Russell Watson In-depth Biography
Russell Watson is a tenor who vaulted to British and European fame rapidly in a fashion that is as unorthodox as his background. As a boy his main interests were football (that is, soccer) and singing. He was a fan of pop, opera, and Manchester United, not necessarily in that order.
He is entirely self-taught as a singer. He practiced singing in his room, and was just as likely to sing songs of a favorite pop group, such as Happy Mondays, as opera. He developed a very large voice and began singing locally at the Railway Inn in Salford, and various workingmen's pubs and karaoke bars. Meanwhile, he worked days at a factory.
One night he ended his usual set of pop music covers with Nessun dorma! the tenor solo from Puccini's Turandot, and brought down the house. His management, seeing that he was becoming locally popular in North England, where he was starting to be called "The Voice," advised him that he should exploit his 6'1" slim good looks and form a boy band. Watson, however, decided to continue to put himself forward as a solo act try to bring opera to the masses.
In 1996, he did get professional work as an opera singer. However, he continued to work in pop, and frequently attempted to occupy middle ground between pop and classical.
In 1998, two of his great interests appeared ready to coincide when he was invited to sing at Old Trafford at the halftime of the Munich Air Crash Memorial Football Match. To his deep disappointment, the appearance was canceled at the last minute when star player Eric Cantona asked that Mick Hucknell sing instead. However, in 1999, he got an opportunity to sing God Save the Queen before the Rugby League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium in London, and then delighted an audience with at the Lancashire Cricket Club during an evening match.
Finally, he realized his dream of singing before a football crowd on May 16, 1999 in the Premiership Trophy final match between United and Tottenham Hotspur. He sang the national anthem in a tuxedo then, just after United won the trophy for the fifth time, charged out to sing the famous Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé arrangement of Barcelona, during which he ripped off the tux to reveal a red Manchester United shirt.
Immediately phones rang at the television headquarters, asking who was the good looking young man with the great voice. A week later he was asked to sing a full set at the European Cup Final Match before 95,000 spectators as United played Bayern Munich. The set included Nessun dorma! and Barcelona, with Caballé herself joining in.
Plans were immediately made to prepare a debut album. Meanwhile, he released some best selling pop recordings, including "Swing Low 99," the English Ruby Team's official song, and Barcelona, with Happy Mondays star Shaun Ryder. He also performed with long-time British pop icon Sir Cliff Richards in Hyde Park in London and continued to appear at big-time British sporting events.
In October 2000, his debut album The Voice appeared. It was a mix of pop covers and classical and included Richards, Ryder, and rhythm & blues singer Cleopatra Willmann and includes music as wide-ranging as Nessun dorma! and La donna è mobile as well as "Bridge over Troubled Water," Vienna, and Barcelona.
The record immediately shot to the top of the British classical charts (displacing long-time topper Andrea Bocceli) and went to number eight on the pop charts, earning double platinum. ~ Joseph Stevenson, All Music Guide