Shania Twain was born in Canada on August 28, 1965. A music lover early on, she started writing songs at age 10. Her second album, The Woman in Me (1995), was a big success, then Come on Over (1997) went on to sell 40 million records, making it the bestselling album by a female artist, as well as the top country music record. After separating from her husband in 2008, the five-time Grammy winner stepped out of the spotlight, but she returned to perform a series of shows in Las Vegas from 2012 to 2014.
On August 28, 1965, Eilleen Regina Edwards—who would later change her name to Shania Twain—was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Her parents divorced when she was young, but her mother, Sharon, soon remarried, to a man named Jerry Twain, a member of the Ojibwa tribe. Jerry adopted Sharon’s three daughters, and the four-year-old Eilleen became Eilleen Twain.
Twain grew up in the small town of Timmins, located in Ontario. There, her family often struggled to make ends meet, and Twain sometimes had nothing more than a “poor man’s sandwich” (bread spread with mayonnaise or mustard) for lunch at school. Jerry also had a violent streak, and Twain and her siblings witnessed him attack Sharon on more than one occasion.
But music was a bright spot in Twain’s childhood. She was singing by the age of 3, playing the guitar at 8 and penning her own songs at 10. Sharon embraced her daughter’s talent, making sacrifices the family could ill afford in order to get Twain to lessons and gigs. With her mother’s encouragement, Twain grew up singing in clubs and at community events, with occasional forays into television and radio.
Overcoming a Family Tragedy
At 18, Twain decided to try and make a go of her singing career in Toronto. She found work, but didn’t make enough to support herself without taking odd jobs, which included a stint at McDonald’s.
In 1987, however, Twain’s life was upended when her parents died in a car crash. In order to support her three younger siblings (in addition to Twain’s younger sister, Sharon and Jerry had had a son together and had also adopted Jerry’s nephew), Twain returned to Timmins and took a job singing as part of a Las Vegas–style show at the nearby Deerhurst resort in Huntsville, Ontario.
However, Twain hadn’t given up on making her own music, and she kept continued to write songs in her free time. Her demo made it to Nashville, and she was subsequently signed to Polygram Records (which became Mercury Nashville).
Early Career in Nashville
Her new label may have liked Twain’s music, but they didn’t care for the name Eilleen Twain. As Twain wanted to keep her last name to honor her adoptive father, she opted to change her first name instead, to Shania, an Ojibwe word that means “I’m on my way.”
Encouraged to use songs written by others, Twain lamented her lack of artistic control in Nashville. Still, her first album, titled Shania Twain, was released in 1993. The album was not a big success (though Twain's video for “What Made You Say That,” which featured her wearing a crop top, got plenty of attention), but it did reach one important fan: Robert John “Mutt” Lange, who’d produced albums for groups such as AC/DC, the Cars and Def Leppard. After getting in touch with Twain, Lange set to work with her on her next album.
Twain and Lange co-wrote 10 of the 12 tracks for Twain’s next album, The Woman in Me (1995). Twain loved the album, but given Lange’s rock background and the record’s forays into pop as well as country music, she worried about how people would react.
She needn’t have been concerned. The first single, “Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under?” reached No. 11 on the country charts. The follow-up single, the rock-infused “Any Man of Mine,” soared to No. 1 on the country charts and was also a Top 40 pop hit. Twain received four Grammy nominations the following year, and won Best Country Album. A critical and commercial success, The Woman in Me would reach eventually reach more than 12 million in U.S. sales.
Twain’s subsequent album, Come On Over (1997), another co-production with Lange, further fused country and pop. It also had more chart-topping songs, including pumped-up anthems such as “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much," as well as romantic ballads such as “You're Still the One” and “From This Moment On.”
In 1999, “You’re Still The One” earned Twain two Grammys, one for Best Country Song and another for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. The song also reached No. 1 on Billboard’s country charts. The next year, Twain took home another two Grammys when “Come On Over” was named Best Country Song and “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” won for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Come On Over reigned at No. 1 on the country charts for a combined 50 weeks. The album also became, and remains, the bestselling country album of all time—reaching 40 million in worldwide sales—as well as the top-selling album by a solo female artist. With the success of Come On Over, followed by a popular tour, Twain became an international star.
In 2002, Twain's Up! was released. There were three versions of the album: a pop red version, a country green disc and a blue version that had an international, Bollywood-influenced flavor. The red and green combination reached No. 1 on Billboard’s country and Top 200 charts (the rest of the world got the red-blue pairing, which was also a success). However, sales dipped compared to Twain’s previous monster hits, with 5.5 million copies sold in the United States.
By 2004, Shania Twain had recorded enough material for her first compilation of greatest hits. It was released in the fall of that year, the album would top and the charts and eventually go quadruple platinum.
Twain’s personal life seemed to take off alongside her career. After working with Lange over the phone for months, the pair finally met in person in June 1993. Six months later, they were married.
Hoping to find themselves greater privacy, Twain and Lange relocated to a luxurious Swiss estate. While living in Switzerland, in 2001 Twain gave birth to a son, Eja D'Angelo Lange. Twain also struck up a friendship with Marie-Anne Thiébaud, who worked as an assistant for the couple.
In 2008, Twain and Lange separated, with Twain devastated to have discovered that her husband was having an affair with Thiébaud. Twain and Lange’s divorce was finalized two years later.
The separation and divorce were extremely difficult for Twain. Not only had her marriage ended, but she’d lost someone who had helped guide her career. Around this time, Twain began experiencing dysphonia, a tightening of the vocal muscles that made it difficult for her to sing.
However, there was one person who could understand what Twain was experiencing—Frédéric Thiébaud, Marie-Anne’s ex-husband. Twain and Frederic grew closer, and the two wed on New Year’s Day in 2011.
Recent Career Highlights
Fortunately for Twain’s career—and her fans—the singer was able to overcome her dysphonia. Some of her healing process could be seen in the television series Why Not? with Shania Twain, which aired on the Oprah Winfrey Network in 2011. Twain also wrote a memoir, From This Moment On, which was published that May. Later the same year she was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
In 2012 Shania Twain stepped fully back into the public eye when she began a series of elaborate shows at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. The production was titled Shania: Still the One and was a highly successful attraction during its two-year run. A live album of the show was released in March 2015.
Also in March 2015, Twain announced she'd be embarking on a final tour, which will visit 48 cities during the summer. The last show will take place shortly before Twain turns 50. In addition, the singer has plans for a new album, which she hopes to release while she’s 50.
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