Shania Twain - biography

Shania Twain

Shania Twain, OC ( /ʃəˌn.ə ˈtwn/; born Eilleen Regina Edwards; August 28, 1965) is a Canadian country pop singer-songwriter. Her album The Woman in Me (1995), brought her fame and her 1997 album Come On Over, became the best-selling album of all time by a female musician in any genre, and the best-selling country album of all time. It has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and is the ninth best-selling album in the U.S.[1] Her fourth album, Up!, was released in November 2002. To date it has sold 20 million copies worldwide.[1]

Twain has won five Grammy Awards and 27 BMI Songwriter awards.[1] She has had three albums certified Diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America and is the second best-selling artist in Canada, behind Céline Dion, with three of her studio albums certified double diamond by the Canadian Recording Industry Association. She is the first (and currently only) female artist in history to have 3 consecutive albums reach diamond status, certified by the RIAA. Sometimes referred to as "The Queen of Country Pop",[2] Twain has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide[1] and is ranked 10th best-selling artist of the Nielsen SoundScan era.[3] She was also ranked 72nd on Billboard's "Artists of the decade" (2000–10).[4] Most recently, Twain has her own TV series, Why Not? with Shania Twain, that premiered on the OWN on May 8, 2011. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on June 2, 2011.

Early years

Shania Twain was born Eileen Regina Edwards in Windsor, Ontario, daughter of Sharon (née Morrison) and Clarence Edwards. Her parents divorced when she was two and her mother then moved to Timmins, Ontario with Eilleen and her sisters Jill and Carrie Ann. Sharon married Jerry Twain, an Ojibwa, and they had a son together, Mark. Jerry adopted the girls, legally changing their last name to Twain. When Mark was still in diapers, the Twains adopted Jerry's baby nephew, Darryl, after Darryl's mother died. Because of her connection to her stepfather, in the past, people had presumed Twain's ancestry was Ojibwa, but she stated in an interview that her biological father was part Cree.[5] Through her maternal grandfather, she is a descendant of Zacharie Cloutier.[6] Her maternal grandmother, Eileen Pearce, emigrated from Newbridge, Kildare, Ireland.

Eilleen Twain had a hard childhood in Timmins. Her parents earned little and there was often a shortage of food in the household. Eilleen did not confide her situation to school authorities, fearing they might break up the family. In the remote, rugged community, she learned to hunt and to chop wood. Sharon and Jerry's marriage was at times stormy, and from a young age, Eilleen witnessed violent fights between them. Sharon struggled with bouts of depression. In the summer of 1979, while Jerry was at work, at Eilleen's insistence, her mother drove the rest of the family 680 km (425 mi) south to a Toronto homeless shelter for assistance.[7] Sharon returned to Jerry with the children in 1981. In Timmins, Twain started singing at bars at the age of eight to try to make ends meet, often earning twenty dollars between midnight and one in the morning performing for remaining customers after the bar had finished serving. Although she expressed a dislike for singing in those bars, Twain believes that this was her own kind of performing arts school on the road.[8] She has said of the ordeal, "My deepest passion was music and it helped. There were moments when I thought 'I hate this'. I hated going into bars and being with drunks. But I loved the music and so I survived".[9] Twain wrote her first songs at the age of ten, Is Love a Rose and Just Like the Storybooks which were fairy tales in rhyme.[10] She states that the art of creating, of actually writing songs, "was very different from performing them and became progressively important".[10]

In the early 1980s, Twain spent some time working with her father's reforestation business in northern Ontario, a business that employed some 75 Ojibwe and Cree workers. Although the work was demanding and the pay low, Twain said "I loved the feeling of being stranded. I'm not afraid of being in my own environment, being physical, working hard. I was very strong, I walked miles and miles every day and carried heavy loads of trees. You can't shampoo, use soap or deodorant, or makeup, nothing with any scent; you have to bathe and rinse your clothes in the lake. It was a very rugged existence, but I was very creative and I would sit alone in the forest with my dog and a guitar and would just write songs".[11]

Music career Career as Eilleen Twain

At 13, Eilleen was invited to perform on CBC television's the Tommy Hunter Show. While attending Timmins High and Vocational School in Timmins, she was also the singer for a local band called "Longshot" which covered Top 40 music.[12]

After graduating from Timmins High in June 1983, Twain was eager to expand her musical horizons.[13] After the demise of the band Longshot, Twain was approached by a cover band led by Diane Chase called "Flirt" and they toured all over Ontario.[13] Twain also began taking singing lessons from Toronto-based coach Ian Garrett and would often clean his house in payment for her lessons.[14] In the autumn of 1984, Twain's talents were noticed by Toronto DJ Stan Campbell who wrote about her in a Country Music News article: "Eilleen possesses a powerful voice with an impressive range. She has the necessary drive, ambition and positive attitude to achieve her goals".[14] Campbell happened to be making an album by Canadian musician (and present-day CKTB radio personality) Tim Denis at the time and Twain was featured on the backing vocals of the song Heavy on the Sunshine.[15][14] Campbell later took Twain to Nashville to record some demos, which Twain found particularly difficult to finance. She became acquainted with regional country singer Mary Bailey who had had some country chart success in 1976. Bailey had seen Twain perform in Sudbury, Ontario, saying "I saw this little girl up on stage with a guitar and it absolutely blew me away. She performed Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry". Her voice reminded me of Tanya Tucker, it had strength and character, a lot of feeling. She's a star, she deserves an opportunity".[16] Bailey later said "She sang a few songs that she had written, and I thought to myself, this kid is like nineteen years old, where does she get this? This is from a person who's lived sixty years".[17]

