Céline Dion, with her five-octave range and passionate style, has sung her way to the top of the pop-music scene in Canada, Britain, France, and the United States. She first cultivated French-speaking fans in Canada with a series of albums, four of which went platinum there. In the early 1990s, Dion made the difficult transition from her native French to English, in which she repeated her success, making both gold and platinum albums.
The youngest of 14 children, Dion grew up in Charlemagne, Quebec, surrounded by music. Her mother played the violin, and her father, the accordion; the family spent much of its time together singing and playing various instruments. Dion’s parents owned a piano bar and restaurant, and the children took turns singing and waiting on tables. Céline got her start in the family enterprise quite early—she first stood atop a table to belt out the songs of Ginette Reno at age five. Soon local residents were calling ahead to be sure they would catch her performances.
When Dion was 12, her mother sent a demonstration tape to Rene Angelil, a well-known Montreal agent, with the note, “This is a 12-year-old with a fantastic voice. Please listen to her. We want her to be like Ginette Reno.” Angelil, who had steered Reno to fame, tossed the tape aside. He later explained in Macleans, “Every kid of 12 in Quebec wanted to be either Ginette or Rene.” When he finally listened to it weeks later at the urging of one of Dion’s brothers, Angelil wanted to see Dion immediately.
Angelil took complete control of Dion’s career, arranging the contracts and choosing the material for her early French albums. His belief in her was so strong that he mortgaged his house to finance her first album. He did not have to wait long for his opinion to be confirmed by the Canadian public. They flocked to her performances and affectionately dubbed her la petite Québecoise (the little Quebecker) as they watched her grow up. Dion quit school at the age of 14 to devote herself to her music. By the time she was 18, she had recorded a string of best-selling French-language albums. In 1983 her single “L’amour ou d’amite” went gold in France, the first from a Canadian artist to do so.
At 18, Dion was ready to conquer new territory: adulthood and the English pop market. Balking at her little-girl image, she followed Angelil’s recommendation that she disappear from the public eye for a year. She took that time to exchange her childish clothes for sexier and more sophisticated outfits and to begin to study English
For the Record…
Born c. 1970 in Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada; engaged to René Angelil, 1994.
Singer, c. 1984—. Released seven French-language albums in Canada by age 18; first English-language album, Unison, released by Epic, 1990.
Awards: Juno awards for female vocalist of the year, 1990,1991, and 1992, and for album of the year, 1990, for Unison; best dance recording, 1992, for “Love Can Move Mountains”; Juno awards for best-selling Francophone album for Dion chante Plamondon and for single of the year for “Beauty and the Beast,” both 1992; Grammy Award for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocal, 1992, for “Beauty and the Beast”; Academy Award, 1992, for “Beauty and the Beast”; multi-platinum record for The Colour of My Love, 1994.
Addresses: Home —Quebec, Canada. Record company —550 Music/Epic, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.
Command of the English music scene would take only slightly longer than her image change.
Dion’s first album in English, Unison, was recorded before her command of the language was firm, and she ended by singing much of it phonetically. As a result, although her sound was praised, the material was accused of being banal and overproduced. E. Kaye Fulton contended in Maclean’s that “in her native language, Dion is known for her passion, wit, and rollicking sense of humor. Her French material tends to be more substantial, with fewer songs about love and loss.” By her second English album, however, Dion had taken more control of the recording process. She told Maclean’s, “On the second album I said, ‘Well, I have the choice to afraid one more time and not be 100 percent happy, or not be afraid and be part of this album.’ This is my album.” However, Céline Dion, released by Epic in 1992, was still accused of lacking the emotional intensity Dion displays in French. These criticisms, however, belie the strong sales these albums generated; Unison went gold, and Céline Dion went platinum in the United States.
Dion’s fame in the United States grew when she won a Grammy in 1993 for singing the theme from the movie Beauty and the Beast, a duet with Peabo Bryson. Dion created another movie-theme hit with “When I Fall in Love,” a collaboration with Clive Griffin for Sleepless in Seattle. Around that time, her next English album, The Colour of My Love, was released as the flagship album of Epic’s new imprint, 550 Music. Several prominent American producers worked with Dion on the album, including Ric Wake, Walter Afanasieff, and David Foster. Foster’s contribution, the song “The Power of Love,” quickly reached Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Charles Alexander praised the hit in Time: “The power behind the song ... is her bring-the-house-down voice, which turns an old, schmaltzy ballad into a soaring pop aria. That voice glides effortlessly from deep whispers to dead-on high notes, a sweet siren that combines force with grace.”
