While, yes, more often than not we can listen to a singer and know based on how they use their voice that they may end up in vocal trouble. But, simply assuming that a singer has run into vocal trouble because of miss-use is not entirely fair. I have made that assumption before - and have also corrected myself since.
As I have said before, I have a geek-like fascination with vocal technique ... that is to say, not only how a singer sings, but how they use their entire body (or not) to do what they do.
Earlier this year, I reported on how, at the beginning of her career, Celine Dion found herself in a similar predicament to that of newly-ascended star-singer Adele.
In 1988, a 20 year old Dion had lost her voice. In her book Celine Dion For Keeps, Jenna Glatzer quotes Dion as she discusses this difficult time:
"The doctor gave me a shot, and I took so many vitamins, maybe steroids," she says. "I went on for the first song. The second song there was not voice coming out, and there was a guitar solo where I had to do a costume change. The guitar solo lasted about five minutes and I never came back," she says, still shuddering from the memory. "I couldn't talk. The people weren't stupid - they knew I couldn't sing. Rene [her husband and manager] went onstage and I was crying so hard in my dressing room. I heard Rene talking to them and the people started to sing a song to me. I remember hearing every seat of the house ... you know when you stand up at a movie theater the seats go click? I could hear click, click, click..."A doctor in Montreal broke the news to Dion that she would need to have surgery to remove polyps from her vocal cords. For a second opinion, Team Dion consulted Dr. William Gould here in New York. Dr. Gould, then nearly 80, was a renowned voice doctor who had worked with Frank Sinatra, President John Kennedy and Walter Cronkite.
Surgery was not the answer - silence was.
After 3 weeks of vocal silence, Dion's cords looked perfect. But, they were convinced that if she went back on tour, she would be right back in Dr. Gould's office. Therefore, Dr. Gould prescribed something for the long-term that was ultimately less invasive but, infinitely more time consuming and difficult - Celine Dion had to learn how to "be a singer". Clearly she could sing - but, the longevity of a singer doesn't always depend solely on how they sing. Dion also needed to learn how to care for her instrument. She had to learn that the first thing is not to do harm.
Where did Dr. Gould refer her? To a doctor who was also an opera singer.
Celine Dion's new vocal guru was (and, is) Dr. William Riley - whose clients have included Ben Vereen, President Bill Clinton, Liza Minnelli and a host of singers from Broadway and the Met (including sopranos Teresa Stratas and Deborah Voigt). Dr. Riley taught Dion that her main mission in life was to protect her fragile vocal cords as any working opera singer would. He showed her how to vocalize and how to warm up her voice every day. And, he also taught her how to manage many things in daily life; how to sneeze without making noise, how to cough lightly, how to keep herself well hydrated, rested and how to rest her voice when needed.
Later that year, after rehabilitating her voice and learning how to take care of it, Celine Dion went on to sing at the Eurovision Song Contest and won - launching her career.
Well, some 20+ years after her initial vocal trouble - Celine Dion was forced to cancel upcoming Las Vegas shows due to vocal trouble. Variety reported that Dion has recently been having problems with her vocal chords:
"I tried to sing at my soundcheck last week, and I had no control of my voice whatsoever," said Dion. "We thought that after a few days rest I would improve but it wasn't getting any better. … This is the worst thing for a singer. I feel worse knowing that I'm disappointing my fans. I'm so sorry. I hope they forgive me."While the Associated Foreign Press reports:
After difficulties ... forced her to cancel weekend performances, she decided to seek advice from laryngeal physiology expert Gerald Berke in Los Angeles.Dion was told to put all shows on hold and - at the risk of disappointing zillions of people - she did just that. but, this coming Saturday, June 9, Dion will restart her Caesars engagement ... and, as if that's not enough, the diva is currently working on new French and English albums. The English album will drop in November.
The five-time Grammy winner "flew to Los Angeles on Monday afternoon and had a thorough examination at Professor Berke's clinic," Dion said in a statement, adding that the doctor "diagnosed Celine with weakness in her right vocal chord, secondary to a viral illness."
Berke prescribed resting her vocal chords "in order for Celine to completely recover from this condition," ...
The Today Show caught up with Dion and ran this piece today....