Born March 30, 1968, in Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada; daughter of Adhemar and Therese Dion; youngest of 14 children; married: Rene Angelil, December 17, 1994. Addresses: Record company-Epic Records, P.O. Box 4450, New York, NY 10101-4450.
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 McCalls. "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.
Rose to Canadian Stardom
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 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.
Grew Seedlings of Greater Success
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.
Experienced Personal Tragedy and Bliss
Dion had even more success with the release The Colour of My Lovethe 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'euxalbum and in English as "Fly" on her Falling Into Youalbum. 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.
Achieved Global Domination
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 Billboard's 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.
by Sonya Shelton
Celine Dion's Career
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; Faling 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 Let's Talk About Love, 1997.
Celine Dion's Awards
Grammy Award for Best Album of the Year and Best Bop Album, 1996.
- Selected discography
- 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).