Dion feared her success in English would cost her her French-speaking fans. However, her French-language release, Dion chante Plamondon, became the best-selling French album in Canada in 1992. “The Power of Love” went to Number One in Canada, and her rising fame in the United States was a source of pride back home. The Montreal daily La Presse proclaimed: “It’s a first in the history of popular music in Quebec. All indications are that [The Colour of My Love ] will consecrate, once and for all, the chanteuse Montrealaise with our neighbors to the south.”
Not only did Dion manage to hold her Canadian fans, but the popularity of her English music has encouraged wider interest in her French albums. Her 1991 release, Des mots qui sonnent, became a best-seller in France in 1994 and a single from the album reached Number One there.
Dion was known in Canada for the passion and humor she displayed in her French concerts, but according to Fulton, her “English concerts, by comparison, are frequently stilted by a rehearsed patter.” After the release of The Colour of My Love, John Doelp, vice-president of marketing for Epic, told Billboard, “This time around, we want to fully establish the fact that Céline is a strong live performer. It’s actually her strong suit.” Dion’s first U.S. tour as a headliner took her to ten cities, from San Francisco to New York, in early 1994. A review of her final performance of the tour in New York, by Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Newsday indicated that Dion had grown more comfortable with English: “Ad-libbing between songs, Dion managed to seem down-to-earth and accessible. Whether this was consummate manipulation or spontaneous joy, she pulled it off with gusto and humor.”
To achieve widespread fame, critics have suggested that Dion must expand her audience beyond the adult-contemporary market, which she has firmly conquered with her soft rock ballads and G-movie duets. Her Top-Ten singles give some evidence that she is doing so; because adults tend to buy albums, hot singles sales indicate teenagers are listening. Dion explained her goal, however, to Time in 1994: “I don’t want to sell 5 million records and be rich, and then that’s it. I’m afraid of that. I want a career. I want to sing all my life.”
Incognito, Sony Canada, 1987.
Unison, Epic, 1990.
Dion chante Plamondon, Sony Canada, 1991.
Des mots qui sonnent, 1991.
Céline Dion, Epic, 1992.
The Colour of My Love, 550 Music/Epic, 1993.
Billboard, November 13, 1993; November 27, 1993.
Entertainment Weekly, June 24/July 1, 1994.
Maclean’s, June 1, 1992.
New York Newsday, March 3, 1994.
People, June 13, 1994.
Time, February 28, 1994; March 7, 1994.
Us, December 1993.
Additional information for this profile was provided by publicity material from Epic and Sony Canada.
—Susan Windisch Brown
From the time she was a child, Celine Dion knew her destiny. Surrounded by a family of musicians, she began entertaining audiences in her parents’ piano bar at the age of five. By the time she turned 30, she had cemented her place in the highest levels of pop stardom. With such megahits as “The Power of Love,” “Because You Loved Me,” and “My Heart Will Go On,” Dion maintained a fast-paced and prolific career throughout the 1980s and 1990s. “The girl has a star over her head—she’s that lucky,” her manager and husband Rene Angelil explained to E. Kaye Fulton in Maclean’s.
Celine Dion was born the youngest of 14 children to Adhemar and Therese Dion in Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada. When Dion was just a baby, her family formed a singing group called Dion’s Family and toured Canada. Therese Dion played the violin, and Adhemar Dion played the accordion. Later, her parents opened a piano bar called Le Vieux Baril. When she was just five years old, she jumped up on a table to sing Ginette Reno songs. Soon, customers were coming back, asking the little girl with the big voice to sing again and again. Even then, Dion relied on the strength of her family. “My family is my foundation,” she told Jean-Noel Bassior in Mc-Calls. “We never had a lot of money, but we had a wealth of love, joy, and affection.”
When Dion was 12 years old, she recorded a demo tape of a song her mother had written for her. Therese Dion wrapped the tape with a red ribbon and sent it off to Canadian manager/producer Rene Angelil, who had previously managed Canadian singer Ginette Reno. Celine’s mother enclosed a note with the tape that read: “This is a 12-year-old with a fantastic voice. Please listen to her. We want her to be like Ginette Reno.” Angelil let the package sit on his desk for weeks before Dion’s brother Michael met with him and convinced him to listen to the tape.
