Celine Dion is one of the greatest pop performers of all time. The singer, originally from Charlemagne, Quebec, has lent her powerful and booming voice to countless iconic tracks over the years—singing in both English and her native French—with notable hits including “My Heart Will Go On” from the film Titanic, “A New Day Has Come,” and the classic power ballad “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.” Through her incredible catalogue of songs, high-energy stage presence, and inspirational rags-to-riches story, the Canadian songstress has amassed a huge following of fans from all over the world. Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable highlights from the life and career of the amazing and incomparable Celine Dion.
Celine Dion Facts
1. The Youngest of a Large Family
Celine Marie Claudette Dion was born on March 30, 1968, in Charlemagne, Quebec, Canada. She was the youngest of her parents’—Adhémar-Charles Dion and Thérèse Tanguay Dion—fourteen children. Dion’s family was impoverished, but they were a close-knit group who were bonded together by their love of each other and their shared passion for music.
2. A Musical Namesake
From the very beginning, Dion was destined for a career in music. Her parents named her after “Celine”—a popular song by French recording artist Hugues Aufray that was released in 1966. While the Celine in Aufray’s song is a tragic figure who feels she has not fulfilled her goals, the same cannot be said of multitalented Celine Dion.
3. Her Debut Performance
Dion first performed in front of a sizeable audience during her brother Michel’s wedding on August 13, 1973. Five-year-old Dion performed the simple French song “Du fils des aiguilles et du coton,” originally by Christine Charbonneau.
4. Performing with the Fam
Dion continued her foray into music by performing with her family at a local piano bar called Le Vieux Baril (The Old Barrel), which was owned by her parents. It was here that Dion started practicing for her eventual career as a performer: apparently, the young Dion had a habit of jumping on top of tables and belting out songs for patrons—whether they wanted to be serenaded or not.
5. The Start of An Incredible Relationship
When she was 12, Dion worked with her mother and brother Jacques on a demo tape. The three Dions wrote and composed what would become Dion’s first song—“C’est n’était qu’un rêve,” which means “Nothing But a Dream.” Her brother Michel sent the tape to music manager René Angélil, whose name he found on the back of a Ginette Reno record.
Angélil liked what he heard—a lot. He was moved to tears by young Dion’s voice. Determined to make the amateur singer a household name, Angélil truly went the distance for Dion, even mortgaging his own home to finance her first album. Thankfully, La Voix du bon Dieu (The Good Lord’s Voice) was a success in her native Quebec.
6. First Brush With International Attention
In the early days of her career, Dion relied on her Quebecois audience, but to really make it, she had to set her sights further. The world started to pay attention at the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo, Japan. Dion’s powerful voice wowed the audience and judges as she brought home the prize for Best Performer and a gold medal for Best Song with “Tellement j’ai d’amour pour toi” (“I have so much love for you”).
7. An Olympic Performance
At the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Dion performed “The Power of the Dream”—a song specifically written and composed for the ceremony. Dion performed the song in front of 100,000 people and a global television audience of nearly three and a half billion people. For the performance, Dion was accompanied by one of the song’s co-writers and famed record producer David Foster on piano, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the Centennial Choir.
8. Growing Stature
In the 80s, Celine Dion was quickly becoming a major force in the world of French-language music. In 1983, she became the first Canadian artist to receive a gold record in France for the song “D’amour ou d’amitié” (“Of Love or Friendship”) Her stock continued to rise after winning the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest. She represented Switzerland with the song “Ne partez pas sans moi” (“Don’t Leave Without Me”).
9. Like Mike
After seeing Michael Jackson perform, Dion told her manager that she wanted to achieve a similar level of international pop stardom. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Dion committed to becoming an English-language superstar. She underwent dental surgery to improve her image and enrolled in the Berlitz School to learn English.
In 1990, Dion released her first English album, Unison. The record produced many popular singles but the most famous is certainly “Where Does My Heart Beat Now.” This power ballad became the first of Dion’s many top ten hits in the United States.
10. A Major Breakthrough
Dion performed on the title track for the 1991 Disney film Beauty and the Beast. The song was a duet with R&B and soul singer Peabo Bryson, who was brought on specially by Disney. The company worried that though she was talented, Dion wasn’t a big enough name to support the song on her own. The 90s were truly another time!
Of course, the song was a huge hit, reaching the top ten in both the US and the UK. Its songwriters received the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Original Song and Dion and Bryson received the Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals.
11. A Best-Selling Album en français
In the midst of her rising English-language career in the early to mid-90s, Dion was still releasing albums in French. Most notable was her 1995 French-language album D’eux. The album was a massive commercial success throughout the Francophone world and became the highest-selling French-language album with over ten million copies sold worldwide. It even got a wide release in the United States under the title The French Album.