Bailey acquired the contract from Stan Campbell and Twain moved into Bailey's home on Lake Kenogami where she practiced her music every day for hours. In the fall of 1985, Bailey took Twain down to Nashville to stay with a friend, record producer Tony Migliore, who at the time was producing an album for fellow Canadian singer Kelita Haverland and Twain was featured on the backing vocals to the song Too Hot to Handle. She also demo-ed songs with Cyril Rawson but the demos were without success, partly due to Twain's wish to become a rock singer, not a country artist. After five months she returned to Canada and moved in with Bailey in a flat in downtown Kirkland Lake.[18]

There she met rock keyboardist Eric Lambier and drummer Randy Yurko and formed a new band, moving three months later to Bowmanville, near Toronto. In late summer 1986 Mary Bailey arranged for Twain to meet John Kim Bell, a half Mohawk, half American conductor who had close contacts with the directors of the Canadian Country Music Association. Bell recognized Twain's ability as well as her looks and the two began secretly dating.[18] In the fall of 1986 Twain continued to express her desire to be a pop or rock singer rather than country, which led to her falling out with Mary Bailey for two years. Twain's first break finally came on February 8, 1987, when Bell staged a fundraiser for the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto where Twain performed with Broadway star Bernadette Peters, jazz guitarist Don Ross, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her performance received little acclaim, but it convinced Bell, who hated pop music, that Twain should stay well away from it and concentrate on country music.[19]

On November 1, 1987, Twain's mother and stepfather died in a car accident approximately 50 kilometres north of Wawa, Ontario.[20] As a result Twain moved back to Timmins to take care of her younger siblings and then took them all to Huntsville, Ontario. There, she supported them by earning money performing at the nearby Deerhurst Resort.[21]

1993–1994: Shania Twain

A couple of years passed and Twain's siblings got older and moved out on their own. Twain assembled a demo tape of her songs and her Huntsville manager set up a showcase for Twain to present her material to record executives. She caught the attention of a few labels, including Mercury Nashville Records, who signed her within a few months.[22] During this time, she changed her name to Shania, which was said to be an Ojibwa word which means "on my way". However, Twain's biographer, Robin Eggar, writes: "There is a continuing confusion about what 'Shania' means and if indeed it is an Ojibwe word or phrase at all. [...] There is no mispronounced or misheard phrase in either Ojibwe or Cree that comes close to meaning 'on my way.' Yet the legend of her name continues to be repeated in the media to this day and will doubtless provide the obituary headline when Shania eventually passes on."[23]

Twain's self-titled debut album was released in 1993 in North America and garnered her audiences outside Canada. The album only reached No.67 on the US Country Albums Chart, but it gained positive reviews from critics.[24] The album failed to sell significant copies initially, although Twain's future success generated enough interest for the album to be certified platinum six years later by the RIAA, denoting sales of over a million. The album yielded two minor hit singles in the United States with "What Made You Say That" and "Dance with the One That Brought You". The album was more successful in Europe, where Twain won Country Music Television Europe's "Rising Video Star of the Year" award.[22]

1995–1996: The Woman in Me and her breakthrough

When rock producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange heard Twain's original songs and singing from her debut album, he offered to produce and write songs with her. After many telephone conversations, they met at Nashville's Fan Fair in June 1993. Twain and Lange became very close within just weeks. Lange and Twain either wrote or co-wrote the songs that would form her second studio album, The Woman in Me.[22][25] Record executives were stunned when they listened to the album. It was unlike anything else in country music.[26]

The Woman in Me was released in the spring of 1995. The album's first single, "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" went to No.11 on the Billboard Country Chart. This was followed by her first Top 10 and No.1 hit single, "Any Man of Mine". Twain had further hits from the album, including the title track which peaked at No.14 and three additional No.1 hits: "(If You're Not in it for Love) I'm Outta Here!", "You Win My Love", and "No One Needs to Know".[22] As of 2007, it had sold more than 12 million copies.[27] The album was a quick breakthrough and because of this Twain performed selected international venues and television shows including two CMA Fan Fair performances with Nashville guitarists Randy Thomas (co-writer of the song "Butterfly Kisses"), Dan Schafer,[28] Chris Rodriguez, Russ Taff, Hugh McDonald bass player of Bon Jovi, Dave Malachowski and Stanley T., formerly with The Beach Boys.

Mercury Nashville's promotion of the album was based largely upon a series of music videos.[29] During this period, Twain made major television appearances on shows such as two performances on Late Show with David Letterman, Blockbuster Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and the American Music Awards. The Woman in Me won the Grammy Award for Best Country Album as well as the Academy of Country Music award for Album of the Year; the latter group also awarded Twain as Best New Female Vocalist.

1997–2001: Come On Over

In 1997, Twain released her follow-up album, Come On Over. This was the album that would establish her as a successful crossover singer. Slowly, the album started racking up sales. It never hit the top spot, but with the multi-chart hit single "You're Still the One", sales skyrocketed. Other songs like "

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