Once he heard her voice, Angelil invited her to meet with him and perform for him in person. He signed her immediately, with the understanding that he would have complete control over her career. When he couldn’t find a label to sign the 12-year-old Dion, he mortgaged his house to finance her first album, which was completely in French. Soon, the young Dion’s French albums earned her notoriety in Canada, and she became known as La P’tite Quebecoise (the little girl of Quebec).
By the time she was 15 years old, Dion decided to make music her only priority and dropped out of school. “It was taking me away from music, from my happiness, from
For the Record…
Born March 30, 1968, in Charlemagne, Quebec; daughter of Adhemar and Therese Dion; youngest of 14 children; married: Rene Angelil, December 17, 1994.
Signed management contract with Rene Angelil, 1980; released seven French language albums in Canada, 1980-1990; released U.S. debut album, Unison, 1990; released five albums with Epic Records, 1991-1996, including Celine Dion, 1992; The Colour of My Love, 1993; The French Album, 1995; Fating Into You, 1996; Let’s Talk About Love, 1997; These Are Special Times, 1998; reached worldwide success with “My Heart Will Go On,” selling more than 50 albums worldwide from both the Titanic soundtrack and Lets Talk About Love, 1997.
Awards: Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year and Best Bop Album, 1996.
Addresses: Record company —Epic Records, P.O. Box 4450, New York, NY 10101-4450
my dreams,” Dion told Charles P. Alexander in Time. Around the same time, Angelil had divorced his second wife and focused the majority of his time on Dion and her career. After releasing nine French albums, the 18-year-old Celine Dion had grown tired of her little girl image, and decided to make a major change. She had seen singer Michael Jackson perform on television, and told Angelil that she wanted to have the kind of success Jackson had.
In an effort to embark on the path of global superstardom, Celine Dion took a year off of recording, during which she had caps put on her teeth, had a complete makeover, and learned English. She spent the next two years working on a English language album and an American record contract. She also continued to perform throughout Canada. In 1988, Dion and Angelil began to develop a romance, but because of their 26-year age difference, they kept their relationship a secret.
In 1990, Dion released her English debut, Unison, on Epic Records in the U.S. The album included the top five single “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” and sold more than a million copies worldwide. Renowned producer David Foster produced five songs on the album. “Celine exceeds the boundaries of talent,” Foster told Fulton. “I don’t know if she will reach the heights of Barbra Streisand, but there’s nobody else in the race.”
During the tour for Unison, Dion had a scare. She lost her voice before one of her performances and had to cancel part of the tour. Her doctors told her that her vocal chords were severely inflamed, and she had to stay completely silent for three weeks. By the end of her break, she had regained her voice and designed a plan to take better care of herself and preserve her voice. She set a rigid schedule for herself on tour, stopped talking three days before beginning a new album, and kept silent before performances until late in the afternoon.
By 1991, Rene Angelil and Celine Dion had become engaged. “When I met Rene, I loved him, but as a child,” Dion told Bassior. “The more I got to know him over all the years we worked together, the more I fell in love with him.”
Later that year, Dion released another French language album called Dion Chante Plamondon, on which she performed the songs of Canadian composer Luc Plamondon. In 1992, she released her sophomore English album titled simply Celine Dion. The album included the hit single “Beauty and the Beast,” a duet with Peabo Bryson that was also the title song for the Disney film. The song won both a Grammy award and an Oscar award. She also had a number-one hit with the track “If You Asked Me To” from the same album. Celine Dion became her first gold-selling album in the United States and sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. As a result of this success, she was able to embark on her first headlining tour in the U.S.
Dion had even more success with the release The Colour of My Love the following year, which included the hit singles “The Power of Love” and “When I Fall in Love,” the latter was a duet with Clive Griffin that also appeared on the soundtrack for the film Sleepless in Seattle. Peter Galvin wrote in his New York Times review, “Ms. Dion exudes a pleasing mixture of innocence and soulfulness throughout the album… endowing even the slickest songs with palpable passion.”
