Friday, September 9, 2016.
Ask Paul Anka where he developed his work ethic, and the answer might surprise you: The Rat Pack.
“Even though there was frolicking, there was professionalism there,” Anka says of his days as a teen idol in the ‘60s bonding with the music icons in Vegas. “We were in a day and age where performers weren’t using technology to better their voices. It was very raw. You had to be in shape.”
Between the influence of Sinatra and Anka’s positive upbringing in Ottawa, Canada, something worked. A former resident of Las Vegas, Anka remains a legend with a hefty catalogue of hits.
After securing five Top-20 hits by the age of 18, the singer/songwriter became the only artist with a song in the Billboard Top 100 during seven separate decades, including “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and “My Way.”
His recent work includes serving as co-producer on Michael Bublé’s debut album and releasing the album “Duets,” featuring Anka singing with artists such as Celine Dion, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson.
“I don’t face any time schedule,” Anka says of his ongoing drive. “As long as I’m healthy, I want to keep (working). I’m in the zone now as a performer.”
He admits the music industry has changed since he headlined in Vegas in the ‘60s, the youngest entertainer at the time to do so.
“I’m compared to Justin Bieber because we’re from the same province in Canada and we both left when we were young. Some of (the celebrity is) the same, like the screaming girls, not being able to leave the hotel room,” he remarks. “But it’s not all about the music anymore. It’s a whole other thing. I don’t know what is real (singing) and what is technology.”
That said, he has great respect for some artists today, including Bruno Mars and Adele.
“That’s the kind of paradox,” he says. “You’ve got all this other stuff and then the purity of Adele that dominates the charts with her mature voice and talent.”
Las Vegas has changed, too, since Anka’s years cutting loose with the Rat Pack and later running his nightclub Jubilation in the ‘70s.
He remembers when no one knew the names of hotel owners in Vegas.
“The headliners were really the headliners of the place, and the hotel came second,” he says. “Now the hotels have become these villages unto themselves. The entertainment is the cherry on top, but the star is the hotel itself.”
Anka sees benefits in these changes, he notes. The Vegas of the Rat Pack era, for instance, was very exclusive.
“Was there an open-arms, come-hither attitude to families and kids? No,” he says. “Steve (Wynn) got smart and everybody followed and started to realize the demographic would change and that it was a business.”
Change hasn’t slowed Anka down, however.
Even at 75, he has numerous ongoing projects, including touring internationally, preparing a new album and potentially developing his autobiography “My Way” into a miniseries.
He isn’t done with Vegas yet, either. Anka would love a residency here, though “it’s got to be the right one,” he says.
Otherwise, he will perform as long as he can.
“If you’ve got the passion, that’s all you want to do,” he says.
Paul Anka will perform at 7:30 p.m. on September 16 at The Smith Center. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit: www.thesmithcenter.com/event/an-evening-with-paul-anka-2/
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