12. A “Power”-ful Hit Record
Her 1993 album The Colour of My Love produced Dion’s biggest song to date—“The Power of Love.” It became Dion’s first number-one single on the US, Canadian, and Australian charts and would go onto become a signature track for the songstress and a favourite among her ardent fans.
13. A Massive Album
Dion attained a new level of commercial and critical success with the release of her 1996 album Falling Into You. The album was lauded for its incorporation of a variety of musical influences from around the world—which might help to explain the record’s profound global success.
Falling Into You would go onto become one of the best-selling albums in music history with an estimated 32 million copies sold worldwide. It was certified 11x platinum in the United States and achieved diamond status in her native Canada. The album would also be the recipient of two awards at the Grammys—Best Pop Album and Album of the Year.
14. Her Most Iconic Song
Celine Dion cemented herself in the annals of pop music history with the release of her 1997 smash hit “My Heart Will Go On.” The powerful love ballad was memorably featured in the mega-blockbuster film Titanic. It’s hard to even imagine that movie without Dion’s signature track.
The song was a huge success throughout the world and became one of the best-selling singles of all time. It topped the charts in (deep breath) Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Like “Beauty and the Beast” before it, “My Heart Will Go On” won Best Original Song at the Golden Globes and Oscars and Dion herself won the Grammys for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and the prestigious Record of the Year.
15. One Take Wonder
According to music executive Tommy Mottola, Dion recorded “My Heart Will Go On” in just one take. What was initially supposed to be the demo track turned out to be the only and final recording that was eventually released. Talk about nailing it on the first try.
16. Becoming a Mother for the First Time
Dion and Angélil’s first child, son René-Charles, was born on January 25, 2001. A year earlier, Dion underwent two surgeries at a New York fertility clinic to help increase her chances of conceiving a baby. The couple also decided to use in-vitro fertilization treatments after previous unsuccessful attempts at conceiving.
17. A Rousing Performance Times Two
At the 9/11 benefit concert America: A Tribute to Heroes, Dion sang “God Bless America.” Her rendition earned rave reviews, such that she performed the song once again in front an enormous audience at Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, California.
18. Honoring a Great Canadian
In 1998, Dion received two distinguished Canadian civilian honors. She was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and Officer of the National Order of Quebec. In 2013, Dion was named to the highest rank of the Order of Canada as a Companion of the Order of Canada.
19. Viva Las Vegas!
In 2002, Dion announced that she would start a residency in Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace. A special 4000-seat auditorium, known as The Colosseum, was specifically built to house her show entitled A New Day… The show was originally supposed to run for three years but ended up running for five and grossing over $385 million.
Dion’s success helped establish a new standard of Vegas performance show that incorporated elements of performance art and inspired similar residencies by artists like Elton John, Cher, Shania Twain, and Britney Spears.
20. Performing on the Plains of Abraham
On August 22, 2008, Dion performed in front of 490,000 people for a free concert held on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, Quebec. The concert, which featured a mostly French-language setlist, was a celebration of the city’s 400th anniversary. The concert was filmed and later released as a DVD in Quebec and France.
21. If the Shoe Fits
As revealed in her “Carpool Karaoke” segment, Dion loves shoes. She estimates that between her homes in Florida and Nevada she has anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 pairs of shoes. Dion mentioned that she has a computerized system in her Florida home that can organize and pull out shoes by color and style. Dion is truly living the dream!
22. A Return to the Strip
Dion returned for a second residency stint at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace on the Vegas Strip in 2011. Her new show entitled Celine was similarly well-received and a major commercial success. Despite many shows being canceled due to her husband’s illness and later his and Dion’s brother’s deaths (alongside and medical issues experienced by Dion herself), the show ran for 427 shows and grossed nearly $300 million.
It closed on June 8, 2019 after an illustrious eight-year run in which it became the most profitable Vegas show since Elvis Presley.
23. An Inspiration in Many Ways
Dion has listed legendary performers such as Aretha Franklin, Anne Murray, Barbra Streisand, and Carole King as major influences on her career. In turn, many artists have cited Dion as an inspiration on their own careers. For Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Josh Groban, Katy Perry, Adele, Rihanna, Jennifer Hudson, and Kelly Clarkson, Dion can’t be beat!
24. Dabbling in the Restaurant Game
Dion was a founding owner of the Canadian restaurant chain Nickels. The restaurants were themed as 1950s style diners. She divested her interest from the restaurant group in 1997.
25. A Double Blessing
In 2010, Dion joyfully announced that she and Angélil were expecting twins. After Dion’s previous trouble conceiving, she was thrilled to give birth to healthy fraternal twins on October 23, 2010, named Eddy and Nelson. They were named after French songwriter Eddy Marnay and former South African President Nelson Mandela, respectively.
