Born Eilleen Regina Edwards on August 28, 1965, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada; married Robert John "Mutt" Lange (a producer and songwriter), 1993; children: Eja D'Angelo (son). Addresses: Record company--Mercury Records, 66 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. Website--Shania Twain Official Website: http://www.shaniatwain.com.

Shania Twain burst onto the country charts with The Woman in Me in 1995 as a spunky country star with an upbeat attitude and supermodel looks. Her follow-up album, Come On Over, surpassed the ten-times platinum sales of The Woman in Me, eventually selling over 34 million copies worldwide, firmly establishing Twain as a top force in contemporary music. Her rollicking brand of New Country helped signal a shift in Nashville towards promoting the musical voice of strong, self-reliant women. Far from the distant era that produced such classics as "Stand by Your Man," the rowdy sing-along that often accompanies her sassy, rock-inspired tunes proves that, as both a singer and songwriter, Twain knows the pulse of female country music fans from Austin to Alberta. Three of her albums--The Woman in Me, Come On Over, and Up!--sold more than 10 million copies each making her the first artist in music history to have three consecutive albums certified at the 10-times platinum level.

Born Eilleen Regina Edwards on August 28, 1965, in Windsor, Ontario, and raised in the northern forests of Timmins, Ontario, Twain would eventually take the name "Shania," an Ojibwa word meaning "I'm on my way," in honor of her stepfather's Indian heritage--Jerry Twain was an Ojibwa Indian, her mother, Sharon, of Irish descent. "We were really poor, although I never considered it that bad," the singer recalled to Brian D. Johnson, describing her childhood in Maclean's. "We would go for days with just bread and milk and sugar--heat it up in a pot. I'd judge other kids' wealth by their lunches. If a kid had baked goods, that was like, oh, they must be rich."

Early Passion for Music

The second of five children, Twain showed a talent and a passion for music from an early age. Knowing that it might provide a way out of poverty for their daughter, her parents encouraged her talent for singing and playing guitar, nudging the shy youngster into performing before an audience from the time she was eight. "I used to be dragged out of bed at 1:00 in the morning and [brought] to the local club to play with the band," Twain admitted in a press release. "You see, [my parents] couldn't allow me in a liquor premise before 1:00 a.m. when they stopped serving." At first she would sing a few songs with the house band; by the time she reached her early teens, Twain was fronting rock and country bands professionally.

In addition to helping her father as part of a reforestation crew in the Canadian backcountry, the youngster also appeared on local radio and television stations, at community center gatherings, senior centers, talent contests, and fairs, all at the prompting of her parents. While missing her chance at a "normal" childhood, the singer looks back on that time with greater understanding and appreciation. "My mother was often depressed with five children and no food to feed them. She knew I was talented and she lived with the hope that my abilities were my chance to do something special."

Tragedy Led to Responsibility

Tragically, both her parents were killed when Twain was 21, when their car collided with a fully loaded logging truck. Left with two teenage brothers and a younger sister to raise, she marketed her musical abilities into a steady job singing pop and show tunes at the Deerhurst Resort in nearby Huntsville, which enabled her to provide the family with a stable home. "I bought a house, a family truck and settled down--I thought, forever," Twain remembered in her press release. But teenagers eventually grow up, and three years later her siblings were making it on their own. Twain also found herself on her own, with no responsibility to anyone but herself for the first time in her life. She knew she had talent, and she knew she had drive: She decided to put every ounce of it into a recording career.

Making a demo tape was the first step, followed by showcasing her talent for potential backers with the help of friend and manager Mary Bailey. That led to an introduction to the right people at Mercury Nashville, who quickly signed the talented Canadian. Twain's self-titled debut album was released in 1993, gaining the singer audiences in the United States, Canada, and even Europe, through music videos that showcased Twain's good looks and upbeat sound. While it would ultimately only reach number 67 on the Billboard country album charts, Twain's first effort was reviewed well enough to keep her working. "On the first album there was more of a variety," she would explain to Frances P. McAneney in Country Song Roundup. "I was still testing things out. On the second album ... I want to be closer to the basics of country." Twain would also find herself a lot closer to reaching her full potential as a musician.