Beyond her growing popularity, Celine Dion also experienced a personal tragedy in 1993. Her niece, Karine Menard, had died in Dion’s arms after a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis. After that moment, Dion made it her personal crusade to raise money for cystic fibrosis among other children’s charities. She wrote the song “Vole” in memory of her niece. It appeared in French on her D’eux album and in English as “Fly” on her Falling Into You album. Dion explained the effect Karine’s death had on her to Dennis Hensley in Cosmopolitan, “We take a lot for granted. The air we breathe, the ability to walk and talk. When we’re happy, it’s easy to forget how lucky we are.”
Dion’s own happiness grew even greater on December 17, 1994, when she married Rene Angelil at a ceremony at Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica in front of 500 guests. The wedding, which cost more than $500,000, was televised nationwide in Canada. Instead of wedding gifts, the couple asked for donations to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and raised $200,000.
Dion released another French album in 1995 called D’eux, which was also released in the United States as The French Album. It included songs by French pop composer Jean-Jacques Goldman, and became the world’s best-selling French language album of all time. The following year, she released her next hit album Falling Into You. She reached number-one on the charts with the single “Because You Loved Me,” which also appeared on the soundtrack for the film Up Close and Personal. Falling Into You sold more than ten million copies in the United States alone and won Grammy awards for Best Album of the Year and Best Pop Album.
In 1997, Celine Dion reached her greatest success ever, becoming a household name all over the world. The catalyst was the song “My Heart Will Go On” from the soundtrack for the award-winning film Titanic. The number-one hit was also released on her next album, Let’s Talk About Love. The song was credited with selling more than 50 million albums worldwide, counting both the soundtrack and Let’s Talk About Love. For six weeks, the two albums held the number-one and number-two positions on Billboards album charts.
Let’s Talk About Love also included a duet with Dion and her musical hero Barbra Streisand called “Tell Him.” Streisand released the song on her own album, Higher Ground, as well. “Celine is all anyone could ask for in a singing partner—professional, easygoing, generous,” Streisand told Bassior. “Her amazing voice is surpassed only by her kind and gentle heart.” Dion also recorded a duet with opera singer Luciano Pavarotti called “I Hate You Then I Love You.”
By this time, Dion had no doubt that she had reached the success she dreamed about as an 18-year-old girl watching Michael Jackson on television. “When I was a smaller kid, I wanted to be in show business, and I was holding on to that dream,” Dion told Karen S. Schneider and Jeanne Gordon in People. “I don’t want to hold on to that dream anymore. I want to hold on to the real things.”
On April 30, 1998, Celine Dion received the National Order of Quebec, the province’s highest honor, then was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada the very next day. In August of 1998, she headed out on an extensive 14-country tour that ended by ringing in the new millennium in Montreal on December 31, 1999. In September of 1998, Dion released another French language album titled S’il Suffisait D’Aimer (translated If Only Love Could Be Enough). She also released a holiday album called These Are Special Times in November of 1998, which included the hit “I’m Your Angel,” a duet with R. Kelly. By the end of the year, Forbes had named her the twelfth highest paid entertainer, with her 1998 pre-tax income estimated at $55.5 million. By the end of the decade, she had sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. “The grace with which she’s handled all of this is extraordinary,” Sony Music International President Robert M. Bowlin told Chuck Taylor in Billboard. “She’s really under a microscope, and yet you’d be hard pressed to find much criticism, considering how hard she works and how many records she sells. It speaks volumes about how professional she is.”
After her massive world tour, Dion decided to take some time off in the year 2000. She and Angelil decided work on having a family instead of another album, giving Dion’s career a bit of a break. “I get paid a lot of money to be on this schedule, but it’s okay to want to stop,” Dion told Jeremy Helligar in People. “And I prefer to stop at the top of my career rather than when no one wants to hear me anymore.” Of course, given her lifelong success, Dion won’t likely have to worry about that for many years to come.
Unison, Epic Records, 1990.
Dion Chante Plamondon, Epic Records, 1991.
Celine Dion, Epic Records, 1992.
The Colour of My Love, Epic Records, 1993.
The French Album, Epic Records, 1995.
Falling Into You, Epic Records, 1996.
Let’s Talk About Love, Epic Records, 1997.
S’il Suffisait D’Aimer, Epic Records, 1998.
These Are Special Times, Epic Records, 1998.
Billboard, October 17, 1998.
Cosmopolitan, July 1998.
Entertainment Weekly, April 17, 1992; November 12, 1993; June 24, 1994; May 29, 1995; March 15, 1996; March 29, 1996; December 4, 1998.