26. On the Road Again
Starting in September 2019, Dion will hit the road once again for a major concert tour that will see her perform 66 shows across Canada and the United States. Make sure to buy your tickets ahead of time!
27. Carpooling With Corden
In May 2019, Dion appeared on the popular “Carpool Karaoke” segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden. Dion and Corden drove through Las Vegas belting out many of Dion’s most popular songs and an incredibly dramatic rendition of the kid’s song/earworm “Baby Shark.” The segment ended with Dion and Corden singing “My Heart Will Go On” while reenacting that scene from Titanic in the Bellagio fountains.
28. Awards by the Truckload
Throughout her long and illustrious career, Dion has been the recipient of numerous awards. She has won 12 World Music Awards, five Grammys, seven Billboard Music Awards, 20 Juno Awards, which honors excellence in Canadian music, and 45 Félix Awards, which honors excellence in the Quebec music industry.
29. Cementing Her Star Status
In 2004, Dion was immortalized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Previously in 1999, she received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.
30. A Polyglot Performer
In addition to her massive hits in both English and French, Dion has also performed songs in Spanish, German, Italian, Latin, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese.
31. The Family Matriarch
Dion’s mother Thérèse Tanguay Dion became a celebrity in her own right by launching a line of food products and hosting a popular cooking show in Quebec. She is best known by the nickname Maman Dion.
32. Two Quebecois Institutions Team Up
No trip to Montreal is complete without a smoked meat sandwich from iconic Jewish delicatessen Schwartz’s. In 2012, the deli, which has been in business since 1928, came under a new ownership group that included Dion and her husband. Montreal smoked meat and Celine Dion—two of Quebec’s greatest products together at last!
33. Performing for a Holy Audience
In September 1984, Dion performed for Pope John Paul II during his visit to Montreal. She performed the song “Une Colombe” in an event that drew about 60,000 people.
34. Celine on the Small Screen
Dion was the subject of a 2008 television biopic produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The movie entitled Celine featured singer and actor Christine Ghawi in the titular role and Enrico Colantoni as Angélil.
35. Hitting the American Airwaves for the First Time
Dion made her American television debut on September 21, 1990, on an episode of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. She performed “Where Does My Heart Beat Now” on an episode with guest host Jay Leno. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for Carson who had to hear Dion sing the song live himself. She returned to the show only a few months later, this time impressing Carson with another stirring performance.
36. Battling Hearing Loss
In 2018, it was announced that Celine Dion was experiencing hearing troubles brought on by a condition called Patulous Eustachian Tube (PET). She underwent a minor procedure to correct the problem after her prescribed ear-drop medication ceased working.
37. Following Mom’s Footsteps
Music seems to run in the family. In recent years, Dion’s teenage son René-Charles has embarked on a musical career of his own. Posting raps and remixes under the name Big Tip, René-Charles’ tracks have hit number one and number two on the Soundcloud Canadian charts. As of August 2019, he hasn’t uploaded for about a year. Maybe one day he’ll release a song with his mom.
38. Paging Dr. Dion
On August 21, 2008, Dion became a doctor… kind of. The chanteuse received an honorary doctorate in Music from the Université Laval in Quebec City—the oldest institution for higher learning in Canada and the first French-language institution for higher education in North America. The ceremony was held the day before her big Plains of Abraham concert.
39. Resting the Vocal Cords
Recording her first album and performing many gigs put a serious strain on Dion’s vocal cords. After consulting with a specialist doctor, she was presented with an ultimatum: either undergo surgery on her vocal cords or abstain from performing for three consecutive weeks. Dion opted for the non-surgical option.
40. Tying the Knot
In the liner notes for her 1993 album The Colour of My Love, Dion publicly expressed her love for her longtime manager René Angélil for the first time. They had started their romantic relationship in 1987 and were engaged in 1991. The pair tied the knot in a lavish ceremony on December 17, 1994 at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica. The ceremony was even broadcast on Canadian television.
The relationship turned a few heads—and it’s easy to see why. Angélil was 26 years older than Dion and had first met her when she was 12. Though they waited to begin dating, Dion was still very young when they started their relationship. At just 19, Dion was seeing a man more than double her age.
41. An Unfortunate Double Tragedy
On January 14, 2016, Dion’s longtime mentor, manager, and husband René Angélil died from complications related to throat cancer. He was 73. Just two days later, Dion’s brother Daniel, aged 53, also lost his battle with cancer. Dion canceled her Vegas show for the rest of January and would resume her residency the following month.
42. Giving Back
Celine Dion has supported a variety of charitable foundations. One cause very close to her heart is her work with the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. In 1993, Dion’s niece Karine died in her arms from the disease. Dion hosted a fundraiser for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that raised more than $1 million, donated $1 million to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and she donated $100,000 to a children’s foundation following the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.