As the youngest of 14 children in a working-class family in Quebec, Celine Dion should have been lucky just to get her hands on the leftover bread and cheese, much less on a piano. But in her household, in the small village of Charlemagne, east of Montreal, two things were beloved: children and music. (Celine was named for a song her mother was singing while she was pregnant.) Her parents operated a small restaurant and club where the children could showcase their musical talents, led by their father's accordion and mother's violin, and Celine first stretched her vocal chords there at age 5. By the time she was 12, Celine had composed a song, "Ce N'etait Qu'un Rêve" ("It Was Only a Dream"), and with the help of her mother and a brother, she recorded a demo of the song, which she then sent off to an address they found on an album of Ginette Reno, a popular French singer. The address was that of Rene Angelil, who summoned Celine to his office that same day. When he heard her sing live, he cried. He was her first conquest, but there would be millions more. The making of a diva was under way.
Dion's rise from teenage nightclub singer to saccharine siren of the masses (an astonishing percentage of her songs contain the word "love" or "amour" in the title), has been dogged and steady, but not without difficulties. Record companies, it turned out, were less enamored of investing in a preteen than Angelil was. But Angelil was so rapt by Dion that he mortgaged his own home to pay for her debut — a risk that was quickly rewarded when her first two albums, La Voix du bon Dieu (The Voice of God) and Celine Chante Noel (Celine Sings Christmas) made her a teen sensation and earned her the endearing nickname "la p'tite Quebecoise." Dion's early years also brought a string of awards, including a gold medal at the Yamaha World Song Festival in Tokyo. By 1983, still in her tender teens, Dion became the first Canadian ever to have a gold record in France.
Dion's later teen years seem almost untouched by the difficulties most child performers have transforming themselves into a palatable adult version of their former selves; the young diva grew more popular with each song, whether it was about the depth of her love, the power of her love, or the metric tonnage of her love. She has won countless Felix and Juno awards (Canadian Grammys). The high point of exposure in Dion's young career came in 1988, when she won the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, and performed live before six hundred million television viewers throughout Europe, the USSR, the Middle East, Japan, and Australia. Still, it was difficult to get her navel-gazing neighbor to the south, the United States, to pay her any notice at all.
In 1990, Dion made her English-language debut with Unison on Epic Records, but her real Stateside breakthrough was orchestrated by Disney. Dion was selected to perform the theme from its animated hit Beauty and the Beast with Peabo Bryson, and the song went on to become the cornerstone for her second English album, 1992's Celine Dion, which boasted four hit singles, including "Love Can Move Mountains" and "Did You Give Enough Love." The theme from Beauty and the Beast went to No. 1 on the charts, and won both a Grammy and an Academy Award.
Dion followed up quickly in America: 1993's ballad-packed The Colour of My Love put the States into full swoon. The album included many new hits with the word love in the title: "When I Fall In Love," which appeared on the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack; "The Power of Love," a cover of Jennifer Rush's 1985 hit; and "Because You Loved Me," which was featured in promotions for Robert Redford's Up Close and Personal. The latter gave Dion some much-needed television exposure. (Trailers for the movie featured almost as much coverage of Dion belting out the tune as shots of Michelle Pfeiffer trying to look like a reporter.)
Her endless recording, contests, and touring left little time for young Celine to date. But Rene Angelil managed to solve that problem as well. He began a romantic involvement with his greatest client shortly after she turned 19. The thrice-married Angelil, 26 years Dion's senior, kept the affair secret for several years, fearing fans would find the whole thing a little creepy. But when the couple finally married in 1994 at Montreal's grand Notre Dame Basilica, Canadians treated it like a royal wedding. Her performance at the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games solidified her spot on the world stage. Performing "The Power of the Dream," a song co-written for her by Linda Thompson, Babyface, and David Foster (whom she has worked with on every one of her English-language albums), Dion's rail-thin figure was etched into America's psyche. In fact, her 1996 album, Falling Into You, won Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Pop Album.
Following up such a successful album might faze some people, but not the unsinkable Celine. In early 1997, Celine recorded the theme song for Titanic, directed by the reputedly "difficult" James Cameron. Over budget, missed deadlines, a catered meal laced with PCP, reshoots, and reported turmoil on the set were but a few of the setbacks endured by the film and its crew, seemingly destining the flick to become, like its namesake, an oceanic flop. Oh, how the tides changed when Titanic was finally released in the fall. And riding the wave of the unparalleled success of that movie was Celine, whose voice has by now become synonymous with the film. There wasn't a radio station or award show you could tune in without hearing those spacious lungs avowing "My Heart Will Go On." The song went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song, prompting presenter Madonna to quip, "What a shocker."
In late 1997, Celine released Let's Talk About Love — an album devoted entirely to her most cherished subjects. In addition to "My Heart Will Go On," Love found Celine belting out 15 more eros-inspired tracks, often alongside some of music's biggest stars. The most fabled pairing is "Tell Him," a duet with the grand dame of divadom, Barbra Streisand. (The duo were supposed to sing the song at the Grammy Awards, but Barbra backed out at the last minute, leaving Celine no choice but to sing the theme song from Titanic solo.) Jovial tenor Luciano Pavarotti joins Dion in "I Hate You Then I Love You," former disco kings the Bee Gees back her on a version of their song "Immortality," and Bryan Adams shows up for his song "Let's Talk About Love." The most curious guest on the album is Corey "Sunglasses at Night" Hart, whose song "Where Is the Love" the junior diva covers. The pairing can only be explained by divulging Hart's nationality: He's Canadian.
Dion hasn't slowed a bit in 1998 — if anything, she's been busier than ever. An April appearance with peers Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, and Shania Twain on VH1's Divas Live special (subsequently released as an album in September) further cemented her stature among the diva elite. In September, she released her fourth French-language album, S'il Suffisait D'aimer in Canada (the album came out in the U.S. in October), and in November, Dion's first holiday album, These Are Special Times, arrived. And in keeping with her dogged work ethic, she has already booked a tour of Japan, England, and Europe, which will keep her busy through July of 1999.
The hard work paid off at the Billboard Music Awards in December 1998, an event that honors artists, songs, and albums as determined by retail sales and radio airplay, where the singer won six awards: Album Artist of the Year, Adult Contemporary Artist of the Year, Album of the Year and Soundtrack Album of the Year for Titanic, Soundtrack Single of the Year for "My Heart Will Go On," and Female Album of the Year for Let's Talk About Love.
2000 saw Celine release a greatest-hits compilation, All The Way … A Decade of Song, a sort of swan song for the "retiring" diva, who announced that she was taking a hiatus from performing in order to focus on starting a family with her husband. The album, which featured seven new songs along with all of her standards, included the hit "That's The Way It Is" and served as a prelude to recording an episode of VH1's Behind the Music.
In mid-June 2000, Celine and Rene announced to the world that after years of trying — and after Rene's bout with cancer — they were finally expecting their first child.
La Voix Du Bon Dieu - 2nd issue, Tellement J'ai D'amour, c'est pour toi,
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