It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture of Shania Twain and Lionel Richie tells an incredible story behind the making of their new duet, a remake of “Endless Love.” If you look at the picture, you see a relaxed Lionel & Shania in what appears to be a hotel room, with a bed and a microphone in the background. And in fact, that picture was taken the day the two of them recorded the duet in The Bahamas. But it almost didn’t happen.
Shania told the entire story to Lon Helton when she co-hosted Country Countdown USA last June. The interview took place the day after she announced her residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, which begins in December. She had just completed a reality TV series for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, titled “Why Not,” and a book, “From This Moment On,” during which she documented the process of overcoming dysphonia. The chronic disease caused an impairment to her vocal chords, making it difficult for her to speak or sing. Shania told Lon, “What it does is it manifested itself around my voicebox. The muscles tense up and put pressure on my vocal chords. It’s difficult to get air, and then get the correct tone. So what I’ve been going through has been coming back from that. It’s a psychological exercise of building your confidence again, and then the physical therapy is going to be a big part of it for me.”
In the midst of this diagnosis and recovery, Shania was contacted by Lionel Richie. He was putting together a country duets album, and wanted Shania to be a part of it. When Shania was Lon’s co-host on Country Countdown USA, she explained that she turned down the project several times. “It came about in a very awkward way. A long time ago he came to me with the idea, and I felt I wasn’t ready yet, I hadn’t sung in 7 years, so I said no. He called again and offered me to sing any song I wanted. He said ‘If she were to do it, which song would she pick?’ And so I said I would want to do Endless Love. So he held it for me. Then I started doing the TV series for OWN, I’m singing on camera, and that was an ice-breaking situation for me. So Lionel comes to me again. He was relentless. Now he’s calling at a better moment. I called him, and he was telling me about his voice problems as well, and he spoke my language. I told him I will try. I knew it was a risk because it could damage my confidence. We met in the Bahamas. I told him I didn’t want to go into a studio, but in a room, with no one else except the engineer. And it turned out so…I felt good about what happened in there. He took me around a new corner again with my confidence and my voice. It was an absolute success for me.”
Lionel Richie recalls the session this way: “I didn’t know she had not done a vocal in 7 years. She walks in and announces to me that she can’t do it. So I asked to speak with her privately. I said, ‘We have something in common. We’re both scared to death.’ She says, ‘But you’re Lionel Richie,’ and I said, ‘And you’re Shania Twain.’ And she told me she hadn’t sund in 7 years, so I said ‘We’re gonna prove this wrong.’ When Shania’s voice first comes in, when you hear her first notes, that was the first time she had sung in 7 years. Afterwards she looked at me, and we knew.”
LISTEN: CIT Shania
The session was captured on video by Shania’s husband Frederic, and can be seen below. Now, the song has been released as a single from Lionel Richie’s album “Tuskegee.” That song marked a breakthrough for Shania in overcoming her dysphonia. She told Lon, “I thought ‘Wow I can do it! I do have some power there.’ So imagine when I’m actually in shape vocally, and have gone through the therapy, I’m sure I can get there. So all I’ve gotta do now is work on it.” That’s what Shania has been doing since June. She’s been going through vocal therapy, and preparing for her return to the stage, scheduled for December 1st at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.