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7 December 2018, 14:11 | Updated: 7 December 2018, 14:16
From humble beginnings to becoming the best-selling male classical artist of the last 25 years, find out more about Russell ‘The Voice’ Watson in our fact gallery.
Russell Watson is the 51-year-old self-styled ‘People’s Tenor’, who was born on 24 November 1966 in Gildersome, a village in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
After leaving school with no GCEs, Russell found work through a Youth Opportunities Programme as a bolt-cutter in Irlam, near Manchester, earning just £29.50 a week.
By this point, Watson had a wife and child, so he sang Elvis covers in clubs in the North West to earn some extra cash to support his family.
One night, he was singing at Wigan Road Working Men’s Club when the secretary suggested he try singing ‘Nessun dorma’ from Puccini’s Turandot. He did, and went on to win a Search for a Star contest.
In 1998, Russell signed a management deal with Ian Boasman. The following year, he sang at Old Trafford before the last match of the Premiership season between Manchester United (Watson’s team) and Tottenham Hotspur.
When his team won, Watson returned to the pitch in a move that would seal his success: he sang Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé’s song ‘Barcelona’, and tore off his dinner jacket to reveal a Manchester United shirt.
A week later, the UEFA Champions League invited him to sing a full set at the final between United and Bayern Munich, duetting with the late Montserrat Caballé.
Russell Watson has been married twice. He has two children with his first wife Helen: Rebecca, 21 and Hannah, 15. The pair split soon after the release of his first album, with Helen telling the Daily Mail: “His fame changed everything for the worse in our marriage.”
In August 2015, Watson married his girlfriend of five years, Louise Harris. Watson’s wedding to Harris was described as “a fairy-tale Spanish ceremony”.
Watson’s debut album, The Voice, followed his UEFA set in May 2001. A mixture of operatic arias and pop covers, it topped the UK and, later, the US classical charts, making Watson the first British artist to hold both the US and UK classical number one.
To date, Russell has released 10 studio albums, including Encore, La Voce and Amore Musica. Last year, the Ultimate Classic FM Chart revealed Russell as the second best-selling classical artist of the last 25 years (Katherine Jenkins was the best-selling).
Watson’s debut album The Voice featured some unusual collaborations, including a duet with Cleo of girl group Cleopatra on the song ‘Someone Like You’ and with former Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder on ‘Barcelona’.
In 2001, he sang his most famous track to date: ‘Where My Heart Will Take Me’, the opening theme of Star Trek: Enterprise written by Diane Warren.
He is also known for singing ‘Someone to Remember Me’ from his 2010 album La Voce, Sarah Brightman’s song ‘Nella Fantasia’ from his own album The Voice and ‘You Raise Me Up’ from his 2004 album Amore Musica.
In September 2006, Watson was diagnosed with two brain tumours, also known as pituitary adenoma. After the surgery to remove the tumours, Watson could barely walk.
Upon recovery, Watson returned to the recording studio and released That’s Life (2007). But in October that year, an MRI scan showed that Watson’s tumour had regrown. He underwent emergency surgery and was for a while in a critical condition, undergoing extensive radiotherapy.
When he finished radiotherapy in 2008, he decided to return to music. Strangely, Watson’s treatment gave a brand new range and timbre to his voice: “The tumour could have been growing for 10–15 years in my nasal cavity, so when I had cut it out I went from a V8 to a V12!”