A New Relationship

A great deal of the inspiration behind Twain's second album came from a newfound friendship with Englishman Robert "Mutt" Lange. The producing talent behind such rock bands as Def Leppard, Michael Bolton, and the Cars, Lange had first phoned the singer after seeing her on a music video. Because she was in the dark about who Lange was professionally, Twain related to him as an ordinary, likeable fan and the two quickly became friends. Their long-distance phone bills mounted as they shared ideas for song lyrics and stories about life in general, and Lange's continued enthusiasm gave Twain the confidence to write the material for her next release. When they finally met face-to-face at Nashville's Fan Fair in 1993, the creative rapport Lange and Twain had established during all those trans-Atlantic phone calls blossomed into something more--the couple was married six months later. "We ended up writing half [my second] album ... before we even became romantically involved," Twain boasted in her press release. "Creatively, romantically, it's a wonderful, wonderful marriage. My husband Mutt is the producer of my dreams and the love of my life. They are two separate entities, but at the same time what more could any girl ask for?"

Certainly, Twain couldn't ask for more success than that heaped upon her second album, The Woman in Me. Released in 1995, it shot to the top of the charts on the strength of "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?" "Any Man of Mine," which rocked the country charts as the anthem of the 1990s female country music fan, followed in the wake of that first single, plowing even more ground for the talented Canadian vocalist. The Woman in Me reached double-platinum status six months after its February release on the strength of the Twain/Lange collaboration. Especially personal to Twain is the album's final cut, "God Bless the Child," an a capella rendition of a song she wrote in memory of her late parents.

From a childhood where music was an escape from her bleak surroundings, Twain matured into a talent to be reckoned with, not only as a country vocalist, but as a talented songwriter with a good ear for a strong hook. "I don't want to be seen as just a pretty face with a pretty voice, that type of thing," she was quick to state in her press release. By all accounts, The Woman in Me went far in allaying any concerns of that sort. Talented, driven, and inspired, the Canadian-born Twain continued to win over even the most hard-core country fans. As legendary vocalist George Jones told People reporter Liza Schoenfein: "I love this girl's singing. And I'd love to do an album with her. She caught my ear above all the rest of them."

The astounding success of The Woman in Me--the album went platinum ten times over and spawned eight singles--was surpassed by Twain's next release, 1997's Come On Over. It was this album that successfully bridged the gap between country music fans and pop fans, both of whom took immediately to the hook-laden, upbeat songs on the album. Twain toured nonstop for two years in support of the album while single after single, including "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," "You're Still the One," and "That Don't Impress Me Much," hit the top of the pop and country charts. Come On Over sold over 34 million copies worldwide; 19 million of the sales occurred in the United States.

Twain became a star, known around the world by her first name alone. She turned down a stream of movie offers, became the face of Revlon cosmetics, and was named one of Peoples 50 Most Beautiful People. She also had to deal with people prying into her past, and hurtful allegations that she was embellishing the hardships she faced growing up, and lied about her native heritage. Twain, who never knew her biological father and was extremely close to Jerry Twain, was particularly hurt by the allegations that she wasn't qualified to claim native heritage. Twain's former lawyer Richard Frank spoke to People about her feelings. "It was very upsetting to her when it came out.... She felt that it dishonored her father who raised her and sought to diminish his role as a father." Rumors surfaced that constant touring put her marriage in jeopardy, which both she and Lange steadfastly denied. In fact, her biggest hit on Come On Over, "You're Still the One," was a rebuttal of sorts to those who thought their marriage wouldn't work.

Sought Normalcy in Switzerland

It would be five years before Twain released the follow-up to Come On Over. Between releases, she and Lange moved to a large chateau in Switzerland, near Lake Geneva. Twain and her husband chose to move to Switzerland to maintain a relatively normal life. There, Twain has repeated in numerous interviews, she is free to go to the store, walk around town, and live her life without the hassles of press, photographers, and fans searching her out. "I don't feel like a star [in Switzerland]," Twain revealed to People reporter Karen Schneider. "I needed to leave behind the whole 'Shania' thing and be myself."

