Tragedy struck when vocal celebrities lost their voice. Women who had voices that were par excellence and had to live through the loss of their magnificent voices include Celine Dion and Julie Andrews.
Celine Dion – one of the Vocal Celebrities who Lost their Voice
Canadian singer Céline Marie Claudette Dion CC OQ is a noted for her powerful and technically skilled vocals as a full-lyric soprano. The uniqueness of Dion’s voice was her belting range and the power and extensiveness of her range. She had a voice that was big enough to enable her to take on much heavier roles than normally associated with sopranos. Her voice could be heard clearly over the largest orchestras without vocal deterioration.
Dion is the best-selling Canadian recording artist, and the best-selling French-language artist of all time. Her record sales exceed 200 million worldwide. Dion’s music incorporated a wide variety of genres, from pop, rock, Rhythm & Blues, gospel, and classical music. She has always stipulated that she is a French, not an English artist. In 1981, Dion openly declined the Felix Awards ‘English Artist of the Year’.
Always Wanted to Sing
As a young girl, Dior dreamed of being a singer and remained a perfectionist. At age 12, she composed her first song with her mother and brother. After seeing Michael Jackson perform, Dion underwent a marked change, in order to be marketable worldwide. She underwent dental surgery and studied to improve her English. In 1989, Dion injured her voice and was given a choice. “Undergo surgery or do not use your vocal cords at all for three weeks.” Celine Dion chose the latter, which was wise, considering what happened to Julie Andrews under surgery.
Colouring Her World
In 1993, Dion called her manager and music mogul, Rene Angelil, “The colour of her love.” They married in 1994. However, Dion knew the full agony of grief when he died in 2016, after a valiant a battle with throat cancer, after 22 years of marriage. Angelil had been with Dion for every step of her rise to international superstardom.
Her rendition of “All By Myself” was show-stopping when she dedicated the entire performance in Las Vegas to her husband, only weeks after her husband’s death. She told the empathetic crowd, “Through my life I only had eyes for my husband, who sat out here night after night, He has always been ‘on stage with me’, and that will never change.”
A Celebrity Who Lost Her Voice
At age 54, Celine has been diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, a rare, incurable, autoimmune and neurological disorder. It affects one in a million people. SPS is caused by increased muscle activity due to decreased inhibition of the central nervous system. This has affected her glorious voice, causing Dion to cancel all her upcoming concerts. Ever the perfectionist, Dion refuses to appear on stage when she doesn’t have the ability to give her fans 100 per cent.
Stiff Person Syndrome
Stiff Person Syndrome is characterised by progressive rigidity of both limb and truncal muscles, with brainstem involvement and painful spasms. It can lead to the person being hunched over through abnormal posturing of the spine. Twice as many men as women are affected.
Medications and immunotherapy can be prescribed, along with aqua occupational and physical therapy. However, most patients die within two-to-three years of being diagnosed. SPS is often misdiagnosed and mistaken as generic back pain, or a psychiatric condition. Clear diagnosis did not occur until the 1950s.
Dion has not given up the hope that she will return to live performances. Julie Andrews must be an inspiration to Celine Dion, in her fight to keep the hope that her voice too will come back, as she said in the video that announced to the world that she had SPS.
Julie Andrews, one of the vocal Celebrities who lost their Voice
Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, is another one of the vocal celebrities who lost their voice. Julie had a magnificent four-octave soprano voice, and losing it brought to a close, a star-studded 52-year long career. Doctors botched a routine throat surgery to remove a non-cancerous polyp in 1997. Andrews was left with permanent damage to her throat.
Throat nodules can be treated without surgery, but Andrews opted for surgery, as the polyp was interfering with her vocal range. Andrews won a malpractice lawsuit in 2000, but no amount of money could compensate for the loss of that glorious voice. Four subsequent operations improved her speaking voice but were unable to restore her soprano voice.
Julie Sung Since a Young Teenager
Andrews was only 13-years old and the youngest person to perform solo before King George VI at the Royal Variety Performance in the London Palladium. In 2000, she was made Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, by Queen Elizabeth II.
Andrews never felt she had the weighty voice required for opera. She said her voice was unsuited for the genre and opera was “Too big a stretch”. Andrews was happy to settle for musical theatre instead, preferring music that was bright and sunny, compared to the emotion demanded from operatic singers. Sad songs written in a minor key were not to her liking.
At age 19, Andrews made her Broadway debut. Her performance as Eliza Doolittle was the “Greatest learning period in my life”.
Tragedy Does Not Define Andrews
Julie Andrews refused to allow tragedy and adversity to define who she is.
After getting over the initial shock and battling the Black Dog of depression, she began to reshape her life. She returned to co-authoring books with her daughter, Emma, from her first marriage, and incorporated music into them. Andrews also published several books on her own, including her memoirs.
Andrews also found lesser ways to use her voice, that included narration and character voice in movies and speaking tours. In 2003, Andrews made her debut as a theatre director, directing ‘The Boy Friend’, the musical she had debuted on Broadway in 1954.
In 2004 Andrews sang in the film The Princess Diaries, for the first time since the devastating throat surgery. The song, ‘Your Crowning Glory’ was set in a limited range of an octave to accommodate Andrew’s recovering voice as a fragile alto.
Andrew’s grief did not stop there. In 2010, Andrew’s second director husband, Blake Edwards, died at age 88. They had been married for 41 years.
Still, she looked for more ways to continue. She may be a vocal celebrity who lost her voice, but she is not down and out for the count. In 2020, Andrews narrated the voice of Lady Whistledown in the Netflix period drama, Bridgerton. That same year, Andrews was awarded the American Film Industry Life Achievement Award at a ceremony in Los Angeles.
At 87-years of age, Julie Andrews continues to send a message to both children and adults, “Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself and be ready. When an opportunity comes, you can grab it.” She advocates the importance of dreams, perseverance and preparation. Andrews dreams of possibly producing her own Broadway musical.
These two memorable voices live on as two strong, determined women who continue to dream big and dare to catch their dreams. They refuse to bow down to life’s nasty kicks and never quit. Self-pity has no place in the lives of these women.
Check out other posts at Whispering Encouragement. We are here to inform and encourage. Talk to us. Tell us of any person, business, or incident you would like to see highlighted. Subscribe for free, so you can keep up-to-date with topics that interest you.
Wendy is an inspirational writer, for which she has a strong passion. She is also very passionate about her garden and family. She says life is too short to waste, so live it to the fullest.