Céline Marie Claudette Dion CC OQ (born 30 March 1968) is a Canadian singer. She is noted for her powerful and technically skilled vocals. 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 has also sung in Spanish, Italian, German, Latin, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese. Dion is the best-selling Canadian recording artist in history.

Born into a large family from Charlemagne, Quebec, she emerged as a teen star in her home country with a series of French-language albums during the 1980s. She first gained international recognition by winning both the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival and the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, where she represented Switzerland. After learning to speak English, 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, she achieved worldwide fame after releasing several best-selling English-language albums, such as Falling into You (1996) and Let’s Talk About Love (1997), which were both certified diamond in the US. 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”. Dion continued releasing French albums between each English record; D’eux (1995) became the best-selling French-language album of all time, while S’il suffisait d’aimer (1998), Sans attendre (2012), and Encore un soir (2016), were all certified diamond in France. During the 2000s, she built her reputation as a highly successful live performer with A New Day… on the Las Vegas Strip (2003–07), which remains the highest-grossing concert residency of all time, as well as the Taking Chances World Tour (2008–09), one of the highest-grossing concert tours of all time.

Dion is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with record sales of more than 200 million worldwide. While her releases have often received mixed critical reception, Dion is regarded as one of pop music’s most successful vocalists. She has won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Billboard named her the “Queen of Adult Contemporary” for having the most number-one songs on the radio format for a female artist. Dion is the second best-selling female artist in the US during the Nielsen SoundScan, the 8th all-time best-performing top female artist in the United States, and the sixth all-time best-performing female soloist in Billboard 200 history. In 2003, she was honoured by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) for selling over 50 million albums in Europe.

Life and career

1968–1989: Early life and career beginnings

Dion was born in Charlemagne, Quebec, 24 kilometres (15 mi) northeast of Montreal, the youngest of 14 children of Thérèse (née Tanguay, 1927–2020), a homemaker, and Adhémar Dion (1923–2003), a butcher, both of French-Canadian descent. She was raised a Roman Catholic in a poor but, by her own account, happy home in Charlemagne. Music had always been a major part of the Dion family, and she was named after the song “Céline”, which French singer Hugues Aufray had recorded two years before her 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”.She continued to perform with her siblings in her parents’ small piano bar called Le Vieux Baril, “The Old Barrel”. From an early age, she 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.” As a child in Quebec, Dion participated in Girl Guide programs as a member of Girl Guides of Canada.

At age 12, she 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 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 her 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 she 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 age 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 for her to be marketed worldwide. She 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 tournée, she 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.

1990–1992: 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 her vocals were “tastefully unadorned”, and that she never attempted to “bring off styles that are beyond her”.Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic declared it “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 that 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 on “Voices That Care”, a tribute to American troops fighting in Operation Desert Storm.

Her 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 her 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 was certified diamond 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 four 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 her 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.

1993–1995: 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 she had feared, fans embraced the couple. Eventually, Angélil and Dion married in an extravagant wedding ceremony in 17 December 1994, which was broadcast live on Canadian television.

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