When Twain emerged from her Swiss seclusion, it was with a new record, Up!, and a new son, Eja (pronounced "Asia") D'Angelo, born in August of 2001. Up! was released in a new and unusual way: each copy was packaged as a double CD, one containing versions of the 19 songs in a pop-rock vein, the other containing the exact same songs, but in a country style with slide guitars and mandolin built into the mix. In Europe, a third disc, featuring what Twain described to Time as "an Asian, Indian vibe" replaced the country CD. This unique genre-spanning approach was designed to increase Twain's already near-universal appeal. "We've geared the music to please everybody," Twain told Entertainment Weekly in 2002.

After releasing Up! Twain embarked on a 10-month, 113-concert tour, beginning in 2003. The tour generated $62.5 million, according to Billboard, making it the third-highest grossing tour of 2004 behind the Prince and Madonna tours. Like Twain's previous albums, Up! was extremely popular and became a 10-times-platinum certified album. The carefully conceived album also brought Twain many awards, including a 2003 Juno (Canadian Grammy) Award for Top Country Recording.

To Twain, creating music to please the masses is her job. She also creates music in private that is much more emotional and personal than the tunes heard on the radio. No one but her husband is privy to those tunes, however. "I am a commercial singer," Twain stated to Time during a promotional interview for Up! "When I write a song, I'm thinking about the people who are going to be listening to it. The whole process is done with that in mind.... If you're making [music] just for yourself, why sell it?"

In 2004, Twain released a greatest hits album. It contained 21 tracks, including 17 chart-toppers plus three brand new songs, including the popular "Party for Two." The multi-Grammy-winning singer turned 40 in 2005 and showed no signs of slowing down. "It doesn't make any difference," Twain remarked about her age, according to People. "You change physically, but I'm happy to do that."

by Pamela Shelton

Shania Twain's Career

Began singing in local clubs and community events, c. 1973; regular performer, Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville, Ontario, 1986-89; signed with Mercury Records, 1991; release debut album, Shania Twain, 1993; collaborated with producer/songwriter Lange on The Woman in Me, 1995; released Come On Over, 1997; released Up!, 2002; released Shania Twain Greatest Hits, 2004.

Shania Twain's Awards

American Music Award, Favorite New Country Artist, 1995; Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SCAMPC), Song of the Year for "Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?," 1995; RPM's Big Country Award (Canada), Outstanding New Artist, 1995; Canadian Country Music Awards, Female Vocalist and Album of the Year, both for The Woman in Me, and Single of the Year and Video of the Year, both for "Any Man of Mine," all 1995; Blockbuster Entertainment, Favorite New Country Artist, 1996; Grammy Award, Best Country Album and Juno Awards (Canada's Grammys) for Country Female Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year, all for The Woman in Me, 1996; Grammy Awards, Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "You're Still the One," 1998; Country Music Association Award, Entertainer of the Year, 1999; American Music Awards, Favorite Female Country Artist and Favorite Female Pop/Rock Artist, 1999; Grammy Award, Best Country Song for "Come on Over" and Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!," 1999; Academy of Country Music Awards, Entertainer of the Year, 2000; Juno Awards, Top Artist, Fan Voice Award, and Top Country Recording for Up!, 2003; Canadian Country Music Association Award, Female Vocalist of the Year, 2003; BMI Country Awards, Song of the Year for "Forever and for Always," 2004; Country Music Television Flame Worthy Award for Female Video of the Year for "Forever and for Always," 2004; Bambi Awards, International Pop Female Artist of the Year, 2004; Juno Awards, Country Recording of the Year for Up!, 2004; People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Country Singer, 2005.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

February 2005: Twain signed with Stetson cosmetics to create a signature fragrance line. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, February 20, 2005.

November 18, 2005: Twain was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada. Source: Globe and Mail, November 17, 2005.

Further Reading

Sources

PeriodicalsOnline

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 5 years ago

What an excellent, excellent piece. Frances McAneney should be commended for her flair for fully comprehending the meanings intended by those she interviews. Excellent piece. Rosean Wright

about 6 years ago

i need more info on her please help!