At age 76, Paula Anka can still vividly recall what it was like hanging out with the Rat Pack in Sin City.
The Canadian crooner, a former ‘60s teen idol who’s still the only artist to have a Billboard Top 100 song through seven consecutive decades, also garnered fame for writing Frank Sinatra’s 1973 hit “My Way.”
“Me, Bobby Darin and a couple of others started in pop music, and we wanted to test ourselves: How are we going to evolve?” Anka told Closer Weekly Thursday. “... The Rat Pack were the only guys to emulate.
"Hanging out with them in the steam room, socializing, they knew who they were, and acquired wisdom to deal with their success. But they had a soft side. Frank [Sinatra] would say, ‘If I could just get another hit.'"
Anka was all too willing to grant Sinatra’s wish.
“I was 26, 27,” said Anka. “[Frank and I] were having dinner in Florida and he told me he was quitting — he was being hassled, had all kinds of things going against him, but he wanted to do one last album. I realized that if I wanted to write for him, it had to be now. I wrote it in the way he talked — spit it out. When the record company found I’d written it, they were kinda pissed off that I didn’t do it myself.”
Despite the song's lasting success for Ol’ Blue Eyes, Anka has zero regrets penning the beloved track for his friend.
“I tell people: I don’t have a job. I have a passion,” said Anka.
Back in 2007, Anka told UK’s Telegraph he did get some help in writing “My Way.” The publication revealed the melody is an adaptation of the 1967 French pop song “Comme d’habitude” by Claude Francois. Anka heard it while vacationing in Paris.
“I thought it was a s--- record, but there was something in it,” he said at the time.
Anka would go on to acquire the song’s publishing rights, and it sat in a drawer in his New York apartment for two years before Sinatra learned about it over dinner.
“Sinatra had started to understand that he needed to do pop songs, which he hated,” said Anka. “He was a purist of the standards. He hated Presley, and only liked me because I made money for the mob in Vegas.
"When my record company caught wind of it, they were pissed that I didn’t keep it for myself. I said, ‘Hey, I can write it, but I’m not the guy to sing it.’ It was for Frank, no one else.”
Sinatra wouldn’t be the only artist to sing “My Way.” Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, the Gypsy Kings and even the Sex Pistols have all recorded their own renditions of the single.
Anka said he was surprised Elvis Presley would also perform it on stage.
“I spent time with him and watched him self-destruct,” he said. “He was a good guy, a Southern gentleman, a little naïve, but he started to lose it — he got locked into that cocoon, the comfort of the posse, the aluminum foil on the windows and no sun. I told him, ‘It’s not your kind of song,’ but it meant a lot to him.”
Anka admitted he grew tired of the song’s popularity over the years. Fans, including prisoners on death row, would reach out to him about how the track resonated with them, he claimed.
“Everyone thinks it’s their song — but how many people really do it their own way?” he said.