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Since giving up his job in a nuts and bolts factory, Russell has become the UK’s biggest selling classical crossover artist. He’s performed for Heads of State, sold millions of albums and survived brain tumours.
Russell Watson is one of the UK’s best-known and most popular tenors.
Leaving school with no qualifications, Russell was working as a bolt-cutter by day and travelling around his native Lancashire singing in the evenings. Although not classically trained, a request at the Wigan Road Working Men's Club to sing Nessun Dorma led to expanding his repertoire beyond the pop songs he had been performing. This lead to winning a Manchester radio talent contest and a ten year journey towards national fame.
Russell’s debut album The Voice, with it’s mixture of operatic arias and pop covers, became the fastest-selling classical recording in British chart history. The album won four Classic Brit Awards and was number one in the UK, the US and six other countries. He also found himself in the unusual position of declining an offer to join the new band formed by Slash (the former Guns N' Roses guitarist).
Whilst in LA recording his album That’s Life, Russell was advised by doctors that he was developing pituitary adenoma, a tumour that grows in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. The tumour was diagnosed as benign, and he returned to the UK for surgery. Although difficult the surgery to remove the tumour was a success, but the side effects were potentially disastrous. The tumour had affected hormone production leaving Russell subject to massive mood swings from uncontrollable ecstasy to suicidal despair. After a period of recovery, Russell returned to the studio. Just over a year later, he was struck again as the tumour attempted to regrow.
Since those dramatic incidents, Russell has returned to music with more successful albums and tours. He was a judge on BBC One’s Last Choir Standing and performed on Strictly Come Dancing. His medical battles have both provided him with a fresh outlook on life, and a new, deeper, richer voice.
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Apart from Russell’s unquestionable talent and the inspiring way he’s dealt with cancer, what I admire most is his warmth and approachability. Though clearly at home on the world stage, he genuinely loves connecting with small corporate audiences – it only takes a quaver for Russell have you spellbound. JLA Agent Mitchell Sowden
Russell Watson: Grocer Gold Awards