Russell Watson

Russell Watson

Infobox musical artist
Name = Russell Watson

Img_capt = English tenor Russell Watson performing at Broadlands in Hampshire, England, in 2007.
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Russell Watson
Born = Birth date and age|1966|11|24|df=yes
Death =
Origin = Salford, Lancashire, England, UK
Genre = Classical music, pop rock, operatic pop
Occupation = Tenor
Years_active = 1998–present
Label = Decca
URL = []

Russell Watson (born 24 November 1966) is an English tenor who has released singles and albums of both operatic-style and pop songs. The self-styled "People's Tenor" had been singing since he was a child, and became known after performing at a working men's club. He came to attention in 1999 when he sang the UK's national anthem at the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, "Barcelona" at the last match of the Premiership season between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford and a full set of songs at the final of the UEFA Champions League in Barcelona between Manchester United and Bayern Munich.

Watson's debut album entitled "The Voice" was released in May 2001; four others followed. However, an album planned for November 2006 was delayed due to the removal of a benign brain tumour. This album, entitled "That's Life", was eventually released on 5 March 2007.

On 24 October 2007, it was discovered that there had been a regrowth of his brain tumour and bleeding into his brain. He underwent emergency surgery and was discharged from hospital on 31 October. He underwent an extensive rehabilitation programme, including radiotherapy. His sixth studio album, "Outside In", was released on 26 November 2007.

Early career

Watson was born on 24 November 1966 in Salford, Lancashire, [Salford is now in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester.] England. Although he had been singing since he was a child, he never sought a career as a professional singer. He left school with no GCSEs, and started earning £90 a week on a Youth Training Schemecitation|author=Rosie Waterhouse|title='The Voice' to be sued for half his opera earnings|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=28 April 2003.] as a bolt-cutter [According to a February 2007 article in "The Times" ("times2"), Watson was a welder: see citation|author=Jane Wheatley|title='You have a brain tumour,' the doctor told me. 'Quite a big one'|url=|newspaper=The Times (times2)|date=19 February 2007.] in Irlam, Salford. Then married with a baby, to help support his young family he began to earn extra cash singing Elvis Presley and MC Hammer covers in north-west clubs.

The turning point in his career came at an engagement at Wigan Road working men's club one night, when the secretary suggested he try singing "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot". Although Russell Watson was not a classically-trained singer he continued to perform the aria, and was encouraged to try other classical pieces.citation|title=Profiles: Russell Watson|url=|magazine=Hello!|accessdate=2007-03-23. The year of Watson's birth is incorrectly stated in the article.]

In 1998 he was invited to sing at Old Trafford during the interval at a memorial football match for the Munich air disaster, a huge privilege for a lifelong Manchester United fan. However, his appearance was cancelled at the last minute when player Eric Cantona requested that Mick Hucknall sing instead.

In 1999 he sang the UK's national anthem at the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, then finally got to sing at Old Trafford before the last match of the Premiership season between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. After the game, when his team had won the league championship, he returned on to the pitch to sing the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé song "Barcelona", during which he tore off his dinner jacket to reveal a Manchester United shirt.

This appearance sealed his success, and only a week later he was invited to sing a full set at the final of the UEFA Champions League in Barcelona between United and Bayern Munich, duetting with Montserrat Caballé.

2000–2005: The "People's Tenor"

Watson's debut album entitled "The Voice" followed in May 2001. A mixture of operatic arias and covers of pop songs, it topped the UK Classical Chart and eventually reached number five in the UK Albums Chart. Later, when released in the United States, the album took the number one spot and made history as the first time a British artist had held both the US and UK classical number one. The album contained perhaps Watson's most unusual collaboration to date, with former Happy Mondays singer Shaun Ryder who lent his vocals to the Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé song "Barcelona". The album also featured a duet with Cleo of girl group Cleopatra on the song "Someone Like You". Cleo later duetted with Russell again on his third album "Reprise" on the song "The Best That Love Can Be".

Prior to the formation of Velvet Revolver, Watson was asked by Slash (former guitarist of Guns N' Roses and currently in Velvet Revolver) whether he would be their singer. Watson turned down this opportunity, at least for the time being, to concentrate on his solo career. [citation|title=Roses – Slash begged British tenor to be in Velvet Revolver|url=||date=26 April 2006|accessdate=2008-10-07.]

