Tin Pan Alley: Paul the Comforter

In the main, the ducktail warblers of popular singing—the Fabians, the Bobby Darins, the Frankie Avalons—are as interchangeable as bottle caps. Like the others, Paul Anka was a veteran performer before he was 20. His hair is a studied sculpture in coal tar and astrakhan. His voice sounds as if his shirt collar is too tight. But Anka is also a songwriter and the tunes that have made him are his own.

Since he was 14, Anka has written some 200 songs, picking them out on guitar or piano. In fact, since he composes more tunes than he can profitably record...

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