Interview, March 1999.
Ladies Home Journal, November 1997.
Maclean’s, June 1, 1992; December 28, 1992; March 10, 1997; August 4, 1997; April 6, 1998; May 11, 1998; March 8, 1999.
McCalls, June 1998.
New York Times, April 3, 1994.
People Weekly, February 28, 1994; June 13, 1994; March 18, 1996; March 3, 1997; December 8, 1997; January 18, 1999; March 1, 1999.
Time, March 7, 1994; November 24, 1997.
Variety, December 14, 1998.
The Official Celine Dion Website, http://www.celinonline.com (April 4, 1999).
Genre: Rock; Pop Best-selling album since 1990: Let's Talk About Love (1997)
Hit songs since 1990: "My Heart Will Go On," "A New Day Has Come," "Because You Loved Me"
Singer Celine Dion has hurdled language and cultural barriers in her climb to become one of pop music's most recognized divas. Known for her remarkable vocal range and power, the Canadian-born Dion is an international superstar whose recordings have sold more than 150 million copies.
Dion grew up thirty miles east of Montreal in the French-speaking village of Charlemagne, Quebec, the youngest of fourteen children in a family that loved music. Her parents, both musicians, owned a nightclub and the entire family would perform for patrons on the weekends. Dion created a stir early on when, at the age of five, customers of the club would clamor for her to sing. She idolized Ginette Reno and copied many songs from the popular Canadian singer's repertoire. At twelve, she recorded a demo tape of a French song that she had composed with her mother and one of her brothers. The tape was dropped off at the office of a successful Montreal-based agent named Rene Angelil who had once guided Reno's career. After some persuasion by Dion's brother to listen to the tape, Angelil was convinced that she possessed superstar talent. He set aside all other duties to personally manage Dion's career, and at one juncture even mortgaged his house to finance her first album.
By age eighteen, Dion had recorded nine albums—all in French—and toured extensively around the world. She was a major star in Canada and was well established in France where her single, "L'amour ou d'amite," went gold in 1983. Nevertheless, she yearned for American pop music success. Angelil, at this point in complete control of Dion's career, decided that she should disappear from public to regroup and concentrate on her English. She emerged a year later sporting a trendier look and began preliminary work on her first English-language album while continuing to gratify her primary fan base by touring Canada. In the meantime, a romance developed between Dion and Angelil, but it was kept secret primarily over concerns that fans might not accept the twenty-six year difference in their ages.
Dion accomplished her long-awaited foray into the English market by releasing Unison (1990). Critics complained that she sang inexpressively, the result of her managing the English language in only its phonetic sense. However, there was no denying her magnificent voice and the album produced four Top Ten singles including "Where Does My Heart Beat Now?" Unison sold over 1 million copies, a remarkable feat for a debut album, but it paled in comparison to what was yet to come.
She followed Unison with a French-language release, Dion Chante Plamondon (1991), which was Canada's best-selling French album in 1992. Nevertheless, she received a backlash from some in the French-Canadian music industry who felt slighted by her English-speaking music efforts. Undeterred, Dion charged on to the American pop music scene with Celine Dion (1992). The album featured her previously recorded duet with Peabo Bryson of the title song for Disney's film, Beauty and the Beast (1991), and included hits, "If You Asked Me," "Love Can Move Mountains," and "Water from the Moon." Beauty and the Beast earned both a Grammy Award and an Academy Award and the album catapulted Dion to global pop music superstardom. She followed the release of Celine Dion by headlining her first U.S. concert tour along with Michael Bolton, further launching her with American audiences.
A movie soundtrack theme song, "When I Fall in Love," from the film Sleepless in Seattle (1993) was the centerpiece of her next album, The Colour of My Love (1993). The album was enormously successful, but it was important for another reason: The album's liner notes announced publicly that she and Angelil were in love. They married the following year in a ceremony that was televised throughout Canada. Incidentally, Dion used the media hype from the wedding to benefit her most important charity. She and Angelil asked—in lieu of wedding gifts—for donations toward the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 1993 Dion was deeply affected by the death of her niece, Karine, who passed away in her arms. She memorialized Karine with the song "Vole," which was added to her French-language album, D'euxalbum (1995). An English translation of the song titled "Fly" appeared on the mega-successful Falling into You (1996). Her wedding raised over $200,000 for the charity.
