- Céline Marie Claudette Dion
March 30, 1968 (age 53)
- René Angélil (m. 1994; wid. 2016)
Céline Marie Claudette Dion, CC OQ ChLD (born 30 March 1968) is a Canadian singer and businesswoman. Born into a large family from Charlemagne, Quebec, Dion emerged as a teen star in the French-speaking world after her manager and future husband René Angélil mortgaged his home to finance her first record. Dion first gained international recognition in the 1980s by winning both the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival and the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest where she represented Switzerland. Following a series of French albums during the 1980s, she signed on to Epic Records in the United States. In 1990, Dion released her debut English-language album, Unison, establishing herself as a viable pop artist in North America and other English-speaking areas of the world.
During the 1990s, with the help of Angélil, she achieved worldwide fame after releasing several English albums along with additional French albums. Her albums, Falling into You (1996) and Let's Talk About Love (1997), were both certified diamond in the US, while D'eux (1995) became the best-selling French-language album of all time. She also scored a series of international number-one hits, including "The Power of Love", "Think Twice", "Because You Loved Me", "It's All Coming Back to Me Now", "My Heart Will Go On" and "I'm Your Angel". However, in 1999 at the height of her success, Dion announced a hiatus from entertainment to start a family and spend time with her husband, who had been diagnosed with cancer. She returned to the top of pop music in 2002 and signed to perform nightly in A New Day... (2003–07), a five-star theatrical show at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada. It became the most successful residency show of all time, grossing US $385 million.
Dion's music has been influenced by genres ranging from rock and R&B to gospel and classical. Her recordings are mainly in French and English, although she also sings in Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. While her releases have often received mixed critical reception, she is regarded as one of pop music's most influential voices. Dion has won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. She is the second best-selling female artist in the US during the Nielsen SoundScan era. In 2003, Dion was honoured by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) for selling over 50 million albums in Europe. Dion remains the best-selling Canadian artist and one of the best-selling artists of all time with record sales of over 200 million copies worldwide.
Life and career
1968–89: Early life and career beginnings
Dion was born in Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada, the youngest of 14 children of Thérèse (née Tanguay), a homemaker, and Adhémar Dion, a butcher, both of French-Canadian descent. Dion was raised a Roman Catholic in a poverty-stricken, but, by her own account, happy home in Charlemagne. Music had always been a major part of the Dion family; indeed, Dion herself was named after the song "Céline", which French singer Hugues Aufray had recorded two years before her own birth. On 13 August 1973, at the age of five, the young Céline made her first public appearance at her brother Michel's wedding, where she performed Christine Charbonneau's song "Du fil des aiguilles et du coton". Thereafter, she continued to perform with her siblings in her parents's small piano bar called Le Vieux Baril, "The Old Barrel." From an early age, Dion had dreamed of being a performer. In a 1994 interview with People magazine, she recalled, "I missed my family and my home, but I don't regret having lost my adolescence. I had one dream: I wanted to be a singer."
At age 12, Dion collaborated with her mother and her brother Jacques to write and compose her first song, "Ce n'était qu'un rêve", whose title translates as "It Was Only a Dream" or "Nothing But A Dream." Her brother, Michel Dion, sent the recording to music manager René Angélil, whose name he discovered on the back of a Ginette Reno album. Angélil was moved to tears by Dion's voice, and decided to make her a star. In 1981, he mortgaged his home to fund her first record, La voix du bon Dieu, which later became a local No. 1 hit and made Dion an instant star in Quebec. Her popularity spread to other parts of the world when she competed in the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, Japan, and won the musician's award for "Top Performer" as well as the gold medal for "Best Song" with "Tellement j'ai d'amour pour toi".
By 1983, in addition to becoming the first Canadian artist to receive a gold record in France for the single "D'amour ou d'amitié" ("Of Love or of Friendship"), Dion had also won several Félix Awards, including "Best Female performer" and "Discovery of the Year". Further success came when Dion represented Switzerland in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Ne partez pas sans moi" and won the contest by a close margin in Dublin, Ireland. At eighteen, after seeing a Michael Jackson performance, Dion told Angélil that she wanted to be a star like Jackson. Though confident in her talent, Angélil realized that her image needed to be changed in order for her to be marketed worldwide. Dion receded from the spotlight for a number of months, during which she underwent dental surgery to improve her appearance, and was sent to the École Berlitz in 1989 to polish her English.
