As a baby boom kid, you want to gloss over the dirt and vanity of better music epochs. But instead you do a humble about face for the poignant historical insight. Not many showbiz legends are left to tell the old-timer story of musical fame and fortune. So if this seems to come from larger than life ego, it hails from a time and place when most songs on the radio were hits. When the little guy's competition were entertainers of the 20th century and not the sound merchants whose noise passes for modern music today.
This prolific autobio reads like an old school I-met-who's-who-or-so-and-so rant. While fans may expect more, the subject is a middleweight star intrigued by heavier compadres more than himself in a candid memoir that rehashes his best decades as an artist in the music industry from the 50s to the 70s and beyond. Anka also holds a trivia reverence for hoods who ran Sin City back in its heyday, but he was too wise for the fast lane life and might have fallen victim to drink and/or smoke if he had gone that route like some Rat Pack regulars.
We meet the cocky kid with drive to make it at a very young age. In his effortless struggle to get his break, composer arranger genius Don Costa gets his share of credit and PA's stint as a teen idol was more destined for longevity than pretty boys he liked to marginalize as unworthy. The difference was that he was a much more well rounded talent as a writer and performer, his subtle habit of talking a lyric as much as singing it firmly establishing him as a class crooner act loyal to the GAS standard style.
As a constant companion to his own road to glory, he expounds on stories of the Sinatra legend, some of which are old news in pop history. Aside from that, the slant of this book is that he felt somewhat blessed that his star power found a niche after the big band sound and before the Brit Invasion yet eclipsed the teen idol time warp. In the long term, his skills as a writer and foreign audience appeal allowed him to thrive despite the fickle onslaught of changes in popular music.
Since Mr. Anka is a masterful songwriter at the level of a McCartney, the reader is left wanting more about the art of his craft. And just like it dominates many countless interviews, the story of how he wrote My Way for an Old Blue Eyes nearing premature retirement becomes the pivotal highlight of the book. The fateful collaboration marked the end of a classic standard era and the beginning of a me decade music age as it became the feather in the FS legend cap and turned Paul into an all time iconic tunesmith.
Thereafter, the narrative flaunts and satirizes lifestyles of the rich and famous with the author as friendly host to the good life of beautiful people. If there's a lot of mud slung along the way about who lived life too much to the fullest, burnt out or fell from grace in his midst, his tale is that of a critic of excess. All the more, why he never truly explains his shallow marriage to a gold-digger in a sad epilogue much like Sinatra's is ironic in that the two balladeers of great love songs had poor taste in women enabled by father time.
The only sour note of this book is that it's too much of a downbeat exposé on his contemporaries, the memories of whom are bittersweet. He's a bit too hard on peers from the past and way too diplomatic about the present state of the music industry. He has no perspective on what became of America's lost musical innocence. It's as if he's too PC to rag on the modern crop of urban music acts who have made it impossible for a pop kid like him to make it today. So the comfort of his legacy to stay relevant is to remain neutral.
If millennials are too generation gapped to pay homage, this won't make a best seller's list since he could have reeled in a bigger payday had he released this book as a long series of nostalgic scoops in supermarket tabloids. Still, despite nitpick misgivings, I must end on a positive note and recommend this. My Way is a trip back in time to the good old days baby boomers live in the past for, a salute to the Big Bang of pop culture when stars had talent and charisma to match their marquee value or top billing.