Paul Anka is the recipient of stars on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame. He returns to his home country in support of the festival and its goal — to celebrate Canadian achievements — with a performance at Massey Hall, Oct. 14. The Star asked Anka a few questions about his native land in a phone interview from his home in California. Tickets are available at www.cwofest.ca.
Q You left Canada in the 1950s, have lived abroad in Europe and now call the U.S. home. What have you observed to be the biggest changes in this country?
A There's a great deal of confidence and integrity in all aspects of this country. People have changed. I left in the 1950s when there weren't many opportunities and we weren't appreciated. We had to leave. Now the people and audiences are more sophisticated. I feel that they've grown up and there's great pride in the country.
Q Of the many songs you've written, which would you pick as Canada's anthem song?
A “I'm Not Anyone.” That would be the closest song to Canada when it comes to lyrical content. I wrote it for my good friend Sammy Davis Jr. The whole song says you don't get down on your knees for anyone, that you have a great deal of pride. Sometimes you write and write and write, and your favourite songs aren't the most popular ones. I enjoy performing this one. (Lyrics: “I'm not any man/Designed to fit someone's plan/I have my own desires/Of the things a man aspires...”)
Q On your latest album, Rock Swings, you interpret a lot of different, and unexpected, genres of music, including Bon Jovi's “It's my life,” Soundgarden's “Black Hole Sun,” and Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” If Canada were a genre of music, what would we be and why?
A. I think it would probably lean towards pop, as opposed to rock. Quality music. England can be a trendsetter, but Canada is more on the post.
Q If you can take the man out of Canada, but not Canada out of the man, what uniquely Canadian value do you think has helped you achieve success?
A. My work ethic and integrity. My upbringing in Canada helped stabilize me in all kinds of environments. When I got involved in the music business as a kid, it was mafia driven and I was exposed to all kinds of things in Las Vegas. But being Canadian kept me level-headed.
Q Before turning your full attention to being a songwriter in your teens, you wanted to be a journalist. Here's your chance to be a wordsmith. How would you describe Canada?
A We beat to our own drum. We're proud to be Canadians living in the North American corridor. We stand on our own and have our own set of principles, our own personality and it is strong. We will not deviate from that.
— Vivian Song