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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Times Of My Life: Paul Anka's Influence On Mikey Hersh

Paul Anka's music has been a staple of the Hersh household ever since I was a little boy. I remember those long family car rides to and fro in which we would listen to Paul Anka's greatest hits cassette on constant repeat. His music also has played an integral part of my growing up; songs that make up the soundtrack of my life. "Times Of Your Life' was the featured song for my Bar Mitzvah and the song I danced to with my mom that night, "Having My Baby" was the tune I hummed to let my family know that my wife was pregnant, and "Lonely Boy" was a song I would constantly sing to myself whenever I was ever stuck in an uncomfortable social situation. Anka not only had a multitude of hit songs in the 50's, 60's, and 70's, but also was a proficient songwriter. Here's a quick roll call of songs that were hits that Anka wrote for other artists: She's A Lady by Tom Jones, Jubilation by Barbra Streisand, My Way by Frank Sinatra. He also wrote the theme for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Anka is the 21st highest selling musician of all time, with 3 #1 Billboard Singles (Diana, Lonely Boy, & Having My Baby), 33 Top 40 Billboard hits, and 42 million sales of his LP's and singles. In 2007, he even released a tongue in cheek album in putting his own spin on rock and roll classics like Eye Of The Tiger and Smell Like Teen Spirit. This album actually was one of Anka's best-selling albums in his history. Sadly, most people ages 40 and under still don't have a clue who this legend is. Although that may change in a few weeks when Michael Jackson's new song This Is It hits the charts. Guess who wrote it? That's right, Mr. Paul Anka.

Last night, I had the privilege to see Paul Anka live at The State Theatre in New Brunswick with my wife, parents, and in-laws. Me and my wife's presence must have brought the total average crowd age down from 75 to 73. All kidding aside, Dawn and I were the youngest people in the house. Just goes to show you how ignorant people can be. Now hard rock is my cup of tea, but as somebody who appreciates the whole spectrum of pop culture, I have a soft spot for the musicians that also were big parts of my mom and dad's life. Being at the show made me proud of my appreciation for the oldies, and it didn't bother me in the least to be the youngest. It meant I wouldn't need worry about the smell of pot in the air, drunk and obnoxious people, or long lines to go to the bathroom. The show went on for almost two hours and Anka still has that classic voice. He did most of his classic hits early in the set like Put Your Head On My Shoulder, Lonely Boy, Diana, and You Are My Destiny. Unfortunately perhaps due to lack of time or to rest his voice, he only did mini-versions of these songs. Anka also seemed to cater to the orchestra section which meant for a lot of the key moments in the show, us balcony dwellers had to strain our necks to catch the action. The crowd was kind of dead, and although Anka thrilled the crowd with some joke telling, he didn't do a good job of getting the crowd up and dancing. I know you are probably thinking that none of these crooners have the energy anymore. Not true, I've also seen Frankie Valli and Tom Jones, and both of whom still had more oomph in their step. The personal highlight of the concert for me was Anka sining Hold Me Til The Morning Comes, an obscure favorite tune of mine that he co-wrote and dueted with Peter Cetera in 1983. It brought me a lot of joy to hear that song. Of course, I had to serenade my wife when Anka did Having My Baby, although once again he only did a shortened version. Anka also dropped the ball when he sang a totally reworked version of Times Of Your Life, the 90's Bar Mitzvah theme song and my personal favorite Paul Anka song. To end this paragraph with a funny memory from last night, Paul sang his own version of Van Halen's Jump expecting the crowd to actually go nuts. But with all the hip replacements and heart monitors in the crowd, that sure didn't happen.

I'm definitely glad that I went, it was an experience. Seeing the pleasure in my father's eyes watching one of his favorite singers was worth the price of admission alone. What the concert also did was bring back the memories of those car rides from when I was little boy. Paul Anka did well for a 70 year old man, but should have gotten the crowd more active. At least he performed the key songs from his catalog not leaving out any major classic I could think of. Paul Anka is a legend, and in my mind one of the most proficient song writers of all time. I'm thrilled I got the chance to see him perform live and truly appreciate his mark on pop culture. But c'mon, it was no AC/DC or KISS concert. :)

Final Grade: B-

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