think there might be a great interpretation of “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” “Hold Me ‘Til the Morning Comes” ... Andre 3000 (from OutKast) could probably do a pretty interesting version of one of my classic songs.
Q. What will you be performing onstage?
A. I won’t be doing six or seven songs from “Rock Swings,” unless I get there and find that, that audience is there. I send my people out (into the theater). We kind of look in the lobby at age (of theatergoers). We kind of listen around, too. ... I like to figure out what they’re expecting to hear. If you inundate them with 30 minutes of new stuff which they’re not interested in, as good as it may be, it doesn’t fit why they’re there and what they’ve purchased that ticket for. ... You’ve got to figure out what they want out there and give it to them.
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