BY ELLIOT STEPHEN COHEN
Last Tuesday, at New Brunswick, New Jersey's State Theatre, 73 year-old singer-composer Paul Anka charmed the packed house for some two hours of joyful non-stop entertainment.
The Canadian-born singer, who first hit the American charts in 1957 as a 16 year-old wonderkid with a tune called "Diana," is one of a very select few artists from the 1950s (along with Tony Bennett) who is still a popular recording artist on a major label. Last year’s "Duets" album featured admirers like Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Leon Russell.
Anka's credits include theme songs for Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" (which netted him millions in royalties during its 29-year run), and Darryl F. Zanuck's 1962 film "The Longest Day," in which he also appeared.
He was also the writer of "It Doesn't Matter Any More" for Buddy Holly, "She's A Lady,” for Tom Jones, and the lyricist for what may be considered Frank Sinatra's signature song "My Way." Anka has also endured for more than 50 years as a highly polished Las-Vegas-style performer.
The audience members, most of whom seemed over 60, swooned when Anka crooned romantic ballads from their youth like "Puppy Love," "You Are My Destiny" and “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.” Several times during the show, Anka was showered with flowers from appreciative females.
During the show, he also recounted tales of getting acquainted with "The Rat Pack," Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., the latter of whom he described as "the greatest entertainer who ever lived," before proceeding to sing along with an onscreen video of Davis.
He also recalled being a wide-eyed 21-year-old while working with two of his idols, actors John Wayne and Robert Mitchum, also on "The Longest Day." Anka also spun some on- and off-color jokes, played acoustic guitar and piano and performed all evening with the energy of someone half his 73 years.
Remembering his rock roots, Anka, who toured in the ‘50s with Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, encored with a spirited rendition of Creedence Clearwater's "Proud Mary.”