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British tenor Russell Watson became an opera singer by freak occurrence. While he was regularly singing in bars and clubs in the Manchester suburbs, an owner of one such venue told Watson that he thought his voice was better suited for opera and requested that he learn Puccini's "Nessun Dorma," which he did and promptly added to his set. Watson eventually signed with Decca Records, issuing his debut, entitled The Voice, in September of 2000. Nicknamed "the People's Tenor" (since he likes to chat with and seeks feedback from his fans), Watson converted more than a few opera naysayers as he covered such contemporary compositions as Freddie Mercury's "Barcelona (Friends Until the End)," Ultravox's "Vienna," and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in addition to the standards. With major success in the U.K., Europe, and Australia, Watson returned with his second album, Encore, just a year later, and 2002 saw the release of his platinum-selling third album Reprise. Amore Musica came in 2004, and while about to record its follow-up, Watson was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After a successful operation and recovery he returned to the studio to continue recording his fifth album, 2007's That's Life. With the tumor recurring just a year after the first operation, he returned again to hospital for emergency surgery, yet his sixth release, Outside In, came just a month later in November of 2007. Returning to his musical career in 2008 with a new outlook on life, Watson released his eighth studio album, People Get Ready that same year. After signing a new contract with Sony in 2010, he returned to his classical roots with La Voce. A collection of classical and operatic songs recorded with the Roma Sinfonietta, the album was well-received by the press and seen as a return to form for the tenor. Tying in with the 2012 London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Watson released a patriotic tenth album, Anthems: Music to Inspire a Nation, in May 2012. ~ Greg Prato & Rich Wilson
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23 November 1966 in Salford, Lancashire, England
'90s, '00s, '10s