The self-styled “People’s Tenor”, 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 and 2002, also collecting awards for Best-Selling Debut Album (2001) and Best-Selling Album (2002).
His stunning new album for 2009 is called “People Get Ready”.
Lancashire born Russell Watson started his singing career covering Elvis Presley and MC Hammer hits 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 he was not a classically-trained singer he continued to perform the aria, and was encouraged to try other classical pieces.
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 herself.
Russell’s released his debut album “The Voice” 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”.
In 2001 Russell sang the opening theme of Star Trek: Enterprise, “Where My Heart Will Take Me”, which was written by Diane Warren. He also sang it live at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, 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.
In late 2002, Russell 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.
He appeared as a judge on the talent show Last Choir Standing, on the BBC in July 2008. His album “People Get Ready”, containing easy listening, rock and soul music standards, was released in November of 2008. He performed at the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special and at the BBC’s New Year Live 2008 programme from the HMS Belfast on the Thames on New Year’s Eve. In 2009, he undertook a 20-date tour of the UK backed by Liverpool’s Sense of Sound, from the BBC’s Last Choir Standing competition. In July 2009, he performed at the opening ceremony of the World Games 2009 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.