Also in 2001, Watson sang the opening theme of "", "Where My Heart Will Take Me", [This is the actual name of the song, although it was originally recorded as "Faith of the Heart" by Rod Stewart for the film "Patch Adams" (1998). See citation|title=Status Report: STS-118-02; STS-118 MCC Status Report #02|url=|publisher=NASA|date=9 August 2007|accessdate=2008-06-06; see also citation|title=News in brief: Tenor records star track|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=11 September 2001.] which was written by Diane Warren. Watson also sang it live at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in England in 2002. In 2003, the song was remixed to produce a more upbeat version. In August 2007, the song was played as a wake-up call for American Mission Specialist Richard Mastracchio on Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-118. [citation|title=Status Report: STS-118-02; STS-118 MCC Status Report #02|url=|publisher=NASA|date=9 August 2007|accessdate=2008-06-06; citation|title=Russell Watson song 'awakens' shuttle crew|url=|publisher=United Press International (UPI) (reproduced on The Earth Times)|date=9 August 2007|accessdate=2008-06-06.]

In late 2002, Watson released the single "Nothing Sacred – A Song for Kirsty" to raise money for the Francis House children's hospice in Didsbury, Manchester. The campaign to raise £5 million was fronted by Kirsty Howard, a seven-year-old girl with a serious heart defect. The song reached number 17 in the UK Singles Chart. [citation|title=Single to boost Kirsty appeal|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=3 November 2002.]

The self-styled "People's Tenor",citation|author=Jane Wheatley|title='You have a brain tumour,' the doctor told me. 'Quite a big one'|url=|newspaper=The Times (times2)|date=19 February 2007.] who is also known as "The Voice" after his first album, won the Album of the Year at the Classical BRIT Awards in both 2001 [citation|title=Classical Brits for ex-factory worker|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=2001-06-01.] and 2002, [citation|title=Salford singer wins again|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=23 May 2002.] also collecting awards for Best-Selling Debut Album (2001) and Best-Selling Album (2002).


In 2003, Ian Boasman, a businessman from Preston, Lancashire, and Keith Chadwick, an entrepreneur, launched a High Court action through Union Music Ltd. (a company set up by Boasman) and a related firm Arias Ltd., claiming that they had transformed Watson from a cabaret club entertainer into an internationally-famous star and that they had been wronged when Watson signed with Decca Records and cut them out of the deal. Union Music and Arias sought 51% of Watson's earnings since he joined them, as well as the return of cash they said was invested in Watson early in his career. The plaintiffs' solicitors, Wacks Caller, estimated legal costs at that stage at £750,000. [citation|title=Press information: Opera singer and multi-millionaire Russell Watson is facing a legal battle|url=|publisher=Wacks Caller|date=May 2003|accessdate=2007-10-28.]

The plaintiffs claimed that Boasman spotted Watson singing at the Princess Diana Memorial Hall in Manchester in spring 1998 and agreed to be his manager. Boasman and Chadwick then set up Union Music. A separate firm, Arias, was incorporated, with Watson holding a directorship and 49% shareholding and Union Music holding the remaining 51%. Watson was given a wage of £3,000 a month, an Audi A4 car, and cash for dental work and a gym membership.

Watson countersued, claiming that advice that the firms gave had cost him money. The outcome of the case is not currently known.


In addition to his recording work, Watson played Parson Nathaniel in the stage adaptation of "Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds" which toured the UK in early 2006. In the same year, he also took part in the BBC reality TV show "Just the Two of Us". The programme involved eight couples, including Sian Reeves and Watson, competing in a duet-singing showdown, complete with a live band, a panel of judges and viewer voting, to see who would be crowned champions. A wide array of music was performed, from country and western to rock. The scores each week were tallied from both a judging vote (the judges were Lulu, Trevor Nelson, Stewart Copeland and Cece Sammy) and a public phone-in vote. Watson, a late arrival to the competition replacing Reeves' original partner Rick Astley who had pulled out, took the crown despite the low scores awarded by the judges to their performances. Following the competition Reeves and Watson released a victory single, "Can't Help Falling In Love". Russell Watson was scheduled to defend his title in the 2007 series with a new celebrity partner, Loui Batley, but had to withdraw at the last minute due to serious health problems.

