Tag: Rock and Roll

My Way by Paul Anka

November 21st, 2016 — 4:44pm

My Way by Paul Ankascreen-shot-2016-11-21-at-2-08-00-am

I have always enjoyed the music of Paul Anka. So when someone told me that he wrote this book and told all about the behind the scenes goings on of the Rat Pack in Las Vegas, I thought it might be worth reading, especially since Frank Sinatra has always been one of my heroes.

Well, it turned out to be a very interesting book, but the heroes moved down a couple of notches. Frank Sinatra turns out to frequently be an unpleasant drunk when he drank lot which he often did. Sammy Davis, Jr., is shown to be a promiscuous bisexual but interestingly enough, Dean Martin wasn’t the lush that was often his public persona and apparently avoided the wild drinking parties of the other Rat Pack members.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that women were objectified by this group. Sinatra apparently surprised his friends when he said in response to a question that the women who was best in bed wasn’t Ava Gardner but was Angie Dickinson, adding according to Anka that he said he “really loved that woman.”

Paul Anka was born in Canada and burst on to the world stage as a teenager. He is a very talented singer and songwriter who has reinvented himself several time and still is performing into his ‘70s. His love of his work clearly comes through in this book. His song writing ability and his decision to write for other performers as well as himself makes him quite unique. He wrote Frank Sinatra’s signature song “My Way” and even wrote the Tonight Show theme song among numerous other mega hit songs. He has performed in just about every major venue around the world and has recorded bestselling albums in the United States and in other countries, as well as in different languages. Not only was he friends and part of the Rat Pack but he was also good friends with Elvis, Bobby Darin, Bob Dylan and numerous other big name stars.

The person who writes the book gets to paint his own history and is able to tell about others any way that he wishes to do so. For example, Anka relates how Ed McMahon was a somewhat stingy guy and one time Anka played a joke on him by calling his hotel room and pretending to be the hotel staff. He told McMahon that there were going to be noisy renovations taking place near his room and that they can move him to another room or let him stay there for free and give him ear muffs to block out the sound which was the choice that McMahon made.

The reader gets the impression that Anka avoided heavy drinking and drugs and we only get a vague reference that he had all the girls he wanted early in his career. He tells how he loved his parents who were quite supportive of him. His mother died at an early age and his father helped him in his business. Anka had five daughters from his first marriage which lasted 38 years and then was briefly married for 18 months. He revealed very little about his personal foibles but I thought his description of his long marriage and the breakup was notable and I will quote part of it here.

I am a singer of love songs, I sing songs of everlasting love, how you’re the only one – and I believe in it. But sometimes these things don’t work out in your private life. I was married to Anne for 38 years and I love her still. She is the mother of my five daughters who have all brought terrific son-in-laws into our family and we had a great life together. I love this woman. I always will. Getting divorced from Anne was just something I had to do for myself. Our kids were gone, our lives changed, our relationship changed. I can’t remain in something – even a long time of loving marriage – when I’m no longer experiencing things honestly. I didn’t want to be dishonest to someone I love even if that meant separating and so in 2001, Anne and I were divorced. There was no animosity, no big fights – I just wanted out of the box. We talk almost every day… I gave Anne everything that was legally hers and I threw in our art collection (that is worth millions) because I know how much she loved it, and other considerations but I said, “None of this down the middle stuff.

Anka appears to be very gratified for his great success as a performer, he describes many musicians, managers, agents, and performers who were his good friends. He detailed his relationship with Steve Wynn, the wealthy Las Vegas hotel mogul and his many interesting stories about him including one about Donald Trump which is in character with his current persona.

Towards the end of the book, Anka clearly describes how he feels every time he performs and steps on the stage. The intensity of that experience and his connection with the audience is very impressive.

I am sure he didn’t write this book for the royalties that it might bring. He probably chose to share at least part of his life and perhaps try to influence the legacy that he will leave. It was a nice read but he need not worry, as his music will live on and define Paul Anka for many generations. To listen to one of Paul Anka’s biggest hits click here.

To obtain a copy of this book from Amazon, please click here

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Just Kids by Patti Smith

September 18th, 2011 — 6:56pm

Buy now on Amazon: Just Kids

Just KidsIf you don’t know much about Patti Smith and you look her up you will see that she is a very accomplished poet, visual artist, song writer and performer.   Her music is of the punk rock variety. She even co-wrote a song with Bruce Springsteen that made it to #13 and she has received all kinds of recognition for her body of work including being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This book touches upon some of the many things that she has done but it is really a story of  her relationship with a man who wasn’t her husband or the father of her children and wasn’t even a musician. The man however, was an artist and although I don’t believe she used the term about him, it is fair to say that he was her “soul mate.” The man is Robert Mapplethorpe and if by chance you don’t know much about him and look him up you will see that he was a preeminent photographer known best for mostly black and white photos, many Polaroid, and many  of flowers and nude men . His photos were frequently known for their homoerotism. He also took many portraits including  photos of Patti Smith and did the cover for many of her albums.

The both were born in 1946. Patti was born in Chicago and grew up in New Jersey in alower middle class religious family. At age 21 she left college and religion as she headed to New York City with  some vague ideas about being a writer and a poet.  Robert Mapplethorpe was born in Queens and went to Pratt College and studied drawing, painting and sculpture and then set about trying to figure out how to become the artist that he knew he was destined to be. Smith and Mapplethorpe literally ran into each other and became a struggling, symbiotic and literally a starving duo. They had no or little money, at times very little food but clearly had found each other. They shared whatever they had including their bed and themselves. They supported each other in every way. They understood each other and their aspirations. They both believed in each other’s art and destiny to be artists. One time they overhear an older couple talking about them in the park saying, “They are just kids.”

Although she barely mentioned it , Smith obviously kept a diary . She has written this book in a continuous flow as she tells about the everyday events of her life especially about the first several years of her relationship with “ Robert” During most of the book , Smith has not started to sing and is only writing mostly poetry. Similarly for  the majority of the narrative, Mapplethorpe has not picked up a camera yet  and is drawing, making collages and various complex pieces to express himself. We hear  of the names of the many people who were the underground artistic life in New York City. The reader is introduced to life at the Chelsea Hotel with all the great conversations at the big round table in the back room. Some people’s names are more recognizable than others at least to this writer, ie. Alan Ginsberg , Andy Warhol, Sam Shepherd but I am sure that many others would be recognized by the  aficionados of the poetry and art scene of that time  but such familiarity is not necessary to appreciate this story.

Things do happen, these people grow up, establish adult important meaningful connections, opportunities appear, but these two are also always there for each other. Robert begins to confront his own sexuality and establishes various relationships with men. His own art flourishes and he explores his expression through photography. Patti has success with her poetry, publishes, adds music to her work and eventually becomes an important singer. We watch them come into their own and by necessity drift apart but yet are always connected. It is Robert who can photograph Patti for the perfect picture for her latest album. When the deadly scourge of the 1980s especially for the gay community strikes Robert, he asks Patti to some day tell their story. It has taken Patti more than 20 years to be able to do it and we feel enriched by being allowed to share it.

Comment » | AM - Autobiography or Memoir

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