‘It was like A PART OF ME HAD DIED’
Cheated on by her husband with her best friend and robbed of her distinctive voice, Canadian country queen Shania Twain is back from the brink with a new album – and a new man…
In 2004, Shania Twain seemed to have it all. With five Grammy awards and more than 100 million global record sales, the Man! I Feel Like A
Woman singer appeared invincible.
Her personal life was pretty peachy, too. Married to legendary producer Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange since 1993, they lived a quiet life when not on the road, bringing up their young son, Eja, in Switzerland.
But, out of the blue, two catastrophic events caused her whole world to come crashing down around her in spectacular style, and Shania mysteriously disappeared from the spotlight.
Now, 15 years since the release of her last studio album, Up!, the 52-year-old is back, having survived a devastating illness that nearly ended her career and the ultimate BFF betrayal that subsequently wrecked her marriage.
Shania was touring Up! in 2004 when she began to experience worrying symptoms. Struggling to hold a microphone because her arms were ‘cramping like crazy’ and plagued by insomnia, she was forced to take a break. ‘I was very dizzy. I was terrified,’ she recalled, initially blaming exhaustion.
The performer was diagnosed with the tick-borne bacterial illness Lyme disease, which she’d caught after being bitten by the insect while horse riding. Shania went on to develop dysphonia, a vocal cord disorder that left her unable to sing.
‘It was like a part of me had died,’ she later said, describing the grief she felt when told the damage was permanent. ‘I lost a serious pleasure in my life. I believed I would never sing again.’
Four years after the disease struck, at a time when she most needed the support of her spouse, she discovered Mutt was having an affair with her best friend, Marie-Anne Thiébaud. Mutt denied this, but is with Marie-Anne to this day.
‘For the first week after finding out about the affair, I was ready to die,’ Shania wrote in her 2011 memoir, From
This Moment On. ‘To go to bed for ever and never wake up. I was ready to do something desperate.’
Sinking into a deep depression, she later said, ‘It was one of the most devastating things that has ever happened to me.’
But the singer found love again – ironically, with Marie-Anne’s former husband, Frédéric Thiébaud. Having divorced their cheating exes, the couple married in 2011 on a beach at sunset.
‘I wasn’t ready to trust again – it took a lot of months,’ she says of Frédéric. ‘But he started to express his love for me – and he was so selfless that I thought, “Wow, that’s such a beautiful person.”’
One consolation from her enforced career break was that she could spend quality time with Eja, now 16 and a budding music producer himself.
‘Eja has had a very normal childhood – he wasn’t tutored or raised by nannies,’
explains Shania, who focused on motherhood during her darkest times, ‘baking cake, packing lunches, running back and forth to soccer and all that stuff’.
Her desire to create a stable upbringing for Eja no doubt stems from her own tough beginnings. Born Eilleen Regina Edwards on August 28, 1965, she was raised in poverty in a remote part of Canada.
Enduring a difficult relationship with her mum and abusive stepfather, she was left reeling when, aged 21, they were both killed in a car crash. Shania was left to raise her three younger siblings, and would sing to support them.
It would have been easy to give up all those years later when her voice failed her. But, unable to bear the thought of turning her back on her ‘first love’, music, Shania endured hours of speech therapy before booking a residency in Las Vegas in 2012, which sparked her desire to write again.
Shania and Mutt’s songwriting collabs had proved a winning formula, and the prospect of going it alone was daunting.
But she did, and her new album, Now, is her most personal yet. Shania admits she ‘cried a lot’ during the making of it, as she wrote about ‘feeling unappreciated in my marriage and fighting back against pain’.
Last month, UK fans were thrilled to see their idol perform live at the launch of Strictly Come Dancing. However Shania was slammed for her ‘dodgy vocals’ and accused of miming. ‘I’ll never sing my old hits like I used to,’ she says, referring to the effects of Lyme disease. ‘I’ve had to relearn how to use my voice.’
One thing that hasn’t changed is Shania’s bewitching stage presence. A vegetarian for over 20 years, she looks incredible, although admits to putting on weight during her hiatus. ‘My body is changing,’ she conceded. ‘It’s actually fashionable to have a bigger butt now!’
And, with a renewed desire to live life to the full, the future’s looking bright.
‘I’ve been through a lot, but I’m in a good place,’ Shania says. ‘I’ve learned that I’m a fighter – I don’t give up.’
Now, that does impress us much!
The star’s career was soaring in 2004 before her illness struck
Shania won one of her five Grammys for the 1999 song Man! I Feel Like A Woman!
Shania with second husband Frédéric Thiébaud After 15 years out of the limelight, the singersongwriter is back with an album about romantic mistrust and betrayal