Over the next five years, alternating between French and English recordings, Dion worked nonstop. In 1997 she recorded her most prolific song, "My Heart Will Go On," from the soundtrack to the film Titanic (1996). It was included on Let's Talk About Love (1997), which also features duets with Barbra Streisand, the Bee Gees, and Luciano Pavarotti. On the strength of "My Heart Will Go On," Titanic became the all-time biggest selling orchestral soundtrack and Let's Talk About Love sold more than 31 million copies.
Dion began the new millennium by announcing that she was taking a break from performing to start a family and to be with her husband, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer. He later made a full recovery. The hiatus gave her time to reflect on a career that has been showered with awards from all over the world, including six Grammy Awards, two Academy Awards, and countless Juno, Felix, and World Music Awards in Canada and Europe. Dion's record sales and concert appearances made the French-speaking Canadian one of the wealthiest performers in the United States. In January 2001 Dion gave birth to her first child, a boy named Rene-Charles Angelil. The following year she released A New Day Has Come (2002), and within two weeks it reached number one in seventeen countries including the United States. Dion drew praise from critics regarding A New Day Has Come for relying less on her relentless five-octave power style, opting instead for a more lilting, subtle vocal sound.
In 2003 Dion and her family relocated to Las Vegas, where she began a three-year commitment to perform her new show, A New Day, at Caesars Palace. In conjunction with the opening of the concert spectacular, Dion released My Heart (2003).
Renowned in Canada and Western Europe well before her successful crossover into English-language songs, Celine Dion is one of pop music's strongest and most passionate voices. As her English has become more agile, so has her musical styling. Dion is gaining the same comfort with varieties of rock and soul music as she has with the sweeping, emotional ballads that first brought her fame.
Spot Light: Las Vegas Concerts
Celine Dion opened a Las Vegas concert extravaganza on March 25, 2003, at the Colosseum, owned by Caesars Palace. She is under contract to play the four-thousand-seat arena over the next three years for five nights weekly, forty weeks per year. The famous designer, Franco Dragone, the artistic force behind Cirque du Soleil, created the abstract production. A New Day rehearsed five months as it combined a variety of multimedia and several stage settings with specialty performers and more than fifty dancers in a concert spectacular where tickets cost up to $200 per seat. Dion performs her concert classics, including "My Heart Will Go On," in an eighteen-song set that mixes in Las Vegas musical fare such as "Fever" and "I've Got the World on a String." Her opening number is "Nature Boy," made famous by the legendary singer Nat King Cole.
Unison (Epic, 1990); Dion Chante Plamondon (550 Music, 1991); Celine Dion (Epic, 1992); The Christmas Album (Inter-scope, 1993); The Colour of My Love (550 Music, 1993); D'eux (also known as The French Album (550 Music, 1995); Falling into You (550 Music, 1996); Let's Talk About Love (550 Music, 1997); These Are Special Times (550 Music, 1998); All the Way . . . A Decade of Song (Epic, 1999); The French Love Album (Empire, 2001); A New Day Has Come (Epic, 2002); One Heart (Epic, 2003). Soundtracks: Sleepless in Seattle (Sony, 1993); Titanic: Music from the Motion Picture (Sony, 1997).
N. Z. Lutz, Celine Dion (Broomall, PA, 2000); C. Dion, H. Germain, B. Benderson (trans.), Celine Dion: My Story, My Dream (New York, 2000).
Dion, Celine, Canadian pop-balladeer who has scored Titanic-sized hits; b. Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada, March 16, 1968. The youngest of 14 French Canadian children, some of Celine Dion’s earliest memories were of performing. Her parents owned a small bar and, on the weekends, the family provided the entertainment. When Celine was 12, she made a demo tape of a song written by her mother and an older brother. Manager Rene Angelil heard the tape and, recognizing the star quality in the girl’s voice, signed her, mortgaging his home to pay for her first recording.
Dion’s French recording career immediately took off among French- speaking people around the world. Her albums regularly went platinum in Canada. In 1983, she became the first Canadian singer to score a gold record in France. She also won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988.
With these worlds conquered, Dion set about the Herculean task of conquering the English-speaking world in the early 1990s. Both she and Angelil recognized that this could not be done on her terms (i.e., in French), so Dion took a crash course in English, discovering a facility for language. Within a year she was ready to record her first English album, Unison. The album spun off the #35 hit “(If There Was) Any Other Way” and the #4 “Where Does My Heart Beat Now/’ The album hit #74 and would eventually go platinum, but it took seven years.