In 1989, during a concert on the Incognito Tour, Dion injured her voice. She consulted the otorhinolaryngologist William Gould, who gave her an ultimatum: have immediate surgery on her vocal cords, or do not utilize them at all for three weeks. Dion chose the latter and underwent vocal training with William Riley.
1990–92: Unison, Dion chante Plamondon and Celine Dion
Two years after she learned English, Dion made her debut into the Anglophone market with Unison (1990), the lead single having originally been recorded by Laura Branigan. She incorporated the help of many established musicians, including Vito Luprano and Canadian producer David Foster. The album was largely influenced by 1980s soft rock music that quickly found a niche within the adult contemporary radio format. Unison also hit the right notes with critics: Jim Faber of Entertainment Weekly wrote that Dion's vocals were "tastefully unadorned", and that she never attempted to "bring off styles that are beyond her". Stephen Erlewine of AllMusic declared it as, "a fine, sophisticated American debut." Singles from the album included "(If There Was) Any Other Way", "The Last to Know", "Unison", and "Where Does My Heart Beat Now", a mid-tempo soft-rock ballad which made prominent use of the electric guitar. The latter became her first top-ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number four. In 1991, Dion was a featured soloist in Voices That Care, a tribute to American troops fighting in Operation Desert Storm.
Dion's real international breakthrough came when she duetted with Peabo Bryson on the title track to Disney's animated film Beauty and the Beast (1991). It became her first top-ten hit in the UK and her second top-ten hit in the US. The song earned its songwriters an Academy Award for Best Song, and gave Dion her first Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. "Beauty and the Beast" served as the lead single from Dion's 1992 self-titled album, which, like her debut, had a strong pop rock influence combined with elements of soul and classical music. Owing to the success of the lead-off single and her collaborations with David Foster and Diane Warren, the album was even more well-received commercially than Unison; it received diamond record in Canada and double platinum in the US. The album's second single "If You Asked Me To" (a cover of Patti LaBelle's song from the 1989 movie Licence to Kill) became her first number-one single in Canada and peaked at number four on the US Billboard Hot 100.
Also during this time, Dion released the Francophone album Dion chante Plamondon. The album consisted mostly of covers, but featured 4 new songs: "Des mots qui sonnent", "Je danse dans ma tête", "Quelqu'un que j'aime, quelqu'un qui m'aime" and "L'amour existe encore". It was originally released in Canada and France during the 1991–1992 period, then later received an international release in 1994, the first French Celine Dion album to do so. "Un garçon pas comme les autres (Ziggy)" became a smash hit in France, reaching No. 2 and being certified gold. In Quebec, the album was certified Gold the day it was released.
By 1992, Unison, Céline Dion, and numerous high-profile media appearances had propelled Dion to superstardom in North America. She had achieved one of her main objectives: wedging her way into the Anglophone market and achieving fame. However, while she was experiencing rising success in the US, her French fans in Canada criticized her for neglecting them. She would later rebuff these criticisms at the 1991 Félix Awards show, where, after winning "English Artist of the Year", she openly refused to accept the award. She asserted that she was—and would always be—a French, not an English, artist. Apart from her commercial success, there were also changes in Dion's personal life, as Angélil, who was twenty-six years her senior, transitioned from manager to lover. However, the relationship was kept a secret as they both feared that the public would find their relations inappropriate.
1993–95: The Colour of My Love and D'eux
In 1993, Dion announced her feelings for her manager by declaring him "the colour of [her] love" in the dedication section of her third English-language album The Colour of My Love. However, instead of criticizing their relationship as Dion had feared, fans embraced the couple. Eventually, Angélil and Dion married in an extravagant wedding ceremony in December 1994, which was broadcast live on Canadian television.
As with most of her catalogue, The Colour of my Love had over-riding themes of love and romance. It became her most successful record up to that point, selling more than six million copies in the US, two million in Canada, and peaking at No. 1 in many countries. The album also spawned Dion's first US, Canadian, and Australian No. 1 single "The Power of Love" (a remake of Jennifer Rush's 1985 hit), which would become her signature hit until she reached new career heights in the late 1990s. The single "When I Fall in Love", a duet with Clive Griffin, achieved moderate success on the US and Canadian charts, and was nominated for two Grammy Awards, winning one. The Colour of My Love also became Dion's first major hit in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom. Both the album and the single "Think Twice" simultaneously occupied the top of the British charts for five consecutive weeks. "Think Twice", which remained at No. 1 for seven weeks, eventually became the fourth single by a female artist to sell in excess of one million copies in the UK, while the album was eventually certified five-times platinum for two-million copies sold.
