Friday Night Forgotten Oldie: His big hits were autobiographical

1958. Elvis enters the US Army.

How utterly stupid was Uncle Sam in drafting the King? It is estimated that the U.S. Treasury lost $500,000 in federal income taxes while Elvis was in the service. He entered the service in the middle of a very successful career and the estimates are based on projections. In today’s dollars, that works out to be 3,810,086.51.

About Elvis putting his career on hold to serve his country he said, “I’m kind of proud of it. It’s a duty I’ve got to fill and I’m going to do it.”

Elvis’ induction opened the door for an army of new teen idols to take over the pop music spotlight. One of them was Canadian Paul Anka who turns 80 today.

“They are all very autobiographical,” says Anka of his early hits. “I was alone, traveling, girls screaming, and I never got near them. I’m a teenager and feeling isolated and all that. That becomes ‘Lonely Boy.’ At record hops, I’m up on stage and all these kids are holding each other with heads on each other’s shoulders. Then I have to go have dinner in my room because there are thousands of kids outside the hotel — ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulder’ was totally that experience.”

The Beatles and the subsequent British Invasion changed everything and the teen idols eventually became yesterday’s news. Anka had to adjust, and did.

“After a few hits I knew I was a writer, and with writers, the power was always in the pen. When I started writing for Buddy Holly and Connie Francis, I felt that it made me different for people — they’d say, ‘Hey, you can write, you can fall back on something’.” 

By far, Anka’s biggest writing success came with “My Way” for Frank Sinatra.

But in 1974 Anka’s pen put him back on the charts at #1 despite an uproar by feminists. The National Organization of Women (NOW) gave Anka their dubious “Keep Her In Her Place” award, and Ms. magazine named him “Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year.” Anka who had four daughters at the time insisted his song was a tribute to childbirth.

Time magazine came to Anka’s defense and wrote, “What are you getting on this guy’s case for? We’re in a war. We’ve got a drug plague. We’ve got s*** going on in our country. Give him a break, he’s writing a song about his wife.”

At some point during the controversy Anka decided to begin ending the song live by changing the lyric to “having our baby.”

Outrage over the recording didn’t prevent Anka and his duet partner Odia Coates from landing at the top of he Billboard chart for three weeks.

They perform here on NBC’s “The Midnight Special” in 1974.

Paul Anka turns 80!


From April in that God-awful year of 2020:

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