4. As a headliner in Vegas in the '60s, he had a front seat for the heyday of the Rat Pack. He idolized Frank Sinatra.
I saw him from corner to corner, from behavior in steam rooms to socially at parties, onstage, rehearsals. So I got the full menu of what this guy was about. I don't think there's anybody who's been talked about or written about as much. Even today. What you had coming at you was this guy, this person, this godlike creature, he was a bad boy, he was a good boy — and could sing! Think about that, huh, today? Stylistically, he was an incredible interpreter of American standards.
5. In 1968, he penned the lyrics to "My Way" — written for Sinatra's impending retirement — in a single night.
When I perform it, I feel the difference from when I started. You do feel certain songs differently at certain passages of your life. There's no doubt about it. I play it at every show. They'd throw [stuff] at me if I didn't. They come to see it. They want "Diana." They want "My Way." There are certain songs that you wouldn't dare not do.
6. Of all the songs he's written, "She's a Lady," which was a No. 1 hit for Tom Jones, is his least favorite.
I love it for Tom to sing. But I don't think it's something that I could have made a hit. I'm a writer first, and I write for people who have different styles. I think it's somewhat chauvinistic, but Tom pulls it off.
7. Even the songs he wrote as ad jingles became hits. In 1975, "The Times of Your Life," written for a Kodak commercial, hit No. 7 on the Billboard charts.
Isn't it amazing that there's no Kodak [commercials] today? Who would have thought that? The song was a departure, a totally different working environment.
8. He cowrote Michael Jackson's final hit, "This Is It," which was released after it was discovered at the singer's home following his 2009 death. It was recorded in the early '80s, but Anka says Jackson secretly took the demo tapes from Anka's studio.
He was always pretty cool around me. I knew him as a kid. His family came to Vegas. He sought me out in the '80s. I guess the only negative I would have [about him] is when he did steal the tapes from me, but I wouldn't be talking about that song today if he hadn't. He was different. Very different. A little eccentric. But he was a great artist.
9. He has four grown daughters and a 7-year-old son.
It's different, in the sense that at this stage — how many summers do I have left? I don't work in my office anymore. I work at home. I'm up every morning with him, and I take him to school, and I pick him up at school. He's always with me. I work out of home so that I'm here for him, because time is the biggest asset that we all have, and you have to use it properly.
10. He has never felt younger.
If you're fortunate enough to do something that you do love, if you have a passion, then you're never working a day in your life. And that's me since I'm 16. With all the Rat Pack experience, I came away from it not being a heavy smoker or drinker because I saw what it did to them. Eating properly and exercise, and mentally keeping myself in the right place with the right kind of pressure: It's worked for me. I've been protective of my body for the last 40-some years. If you do that, and stay active, you got a shot at having a real, unfettered life, and keeping the brain working. I've seen too many guys retire, even Frank, and they sit around counting their money and they just die. They throw dirt on you if you stand still, and I've been afraid of that. I just keep moving and doing what I'm doing.
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