Her voice impressed the Disney people, and they chose Dion to duet with Peabo Bryson on the closing track of their 1991 animated feature Beauty and the Beast. The song went platinum, won a Best Pop Vocal by a Duo or Group Grammy, Song of the Year Oscar, rose to #9, and established Dion as a vocalist to be reckoned with. She kept the momentum going with her eponymous 1992 album. The album produced three more big hits, the adult contemporary chart-toppers “If You Asked Me” (#4 pop) and “Nothing Broken but My Heart” (#29 pop), as well as “Love Can Move Mountains” which hit #36. The album peaked at #34 and eventually went double platinum.
Dion’s 1993 album Color of My Love proved to be a major commercial breakout, powered by the platinum single “The Power of Love,” which spent four weeks atop the pop charts. The album also included her version of “When I Fall in Love” from the soundtrack to the hit film Sleepless in Seattle, which hit #27, and “Misled” which rose to #23. The album hit #4 and sold quadruple platinum.
In 1994, Dion went back to her roots and recorded an album in French. She also released a live album. Neither of these sold spectacularly well in the U.S. That year, Dion married her manager, despite a 26-year age difference.
While her 1994 albums didn’t sell exceptionally well or make many waves on the pop scene, Dion’s next major release, falling into You did. Her first charttopping album, it contained the theme from the film Up Close and Personal, “Because You Loved Me,” a massive platinum #1 hit and one of the most popular adult contemporary hits of all time. Its uplifting sentiments, powered by Dion’s heartfelt, lung-stretching vocals, set the pattern for her following hits. The album also produced the #2 single “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and the Eric Carmen-penned #4 hit “All by Myself/7 The album won Album of the Year and Pop Album of the Year at the Grammys, and became one of the first Diamond Award-winning albums, signifying sales of over 10 million copies in the U.S. It topped the charts in 11 countries and sold in excess of 25 million copies worldwide.
People wondered how Dion could top that, but she managed with Let’s Talk about Love. Dion found herself at the core of a phenomenon, singing the main theme from one of the most popular movies of all time, Titanic. This song, “My Heart Will Go On,” topped the charts and went gold, winning best female Pop Performance and Record of the Year at the Grammys. The album sold nine times platinum. Dion’s performance on the Grammy award show raised eyebrows due to an unintentionally revealing gown, made more translucent by the use of dramatic back-lighting.
Even putting out a holiday album, as Dion did in 1998, she could do no wrong. These Are Special Times hit #2 on the pop charts, going triple platinum. It produced the chart-topping duet with R. Kelly, “I’m Your Angel.” The following spring, she got her due sharing a stage with Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Shania Twain, and Mariah Carey for the first VH-1 Divas Live concert. The album of the show topped the charts.
Dion sums up her life simply by saying, “I have a perfect life and a perfect career.”
Unison (1990); Celine Dion (1992); The Colour of My Love (1993); Dion Chante Plamondon (1994); Premieres Annees (1993); The French Album (1995); Power of Love (1995); Des Mots Qui Sonnent (1995); Falling into You (1996); Live in Paris (1996); Let’s Talk about Love (1997); A VOlympia (live; 1998); Chansons en Or (1998); Ne Partez Pas Sans (1998); Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi (1998); D’Eux (1998); Celine Dion, Vol. 2 (1998); STl Suffisait d’Aimer (If Only Love Was Enough; 1998); These Are Special Times (1998); Celine Au Coeur Du Stade (1999); All The Way. A Decade of Song (1999); Celine Dion/Unison (1999); Let’s Talk About Love (Australian Bonus CD) (1999); Amour (1999); Let Talk About Love (Canada Bonus Tracks) (1999); “Treat Her Like a Lady”(1999); “To Love You More” (1999); “That’s the Way It Is” (Germany CD single; 1999); These Are Special Times (2000); “That’s the Way It Is Pt. 1” (import CD single; 1999); “First Time Ever I Saw, Pt. 1” (2000); “First Time Ever I Saw, Pt. 2” (2000); “That’s The Way It Is” (2000); “Ne Partez Pas Sans Moi” (2000); “If You Asked Me To” (2000).