How Celine Dion Found the Courage to Come Back After Total Tragedy

Celine Dion returns with new album Courage, her first in the nearly four years since the deaths of husband Rene Angelil and brother Daniel within days of one another.

By Billy Nilles Nov 15, 2019 5:29 PMTags
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There's a reason Celine Dion's new album is called Courage.

That word, it's become something of a battle cry for the singer over these last few years after being met with not one but two life-altering tragedies in early 2016 when both her husband of 21 years, Rene Angelil (who was 26 years her senior), and her older brother Daniel passed away, succumbing to battle with cancer within mere days of one another.

It was the sort of devastation that could've left anyone leveled, unable to get out of bed, let alone take the stage or post up in the recording studio. And perhaps for a time, it did have that effect on the French-Canadian singer. But something miraculous has happened since she was forced to face the absolute worst—she's walked through fire and risen from the ashes, not just stronger, but more in control of her destiny than ever before.

And now, with Courage, her first album recorded since the devastating loss, out in the world, we're all reveling in the fruits of such an astounding resiliency. 

Musicians Performing Live on Stage

"I needed to prove to my family, my friends, the business people, the industry, the fans…That I can sing and continue on and not have only a hit but a career," she told CBS This Morning's Gayle King this month about her desire to not only return to work, but, for the first time, take control in a way that she never quite had before. "I've been so much involved, not only in my album but into the production of this show. I say what I like, I have ideas. They can be tacky, wrong. I'm not asking to be right. I'm just asking to be heard," she said, adding that, before Rene's passing, she didn't want to be in the meetings. 

"I just wanted to sing the best way that I could and that's it. Basta! You do your job. But now René is not—" she continued, as Gayle helped finish her sentence. 

"—taking care of that," the morning show host said. "But you do seem very much in control and in charge."

Celine continued, "It's just the fact that I can be in the team of production and express my ideas… And that gives me a lot of, like, well, if that idea turned out into something super amazing, I'm not just a singer."

That's not to say it's been easy, however.

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“Losing the father of my children, my husband, my manager, the person that I love the most in the world and the person that I can rely upon without questioning anything since I was 12 years old — losing that person was a big deal for me. It reflected on a lot of people that I've been surrounded by for 20 years. We are still missing him tremendously, believe it or not," she told CBC Radio host Tom Power in September. "It takes courage because I'm a single mom and I don't want my kids, my entourage and the people that I love to feel that because I have lost the man of my life that I'm going to lose the essence of what I love, my passion."

As the mother of three sons told the Los Angeles Times in October, "The loss of my husband is still in me. I will grieve that for the rest of my life. And I see him through the eyes of my children every day."

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And yet, as she told the CBC, it's through Rene that she believes she's found the mettle to not just survive in his absence, but thrive. "I really believe that through all the years with René, who gave me so much, who taught me so much, who gave me so much luggage, that when he left for his new chapter, his new life, he gave me the rest of his luggage," she explained. "I feel him through the eyes of my kids and inside of me. I felt very, very, very strong, probably stronger than ever before."

While Courage, which might be the most adventurous and forward-thinking album in her impressive career, certainly explores life after loss, there are more than a few songs about finding new love in the eclectic mix. But, as Celine's explained, while there's plenty that she misses about having a romantic partner, she's not quite ready to take that particular leap just yet.

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"I miss to be touched. I miss to be hugged. I missed to be told, 'You're beautiful,'" she heartbreakingly admitted to Today's Sheinelle Jones in September. "I miss what a boyfriend and I miss what a husband would do."

It's a sentiment she echoed with CBS this month when asked what she missed about Rene by Gayle. 

"Oh everything. His smell. His touch. His way of making me laugh. It's, like, when I'm not on stage and my fans are home and I go in a hotel, for example, I don't have any pillow talk," she explained. "Rene will always be with me, but I'm not in pain. Let go of the pain. Say yes. Say yes for dance… Say yes for friendship. Say yes for love maybe one day. I don't know."

When asked if she was open to finding love again, she said she was. "I'm an open book… I'm open," she added. "Am I ready? No. Will it happen? I don't know. But I'm not stressed at all. I'm enjoying my life so much more now than ever before."

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That's been no more apparent than in her newfound status as a risk-taking fashion plate. After forming a partnership with celeb stylist Law Roach, whose work turning Zendaya into a fashion icon in her own right is what drew the singer to him, she's become quite a sartorial star. And she's loving every minute of it. 

"I always loved fashion — it's not something new," she told the L.A. Times. "But my team and I decided it's OK to go to fashion shows, then it made such an impact that they wanted me to be in the front row. And that turned out to be a big deal."

Her approach to life has, unsurprisingly, become something quite simple. "Life is short," she told the newspaper. "Can we just have a good time?"

"She's in a really good place," Stephan Moccio, a songwriter and producer who's known her for years and worked on Courage, told the L.A. Times. "The love of her life is gone, but I think she's found this unique confidence — this kind of emotional wisdom — that we've never seen before."

With the album out and a world tour underway, one gets the impression that this is truly only the beginning for Celine. It's clear she agrees.

"Now I am discovering myself more and more. I am a woman assuming her own destiny, full of energy and in love with life," she told ELLE in May. "It's never too late to start. At 51, I have the sense that I am at my pinnacle!"

As she told CBS this month, "I feel like I can do anything I want. I've always been all right and I will always be all right."

Courage is available now.