What are the odds?
That seemed to be the theme at the grand opening of the exhibit “Shania Twain: Rock This Country” at the Country Music Hall of Fame on Tuesday evening (June 27). Both museum chief Kyle Young and Shania Twain, herself, were at a loss to explain how a poor, orphaned girl from a remote mining village in Canada became the largest-selling female artist in country music history and one of the 10 best-selling recording artists of all time.
“However in the hell I got here, thank you,” said Shania. “All we can do is marvel,” said Kyle. “Shania’s story is now part of the country music story.”
Both were speaking at a lovely, celebratory cocktail supper staged in the museum’s Rotunda. Kyle reminded the crowd of Shania’s lowly roots and that she now has two of the 10 best-selling albums in the history of country music. She is also the first artist in history with three consecutive RIAA Diamond albums, as the exhibit reminds us.
“I want to begin by thanking Kyle Young — that introduction was very moving and touching,” said Shania. “I’m a little overwhelmed, but very moved. The exhibit walked me through not just my career, but my life. Thank you for representing me so beautifully.
“My beginnings were very difficult. But they prepared me to stand on my own. I had no one to fall back on. All I had was the future.
“I’m so broken hearted to have lost Norro Wilson. He stepped in, much like a parent, when I first came to Nashville and looked out for me and really cared.
“When I first moved to Nashville, I was a little different. I swore a lot — ‘f’ this and ‘f’ that. I spoke like a lumberjack. I had to curb that. I had to prepare myself for what was to come.”
She stressed that her strength and independence allowed her to prosper. With producer and ex-husband Mutt Lange by her side, she became an international superstar. When he left, she was alone again.
“Then I had to reacquaint myself with independence again,” she recalled, “making my own way in life. I also reacquainted myself with my largest group of supporters, the fans. Now I see them as a lifeline and as people I understand.”
She spoke of her upcoming comeback album, saying that it makes no apologies and that it deals with her present as well as with her past, good or bad.
“I’m who I am,” said Shania. “I’m standing here, and I’m grateful. For now, I choose to live in the moment.”
Leading the enthusiastic applause for the Queen of Country Pop was Kelsea Ballerini, attending as a major Shania fan. So were David Briggs, John Briggs, Jimmy Carter, Tim Wipperman, Tom Roland, Bob Doerschuk, Rob Simbeck, Seab Tuck, Sarah Trahern, Phil Ponder, Jensen Sussman, Leslie Fram, Earle Simmons, Stacy Schlitz, Royce Risser, Fletcher Foster and Charlie Chase.
Charlie Monk was making one of his first public forays in the wake of quintuple heart bypass surgery two months ago. “Is there anything here a sick man can eat?” he asked. “Are you sick?” I replied. “You look fine to me.” And he did.
In fact, the food was fabulous. There for your cocktail-dining pleasure were Siracha deviled eggs, mini pressed Cuban sandwiches, summer-sausage cubes, steamed kale and veggie Oriental dumplings, white-bean salad, Bloody-Mary shrimp, spinach and artichoke stuffed braised mushroom caps, cheeses, cured meats, blackberries, pickled veggies and crackers with pimento cheese and/or hummus spreads.
The buffet line stayed busy.
After snacking and yakking, we headed up to the exhibit on the third floor. It is a dazzling display of photos, costumes, artifacts and awards.
“How on earth? What are the odds?” marveled Kyle Young. “The odds are one in 7.5 billion. I think that’s how many people there are on earth today. Only one of them has become Shania Twain.”