From Background Vocalist to Superstar

Shania Twain has announced the dates for her farewell tour. Seems strange to call it quits at 50, but I know touring is rarely as much fun for the musician as it is for the audience.

I must confess I’ve never seen her show. It’s not that I dislike her music, but I’ve never been in the right place at the right time to catch a concert. Seems like that will be the case one last time: she comes to Ottawa at the end of June, on a day when I will be out of town.

The tour announcement got me to thinking about the nature of the music business and the road to success. So much of it seems to be pure chance.

Hard work doesn’t always translate into popularity, as many a hard-working musician can tell you. Being talented is also not enough. I have seen many talented musicians struggle to find an audience and make a living. I have also seen a few with no talent become wildly successful. (I won’t name names; I imagine you can come up with a list on your own.) Sometimes it is tough to tell who is going to make it big. The predictions of the experts don’t pan out, for any number of reasons.

I know one such musician who seemed to be plagued by bad luck. Every time he would sign a new contract with a new label something would go wrong right afterwards, usually a management change at the label. His champions would vanish, and despite hit records his contract would be dropped and it was off to the next company. Eventually he gave up on the dream.

Another singer I know, Kelita Haverland, had some moderate success at the outset of her career. In the early 1980s she was well along the way to becoming one of Canada’s top country music stars. But then there were some major life changes. Along the way she became a Christian and her focus changed. She’s still making music (as well as pursuing other interests), but no longer chasing superstardom. She has learned the secret of contentment.

You just never know what will happen in a music career. So many variables are beyond the musician’s control. Back when Kelita was a burgeoning country star she of course needed musicians when recording her albums.

For one of those records she hired a backup vocalist with a good voice, a singer paying her dues and longing for a shot at stardom. That particular vocalist was born Eilleen Edwards, but later changed her name to Shania Twain. The rest, as they say, is history.

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