First pituitary tumour

In 2005, Watson began having headaches, which he described as "like a knife being pressed into the bridge of my nose". He consulted a specialist who told him there was nothing to worry about as he was suffering from stress and should find ways of relaxing. When his peripheral vision began to be affected in late 2006, he visited another specialist who also said he was suffering from stress. Watson told him, "The only thing that's stressing me is this pain in my head."

In September 2006, Watson flew to Los Angeles, California, to record his album "That's Life". On the flight, he told his producer that he was experiencing terrible pressure inside his skull. When they landed, his producer suggested a game of tennis to clear his head. Watson could not see the ball at all. After a visit to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and an MRI scan, he was advised that he had a developing pituitary adenoma, a type of brain tumour, which was the size of two golf balls. According to Watson, "Since an early age I've had an in-built premonition, a vision that I wouldn't make 40. For the previous seven years I'd have a recurring nightmare in which my head exploded. And here I was with a brain tumour on the eve of my 40th birthday; I thought, 'This is it, I was right, I knew it'." Watson recalled that the tumours were "like a figure of eight, one filling the frontal cavity of my skull, the other forced through into the top of my nose." He stayed in Los Angeles for two days and continued recording his album while tests confirmed whether the tumour was malignant or not – it turned out to be benign.

Watson then returned to the UK, and had a five-hour emergency operation to remove the eight-centimetre lump at St George's Hospital in Tooting, South London, on Monday, 24 September 2006. As the tumour was pressing against his optic nerve, the surgeon removed the tumour through his nose. [citation|title=Brain surgery for Russell Watson|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=29 September 2006; citation|title=Russ on mend after op success|url=,,2-2006450491,00.html|newspaper=The Sun|date=30 September 2006. See also citation|author=Catriona Davies|title=Tumour put singer in danger of going blind|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=30 September 2006.]

After the operation, Watson could barely walk, and the tumour had affected his pituitary gland which controls hormone levels: "My mood swings went from ecstatic to suicidal. I remember one night standing on the balcony, full of dark thoughts and self-pity, thinking 'God, this is f**king terrible, why me?' I went back to bed, couldn't sleep, got up again. I thought I'd had enough. If it hadn't been for the girls [his daughters] ..." His energy levels were very low and he did not leave his house for two months: "I couldn't deal with more than one person at a time or with multitasking and I cried easily." Watson was readmitted to hospital in Manchester for tests on 6 October 2006 after complaining of dizziness, headaches and blurred vision. [citation|title=Russell Watson back in hospital|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=6 October 2006.]

Upon recovering, Watson returned to the recording studio to finish his album "That's Life". Originally due out in November 2006, it was subsequently released on 5 March 2007. On the advice of his doctors, his latest UK tour, which had been due to start in late October 2006, was also postponed until March 2007 to coincide with the album release. [citation|title=Singer Watson postpones UK tour|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=31 October 2006.] The rescheduled tour met with huge approval throughout the country, with night after night of standing ovations to a visibly-moved Watson. On 19 May 2007, Watson sang the UK's National Anthem at the 2007 FA Cup Final.

econd pituitary tumour

Whilst in the middle of the studio recording of his album "Outside In" on 24 October 2007 Watson suddenly became incapacitated, with multiple symptoms including a dramatic deterioration of vision. An MRI scan showed he had a regrowth of his tumour with bleeding into his brain. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the tumour at the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle, Greater Manchester, and was for a while in critical condition in the hospital's Intensive Therapy Unit. [citation|title=Watson 'critical' after surgery|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=25 October 2007; citation|author=Nigel Reynolds|title=Russell Watson 'critical' after brain surgery|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=25 October 2007; citation|title=Singer Watson undergoes emergency brain surgery|url=,,2198669,00.html|newspaper=The Guardian|date=25 October 2007; citation|author=Veronica Schmidt|title=Russell Watson in critical condition after brain surgery|url=|newspaper=The Times|date=25 October 2007.] On 26 October a hospital spokesman said that Watson was "recovering well" from his surgery and was in a stable condition, although the recovery process might be "a long haul". [citation|title=Russell Watson 'recovering well'|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=26 October 2007. See also citation|author=Duncan Hooper|title=Russell Watson in intensive care after surgery|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=26 October 2007; citation|author=Fred Attewill|title=Watson 'on good form' after brain surgery|url=,,2199934,00.html|newspaper=The Guardian|date=26 October 2007.] Watson was discharged from hospital on 31 October, telling reporters "I'm just happy to be alive and be with my children at the moment", and paying tribute to messages of support from his fans, calling them "amazing". A statement from Watson's management added: "We would like to pass on Russell's heartfelt thanks for the overwhelming amount of messages and gifts from his fans." Watson later underwent an extensive rehabilitation programme including radiotherapy. [citation|title=Watson discharged from hospital|url=|publisher=BBC News|date=31 October 2007.] He released his sixth studio album, "Outside In", on 26 November 2007. [Release date obtained from [] . Retrieved on 3 June 2008.]

