Hailing from the small town of Charlemagne, Quebec, Celine Dion has become one of the all-time greatest singers. The youngest of fourteen children, Celine Dion was a vastly popular artist at home long before her success in the U.S. and European charts as the “new Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey”. Her parents and large family had a singing group and toured playing folk music, the influence of which was soon felt. It was Dion’s mother who wrote the first song for her, “Ce N’etait Qu’un Reve” (“It Was Only a Dream”), which she recorded with her brother at the age of twelve. Together with Mrs. Dion, the two siblings were sent to the office of Rene Angelil. After weeks with no response from Angelil, Celine’s brother Michel phoned him and said, “I know you haven’t listened to the tape, because if you had, you would’ve called right away.” Angelil dug up the tape and called the family back the same day to set up a meeting with Celine. When the twelve-year-old performed in his office in Montreal, Angelil cried and set in motion the process of making her a Quebecois, and later international star. He mortgaged his house to pay for her first two albums, producing a local number one single. In 1983 she became the first Canadian to have a gold record in France and she won a gold medal at the Yamaha songwriting competition in Japan. Her worldwide reputation was in the making, but success in the United States was not yet forthcoming.
When she was 18, Dion saw Michael Jackson performing on television and told Angelil that she wanted to be a star like him. Angelil’s response was to order her to take 18 months off to remake her image. She was also sent off to English school to polish the language that would help her to break into the American market. When she emerged from this process, she had made an amazing transformation from teen star to adult chanteuse.
She made her English language debut in 1990 with Unison, an impressive achievement as she had only learned English in 1989. Although this produced four hit singles her true international breakthrough arrived with the soundtrack of the Walt Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast. Her duet with Peabo Bryson on the title track reached the U.S. Top Ten and earned an Academy Award for Best Song and a Grammy. Following a tribute collection comprising Dion’s interpretations of the songs of Canadian writer Luc Lamondon, she concentrated on developing an international audience.
“Beauty and the Beast” formed the centerpiece of her second English language album, which also produced the hit singles, “Love Can Move Mountains”, “Water from the Moon”, “If You Asked Me To” and “Did You Give Enough Love”. In its wake Dion became a veritable staple of awards ceremonies, making a second appearance at the Grammy’s, becoming a personal favorite of The Tonight Show’s Jay Leno, and herself hosting Canada’s Juno Awards where in 1993 she won the Female Vocalist of the Year Award for the third time in succession. Before the release of a third English language set, Dion recorded “When I Fall In Love”, the theme tune to the hit movie Sleepless in Seattle. This was included on The Color of My Love alongside a cover of Jennifer Rush’s classic, “The Power of Love”, also released as a single. It saw her work with songwriters including David Foster, Diane Warren, Phil Goldstone, Albert Hammond, Charlie Dore and Ric Wake. A similarly impressive cast of producers added Guy Roche, Aldo Nova and many others to a project seemingly without budget restrictions. Regardless, Epic Records’ investment was repaid multi-fold by the astonishing singles success of “Think Twice”, which spent several weeks on top of the UK charts and also charted strongly in the U.S. during 1995.
The album, and its follow-up, Falling into You, simultaneously topped both UK and U.S. charts in 1994 and 1996, and “Because You Loved Me” became the best-selling adult contemporary single ever. Dion was chosen to sing (in front of billions of television viewers) at the opening of the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA. In 1997, she released Let’s Talk About Love, and achieved another huge worldwide hit with “My Heart Will Go On” from the soundtrack of the blockbuster movie, Titanic. She also collaborated with The Bee Gees on “Immortality”, and R. Kelly on “I’m Your Angel”, both of which were predictably international hit singles.
The singer took a break from performing in the late ‘90s to concentrate on conceiving a child. She gave birth to a son Rene Charles in January 2001 and announced that her music career would remain on hold while she tried a new career as a mother. The lure of singing meant Dion was not away for long, returning in March 2002 with A New Day Has Come. The album went straight to the top of the U.S. charts.
In early 2002, Dion announced a three-year, 600-show contract to appear five nights a week in an entertainment extravaganza at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas called A New Day. The production would take place in a custom-built, 4000-seat theatre and would feature Dion as the centerpiece of a multimedia program designed and orchestrated by Franco Dragone, the Belgian theatre impresario behind the modern circus phenomenon Cirque Du Soleil. The project united Dion, her label Sony Music, Drangone’s production company, Creations du Dragon, Caesars’ parent Park Place Entertainment, and promoter Concerts West in a landmark, multi-million dollar alliance that hinged on Dion’s ability to put fans in seats five nights a week for three years. In conjunction with the rollout of A New Day was an endorsement deal with German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG worth additional millions. The campaign placed Dion in a series of stylish, black-and-white advertisements promoting the stylish allure of Chrysler’s line of upscale automobiles. The performer also recorded a brand-new song to accompany the spots. On March 25, to coincide with the opening of A New Day..., Celine released One Heart, a brand new album featuring an upbeat cover of Roy Orbison’s classic “I Drove All Night” as its first single. The album also includes songs produced by Ric Wake, Anders Bagge, Kristian Lundin, Peer Astrom, Max Martin, Mark Taylor, Erick Benzi and Humberto Gatica.
On October 14 of the same year, Celine released the much anticipated Une Fille Et 4 Types, her first French album in five years. Artistic director Jean-Jacques Goldman, the power behind D’eux (1995) and S’il suffisait d’aimer (1998), had come up with an idea to surround her with three different writer-composers who have made their mark on the French music scene: Jacques Veneruso, Erick Benzi and master guitarist Gildas Arzel.
The voice of one or other of these incomparable artists accompanies Celine’s performance throughout the album, produced by Benzi and guided by Goldman from start to finish. Dion’s Une Fille Et 4 Types debuted as the top selling in Canada, France and Switzerland in its first week of release. The first single, “Tout l’or des homes” also made radio history by establishing the record for becoming the highest charting Francophone single on the National CHR Audience chart in the BDS era in Canada.
With each new release, Celine has managed to top her previous successes and, along the way, has become one of the brightest stars in the world of popular music. Who would have imagined that Quebec’s best-kept secret could have conquered the world the way she has?
Looking back now, we should have known it all along.