Tragic details about Shania Twain

Shania Twain spoke with Billboard around the time of the prep and kick-off to her 2023 tour, and amid her excitement over a setlist of songs spanning decades was a massively inspirational footnote: Five years prior, she had thought she would never sing again.

It had taken a lot to get to the point where she was singing again, and then it was on to a grueling schedule of daily rehearsals in between overseeing everything from lighting to costumes.

“My days are very long,” she explained, but if there is anyone up for the challenge, it’s Twain. She’s already overcome the kind of tragedy and hardship that would break many people.

And it started when she was incredibly young. From growing up in poverty to rallying against the misogynistic attitudes of a male-dominated industry, Twain’s life has been anything but easy. Her triumphant album release and return to the stage after an amount of time that would be a death knell for most artists is a testament to an iron will and steadfast resolution — the sort that only comes after a lifetime of struggles.

For Shania Twain, struggles started the moment she was born. In her memoir, “From This Moment On,” she recalled hearing about how the doctor had handed her mother a cigarette and told her the bad news: Her daughter had been stillborn after a long and painful breech birth. The baby ultimately did take her first breath — against all odds.

Named Eilleen Regina Edwards at birth, Twain was her mother’s second child and the first with husband Clarence Edwards. Twain’s older sister, Jill, had been born not long after their mother’s fiancé died in a car accident, and her marriage to Edwards would be no happier. They divorced when Twain was a toddler, and although her mother had told her his decision to completely cut ties with the family was based on her stepfather’s request, it didn’t stop her from wondering. She wrote, “Growing up, I knew he existed … I did often wonder what he thought of me and if he cared.” 

Twain was nearly starting school when her mother married the man she would consider her father. Jerry Twain was a member of the Indigenous Ojibway tribe, and she described him as possessing “a bright, charming personality with a playful character and plenty of jokes and pranks up his sleeve.” Although she lauded her stepfather for his good qualities, she recalled that even when she was young, she knew her parents’ relationship was a violent one.

Shania Twain has been incredibly candid about the effects that growing up in poverty had on her family. When she sat down to talk with Hoda Kotb on “Making Space with Hoda Kotb,” she shared stories of how painful it was to grow up in Canada and not be able to afford things like warm clothes and waterproof boots, and what it was like having to lie about why she didn’t have a lunch.

The constant worries about finances took their toll on the family, and in her memoir, “From This Moment On,” Twain said although her stepfather was always employed in a string of ever-changing, minimum-wage jobs, tensions escalated into physical violence. She wrote about one incident, saying “it’s likely that my mother might have been nagging him about not having enough grocery money,” then sharing how it escalated into her stepfather “slammed her [mother’s] head against the side of the basin, knocking her out cold. I could see Jerry repeatedly plunge my mother’s head into the toilet bowl, then pull it out again. I remember wondering, ‘Why is he trying to drown her when she’s already dead?’”

Twain and her sisters ran to the snow-covered porch, and their screams led to the police being called. The fighting ended with the arrival of law enforcement, she recalled: “Until the next time.”

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.