Watson appeared as a judge on the talent show "Last Choir Standing", which was broadcast on BBC One beginning 5 July 2008. [citation|title=Russell Watson|url=|publisher="Last Choir Standing", BBC|year=2008|accessdate=2008-07-14.]

Critical reception

Some critics have said that Watson's untrained tenor voice is not up to operatic standards; [citation|author=Oliver Poole|title=Is this former bolt cutter really the new Pavarotti?|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=19 June 2001; citation|title=How to kill classical music|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=5 December 2001.] Rupert Christiansen, music critic of "The Daily Telegraph" has, for instance, called him a "karaoke crooner". [citation|author=Rupert Christiansen|title=Karaoke on a grand scale|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=8 April 2002; citation|author=Rupert Christiansen|title=Karaoke crooners hijack classical music|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=1 March 2006.] Watson has responded that it " [d] oesn't bother me. Seven years ago classical crossover didn't exist – putting Italian lyrics to pop songs in a big ballsy way. Now every bugger's doing it. I've transcended all that bickering and bitching." Watson's career ambition is " [l] ongevity, that's the most important thing. I want to be a musical force for a good long while." On 5 June 2008 Watson released his autobiography "Finding My Voice". [citation|author=Russell Watson|title='You should try that Nesty Doormat': What Russell Watson was told when he discovered his opera voice|url=|newspaper=Daily Mail|date=24 May 2008.]



* "The Voice" (2001)
* "Encore" (2002)
* "Reprise" (2003)
* "Amore Musica" (2005)
* "The Ultimate Collection" (2006)
* "That's Life" (2007)
* "Outside In" (2007)
* "The Ultimate Collection Special Edition" (2008) – re-release of "The Ultimate Collection" (2006) with a bonus disc containing a live concert recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London


* "Swing Low '99" (1999) (official song of the England team in the 1999 Rugby Union World Cup)
* "Someone Like You" (2002) (with Faye Tozer, formerly of Steps)
* "Nothing Sacred – A Song For Kirsty" (2002) (to raise money for the Francis House hospice)
* "Can't Help Falling in Love" (April 2006) – "Just the Two of Us" victory single

Personal life

Watson has two daughters: Rebecca and Hannah. [According to a February 2007 article in "The Times" ("times2"), Rebecca was aged 12 years and Hannah six years in 2007: see citation|author=Jane Wheatley|title='You have a brain tumour,' the doctor told me. 'Quite a big one'|url=|newspaper=The Times (times2)|date=19 February 2007.] He is divorced, having separated from his former wife soon after the release of his first album. Watson has been reported as saying: "It [his first brain tumour] changed my priorities. Made me appreciate the importance of relationships, of friends and family and, most of all, my two daughters. My fear for them if I died – that was the worst part."


Further reading

News reports

*citation|last=Moir|first=Jan|title='Ha! ha! Of course I can sing'|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=21 December 2001.
*citation|last=Motts|first=Sue|title=Singer Russell Watson stands where sport ends and theatre begins|url=|newspaper=The Daily Telegraph|date=3 May 2002.


*citation|last=Watson|first=Russell|title=Finding My Voice|location=London|publisher=Ebury Press|year=2008|isbn=0091922917 (hbk.).

External links

* [ Official website of Russell Watson]
* [ Russell Watson at ClassicalX]
*imdb name|0963175|Russell Watson.
* [ RussellWatsonInfo] – a fansite
* [ Russell Watson UK] – a fansite

NAME = Watson, Russell
SHORT DESCRIPTION = British tenor from English
DATE OF BIRTH = 24 November 1966
PLACE OF BIRTH = Salford, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom

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