Dion kept to her French roots and continued to release many Francophone recordings between each English record. Generally, they achieved more credibility than her English-language works. She released À l'Olympia, a live album that was recorded during one of Dion's concerts at the Paris Olympia in 1994. It had one promotional single, a live version of "Calling You", which peaked at seventy-five on the French Singles Chart. She also recorded a bilingual version of Petit Papa Noël with Alvin and the Chipmunks for the 1994 holiday album A Very Merry Chipmunk. D'eux (also known as The French Album in the United States), was released in 1995, and it would go on to become the best-selling French-language album of all time. The album was mostly written and produced by Jean-Jacques Goldman, and amassed huge success with the singles "Pour que tu m'aimes encore" and "Je sais pas". "Pour que tu m'aimes encore" reached No. 1 in France and stayed at the top position for twelve weeks. It was later certified Platinum in France. The single also reached the top ten in the UK and Ireland, a rare accomplishment for a French song. The second single off the album, "Je sais pas", reached No. 1 on the French Singles Chart as well and was certified Silver there. These songs would later become "If That's What It Takes" and "I Don't Know" on Dion's next English album, Falling into You.
During the mid-1990s and onward, Dion's albums were generally constructed on the basis of melodramatic soft rock ballads, with sprinklings of up-tempo pop and rare forays into other genres. She collaborated with many renowned writers and producers such as Jim Steinman and David Foster, who helped her to develop a signature sound. While critical reviews fluctuated, Dion's releases performed increasingly well on the international charts, and in 1996 she won the World Music Award for "World's Best-selling Female Recording Artist of the Year" for the third time. By the mid-1990s, she had established herself as one of the best-selling artists in the world.
Dion cites idols as varied as Aretha Franklin, Charles Aznavour, Michael Jackson, Carole King, Anne Murray, Barbra Streisand, and the Bee Gees, all of whom she would eventually collaborate with. Dion has also stated that she grew up listening to artists such as Janis Joplin, The Doobie Brothers, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, but never got the chance to sing their genre of music. She has also shown appreciation for Édith Piaf, Elton John, Cher, Tina Turner and many 1960s, 1970s and 1980s soul singers such as Etta James, Roberta Flack and Patti LaBelle. Among her peers, she has expressed admiration for fellow vocalist Whitney Houston, whom she had often been compared to. Her music has been influenced by numerous genres, including pop, rock, gospel, R&B and soul, and her lyrics focus on themes of poverty, world hunger, and spirituality, with an emphasis on love and romance. After the birth of her first child, her work increasingly focused on maternal love.
Dion has faced considerable criticism from critics, who state that her music often retreats behind pop and soul conventions, and is marked by excessive sentimentality. According to Keith Harris of Rolling Stone magazine, "[Dion's] sentimentality is bombastic and defiant rather than demure and retiring....[she] stands at the end of the chain of drastic devolution that goes Aretha-Whitney-Mariah. Far from being an aberration, Dion actually stands as a symbol of a certain kind of pop sensibility—bigger is better, too much is never enough, and the riper the emotion the more true." Dion's francophone releases, by contrast, tend to be deeper and more varied than her English releases, and consequently have achieved more credibility.
Critics have stated that Dion's involvement in the production aspect of her music is fundamentally lacking, which results in her work being overproduced and impersonal. However, coming from a family in which all of her siblings were musicians, she dabbled in learning how to play instruments like piano and guitar, and practised with a Fender Stratocaster during the recording sessions of her album, Falling into You. Although rare, Dion has contributed to the writing of a handful of her English and French songs, as well as writing a few songs for other artists such as Marc Dupre. Additionally, as her career progressed, she found herself taking charge in the production of her albums. On her first English album, which she recorded before she had a firm command of the English language, she expressed disapproval, which could have been avoided if she had assumed more creative input. By the time she released her second English album Celine Dion, she had assumed more control of the production and recording process, hoping to dispel earlier criticisms. She stated, "On the second album I said, 'Well, I have the choice to be afraid one more time and not be 100% happy, or not be afraid and be part of this album.' This is my album." Besides her contributions to some of her early French albums, Dion wrote a few of the songs on Let's Talk About Love (1997) and These Are Special Times (1998).
