Written about his babysitter…
Diana – Paul Anka
ABC-Paramount 9831 (USA) / Columbia DB 3980 (UK)
Released July 1957
Writer Paul Anka
Producer Don Costa
USA #1 9/9/57 1 week UK #1 30/8/57 9 weeks
Recorded in just 1 take, this sold 10 million copies worldwide for ABC-Paramount and made Anka on overnight star. It was Number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, an impressive 9 weeks in Britain, where it sold 1.2 million. Some 50 years later it remains one of the Top 50 all-time best selling singles in the UK. Paul Anka, born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1941, began his musical career at an early age entering talent contests and doing impersonations of contemporary stars such as Frankie Laine and Johnnie Ray. In 1957, he borrowed $100 from his father to go to New York with 4 songs he had written. Legend has it that the very first person he called on was ABC-Paramount executive Don Costa – Don loved his songs, particularly ‘Diana’, and told Paul to get his parents down to the Big Apple pronto so that they could sign the 15-year-old’s contract!
The song was written about Diana Ayoub, babysitter to Paul’s younger brother and sister – she was three years older than the young balladeer, and not surprisingly, wasn’t interested. Anka wrote this first as a poem, which he mailed to Miss Ayoub who remained unimpressed. He then added music and created his first million seller. (Apparently she changed her mind when Anka became an overnight star, but by that time Anka had lost interest!) He had a lengthy run of hits between 1957 and 1963 including ‘You Are My Destiny’, ‘Lonely Boy’ (another US #1 in 1959), ‘Put Your Head On My Shoulder’ and ‘Puppy Love’ (1960), inspired by another female obsession, Annette Funicello, an 18-year-old Disney Mouseketeer. (Like a number of more recent ex-Mouseketeers, Miss Funicello had some hits of her own) ‘Puppy Love’ was of course later a big hit for another teen-star, Donny Osmond, in 1972.
Like most pop stars of his era, Anka fell out of favour, and off the charts, after 1963, though by this time he was a huge international star and was able to pack ’em in at nightclubs like New York’s famous Copacabana and the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles. He would later become a regular performer at the Las Vegas hotels where the financial rewards were astronomic. By this time, Anka had also made his name as a songwriter, creating hits for other acts including ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ (a posthumous hit for Buddy Holly), and later ‘She’s A Lady’ for Tom Jones. Anka’s most famous composition outside his own material was probably his creation of an English lyric to the French song, ‘Comme, D’Habitude’. Anka called it ‘My Way’ – and wrote it especially for Frank Sinatra. Another of Anka’s best known pieces (at least in America) was his theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, one of America’s most popular daily TV shows of its’ era – the regular performance of that theme apparently brought in a handy $30,000 dollars a year in royalties.
Anka made a chart comeback in the 1970s enjoying a third US Number 1 with ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’, a duet with Odia Coates which spent three weeks at the top in 1974 and also hit the UK Top Ten. Anka had written the song for his wife four years earlier – and no, Miss Coates was not having his baby. An interesting aside here. In 1975, Reverend Charles Boykin of Tallahassee, Florida, conducted a private survey of 1,000 unwed mothers and determined that 984 became pregnant while listening to rock music! Wow. That’s amazing! The remainder were apparently just having sex. But I digress. Further hits followed until Anka had his last Top 40 hit in 1978. Since then he has by no means rested on his laurels and remains a popular and highly paid entertainer at resorts such as Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Unlike many artists of his era, Paul Anka found out about the value of his song copyrights at an early age. He owns all his copyrights and the masters of his much re-issued recordings all the way back to his first hit ‘Diana’. Thus, he won’t have to be worrying about those niggling electricity bills.
In a 2009 and 2014 update, more good news for Mr Anka and his bank manager in a new royalties bonanza. An unreleased Michael Jackson track, ‘This Is It’, premiered in October 2009, just a few months after his death. Originally written in 1983 as ‘I Never Heard’, the track was first credited as a Michael Jackson solo composition before an irritated Paul Anka got in touch with Jackson’s label and his lawyers to reveal that he had in fact co-composed the song with the formerly gloved one. Jackson’s executors quickly agreed with Anka’s claim and granted him his rightful share of the song, which will doubtless bring in the odd million or two, being the first ‘new’ Jackson song since his sudden death. The song was originally intended for a Paul Anka solo album, but the pair fell out, and Anka ultimately gave it to R&B singer Sa-Fire in 1991 (as ‘I Never Heard’). A satisfied Anka told an internet gossip site, “They realize it’s a mistake, they realize it’s my song, they realize it’s my production of his vocal in my studio and I am getting 50 percent of the whole project, actually, which is fair”. In 2014, a further song from the same songwriting session in 1983 at Anka’s home and private studio, ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ also saw the light of day. There apparently exist several other recordings from these demo-sessions, so we can doubtless expect more to surface in the future. Some guys have all the luck!
Copyright © 2011 SongStories/Tony Burton