Near, far, wherever you are, you know the voice of Celine Dion.
The Canadian superstar has sold nearly 250 million albums in a career spanning more than 35 years. Dion moved a boatload of those albums—roughly 50 million—in 1997 and ‘98, when her song “My Heart Will Go On” had fans of the blockbuster film Titanic leaving theaters singing, “Near, far, wherever you are…” in between sobs. The chart-topping mega-ballad appeared on the Titanic soundtrack and Dion’s own Let’s Talk About Love, pushing those albums to No. 1 and 2 on Billboard’s 1998 year-end chart, respectively.
But Dion’s massive success in the late ‘90s is just part of the story. The eternally elegant vocal powerhouse had notched plenty of hits before that, both in America and the French-speaking world, where she’d been a star since her teens. And with a 2017 European summer tour in the works—plus her Las Vegas residency still going strong—Dion shows no signs of slowing down.
The glitz of Vegas is a long way from Charlemagne, Quebec, where Dion was born on March 30, 1968. The youngest of 14 children, she gave her first public performance at the age of 5, singing at a brother’s wedding, and later captivated patrons at her parents’ piano bar. At the age of 12, Celine co-wrote “Ce N’etait Qu’un Rêve” (“Nothing But a Dream” or “It Was Only a Dream”) with her mother and brother Jacques and sent the song off to René Angélil, a Canadian music manager who would play a pivotal role in her life.
Floored by Dion’s voice, Angélil mortgaged his house to release her first couple of albums, both recorded in French. Dion was already a local sensation by the time she traveled to Tokyo in 1982 and won the Gold Medal for Best Song at the World Popular Song Festival. The following year, she became the first Canadian artist to score a gold record in France. At the age of 18, she learned English, underwent a physical makeover, and set her sights on cracking America.
Her work paid off, as 1990’s Unison, Dion’s first English-language LP, yielded two American hits, including “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” which reached No. 4 on the Hot 100. Dion’s real breakthrough came with 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast,” the theme from the Disney animated feature of the same name. The duet with Peabo Bryson earned Dion her first Grammy, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, and appeared on her self-titled sophomore English album. That collection peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard 200—the kind of middling chart placement she’d never have to settle for again.
In the liner notes for her next album, 1993’s The Colour Of My Love, Dion revealed that she and Angélil were more than just business partners: “Rene, you’re the colour of my love.” The couple married in December 1994—in a ceremony televised live in Canada. By then, Dion had scored her first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 with “The Power of Love.” The Colour of My Love rose all the way to No. 4, setting the stage for the greater triumph of 1996’s Falling Into You. On the strength of three Top 5 singles—”It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” “All By Myself,” and the chart-topping “Because You Love Me”—Dion’s fourth English-language album became her first American chart-topper, selling 7 million copies by the end of the year. Falling Into You also won Grammys for Album of the Year and Best Pop Album.
What came next was truly titanic. Written by composer James Horner and lyricist Will Jennings, “My Heart Will Go On” is the kind of chest-pounding romantic pop anthem that comes along once a generation. The song won the 1998 Oscar for Best Song From A Film and Grammys for Record Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song Of The Year, and Best Song for a Motion Picture. Amazingly, Dion is said to have nailed her iconic vocal on the first take.
Dion capped the ‘90s with the Let’s Talk About Love Tour, a global trek that culminated with a performance on December 31, 1999, in Montreal. During that period, she notched another No. 1 single with “I’m Your Angel,” a duet with R. Kelly off her 1998 holiday album These Are Special Times. Dion then took a couple years off to care for her husband, who’d been diagnosed with cancer, and start a family. The couple welcomed a son, René-Charles Angélil, on January 25, 2001. The following year, Dion returned with A New Day, her third No. 1 album in America.
In 2003, Dion started a pop trend by launching her A New Day… residency show at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The initial five-year run made $400 million, inspiring artists like Elton John and Britney Spears to follow suit. Dion celebrated the show’s opening by dropping another album, One Heart, featuring contributions from Swedish pop guru Max Martin. Dion followed that with two more French albums, plus Miracle (2004), a concept CD-and-book combo with Australian photographer Anne Geddes. A self-proclaimed “gutsier” Celine stormed back in 2007 with Taking Chances, featuring collaborations with Ne-Yo, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, and two members of Evanescence. She supported the album (#3 on the Billboard 200) with a wildly successful world tour.
Six years would pass before Dion’s next English studio album, 2013’s Loved Me Back to Life. In that time, she kicked off her second Vegas residency (Celine) and gave birth to twins Eddy and Nelson on October 23, 2010. Dion put her career on hold in August 2014 to care for her husband, whose cancer had returned the previous year. Angélil died in January 2016, and a month later, Dion made a triumphant return to the Vegas stage. In May, she performed Queen’s “The Show Must Go On” at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards, where she was honored with the ICON Award.
Although it’s been 15 years since Dion’s last Top 40 hit, the singer’s legacy is unsinkable. Of the 17 albums she’s landed on the Billboard 200, 12 have reached the Top 10 and four have gone all the way to No. 1. She also reigns supreme as the Queen of Adult Contemporary, having topped that chart with 11 singles—more than any other female artist. In 2017, Dion took time out of her busy Vegas schedule to serve as an advisor to Gwen Stefani on The Voice. There’s really no one better you could have in your corner.
This article was created in partnership with Caesars Palace.