Dion is often the subject of media ridicule and parody, and is frequently impersonated on shows like MADtv, Saturday Night Live, South Park, Royal Canadian Air Farce and This Hour Has 22 Minutes for her strong accent and on-stage gesticulations. However, Dion has stated that she is unaffected by the comments, and is flattered that people take the time to impersonate her. She even invited Ana Gasteyer, who parodied her on SNL, to appear on stage during one of her performances in New York. While she is rarely politically outspoken, in 2005 following the Hurricane Katrina disaster, Dion appeared on Larry King Live and tearfully criticized the US government's slow response in aiding the victims of the hurricane: "There's people still there waiting to be rescued. To me that is not acceptable...How can it be so easy to send planes in another country to kill everybody in a second and destroy lives. We need to serve our country." After her interview, she stated, "When I do interviews with Larry King or the big TV shows like that, they put you on the spot, which is very difficult. I do have an opinion, but I'm a singer. I'm not a politician."
Dion is regarded as one of pop music's most influential voices. Linda Lister describes Dion as a reigning Queen of Pop for her influence over the record industry during the 1990s. Her music and vocal style, alongside that of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, have been said to shape how the bulk of modern female pop vocalists sing. These three singers have been widely credited with reviving the power ballad, and in doing so reshaping the adult contemporary radio format, making it one of the most popular formats of the 1990s and early 2000s. According to producer, musician, and former American Idol judge Randy Jackson, Dion, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are the voices of the modern era. Cultural critic Carl Wilson notes that Dion's "fame and influence is also renewed and expressed regularly these days by American Idol, the largest mass musical phenomenon of the past decade, where Celine's stood solidly in its pantheon of singers for young people to emulate". Many contestants on the countless televised talent competitions that have risen at the turn of the millennium often emulate Dion, Houston and Carey and cite them as idols.
Many artists have either mentioned Dion as a major influence or as one of their favourite singers including: Britney Spears, Rihanna, Rita Ora, Christina Aguilera, Frank Ocean, Adele, Josh Groban, Delta Goodrem, Sparks, Charice, Leona Lewis, Jessie J, Jojo, Lea Michele, Jennifer Hudson, Ariana Grande, Regine Velasquez, Taylor Swift, Vanessa Hudgens, The Canadian Tenors, Faith Hill, Katy Perry, Sevyn Streeter, Kelly Clarkson, Helena Paparizou and Lara Fabian, among many others. In the liner notes of Lara Fabian's album Toutes les femmes en moi, Fabian expressed how she had idolized Dion since her adolescence, even writing: "I would follow note by note your musicality, your passion, sung like only your voice can give colors to the harmony." Country singer Martina McBride is widely heralded by the press as the Celine Dion of Country music.
Dion resides in Henderson, Nevada. Dion first met her husband and manager, René Angélil, in 1980, when she was 12 and he was 38, after her brother, Michel Dondalinger Dion, sent him a demonstration recording of "Ce n'était qu'un rêve", or "It Was Only a Dream/Nothing But A Dream", a song she, her mother the former Thérèse Tanguay, and her brother Jacques Dion had jointly written and composed. They began a relationship in 1987 and became engaged in 1991. They married on 17 December 1994 at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Quebec. On 5 January 2000, Dion and Angelil renewed their wedding vows in Las Vegas.
In May 2000, Dion had two small operations at a fertility clinic in New York to improve her chances of conceiving, after deciding to use in-vitro fertilization because of years of failed attempts to conceive. Their first son, René-Charles Angelil, was born on 25 January 2001. In May 2010, Angelil announced that Dion was 14 weeks pregnant with twins after a sixth treatment of in-vitro fertilization. On Saturday, 23 October 2010, at 11:11 and 11:12 am respectively, at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, Dion, by Caesarean section, gave birth to healthy fraternal twins. The twins were named Eddy, after Dion's favourite French songwriter, Eddy Marnay, who had also produced Dion's first five albums, and Nelson, after former South African President Nelson Mandela. Dion appeared with her newborn sons on the cover of 9 December 2010 issue of the Canadian edition of Hello! magazine.
On 14 January 2016, Angélil died from complications of cancer. Two days later, Dion's brother, Daniel, died at age 59 of cancer.