As a songwriter and musician, I truly have an appreciation for all different kinds of music. While I admit country music doesn’t make up a majority of my music collection, anyone who has listened to the radio over the last two decades has heard of the country crossover superstar Shania Twain. With mega hits like “Man! I Feel Like a Woman”, “From This Moment On” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much,” Twain had major commercial appeal, largely with the help of rock producer and co-writer Robert “Mutt” Lange.
Fifteen years into her marriage to “Mutt” (if that nickname isn’t a heads up…), Twain’s husband asked for a divorce. While the country singer attempts to take some of the blame off her husband, attributing contributing factors of a breakdown in communication and the very demanding lifestyles each led as “workaholics,” the day after Lange asked for a divorce, Twain found out the main cause for the ultimate split in their marriage: he was having an affair with one of her closest friends.
I’d vaguely heard of the couple’s break-up, but until reading about it over the weekend, I hadn’t known that Twain, in turn, had gone on to marry this former friend’s now ex-husband…Wait, run that by me again. What??
Doubting that this was simply a story of sweet revenge, I was sucked into watching the first episodes of the new documentary on Oprah’s new television network, OWN, of Twain’s journey back into performing after having left the spotlight in 2004. I felt this overwhelming desire to find out why a woman would marry the ex-husband of the bitch who stole her own husband.
In one of the first episodes of Why Not? With Shania Twain, the singer herself says of the new relationship, “It’s twisted, but so beautifully twisted.” Yet hearing the story, it kinda sorta makes sense.
This woman had been Twain’s confidante, who understood her concerns in the marriage. She seemed genuine and sincere, offering words of sympathy like, “I don’t know where you find strength.”
Now, Twain says, “She’s a great actress. She deserves an Academy Award.”
Fred, who had become good friends with Lange, was the one who discovered the affair between his wife and Mutt in a concrete way. Fred told them Twain should be told about the affair, but when they wouldn’t, he did.
“I never really saw that coming,” Twain said. She had to grieve the death of love, a friendship and “anything innocent.”
Fred and Twain helped each other get through the aftermath. He was going through the exact same thing that she was, but they also found that, through spending more time together, they had much in common and were building a beautiful friendship.
Twain didn’t want to fall in love again, not trusting it. But she allowed Fred into her heart, and the couple became engaged in 2010. They married this past January.
Yet Twain’s recovery did not come as simply and completely as new love. By not allowing herself to fully grieve these most recent losses, the loss of both her parents in a car crash when she was 19, or the scars of domestic violence and extreme poverty in her family growing up, Twain found she was losing something even more sacred to her identity.
Losing a sense of trust, honesty and compassion, Twain said, “I lost my ability to express myself.” And with that, she lost her voice for singing.
In one episode, she consults with a psychiatrist, Dr. Gordon Livingston, whose book on losing both of his sons really resonated with the singer. Livingston tells Twain that by not grieving, by being “more brave than you need to be,” she has literally affected her voice.
Continually berating herself even in small, casual rehearsals with trusted childhood friends and fellow musicians, Twain seems determined to talk herself out of heading down the journey back to performing again, back to full recovery. Her anxiety weighs down on her every time she opens her mouth to sing, causing her to feel like she’s choking.
“What if I can never sing again?” Twain asks. “I’ll have lost my best friend.”
Twain’s sister and co-singer knowingly says, “If she lets her emotions out, she will find her voice.”
The show, this story is not just about Twain. Part of her recovery is seeing how others who have gone through similar losses live another day. Her natural empathy has her reaching out to a family of children who have lost both of their parents.
She admires the strength and bravery of a woman who has not only also had her husband cheat on her with a best friend, but also had two of her four children die at very young ages. Together, Twain and this woman, who has since remarried, bond over an anxiety-producing skydiving trip.
Going back to their childhood homes, Twain and her sister relive the painful memories of hearing abuse in one. Twain finally sheds tears when her sister recalls having to tell a brother that their parents have been killed when he wakes up after the car accident.
By the end of the second episode, Twain has written a new song full of hope and a little joy that she comfortably sings and jams to with her bandmates in their intimate rehearsal space. And it is this about the show that has most pulled at my heartstrings—that familiar struggle of burying emotions, swallowing the negatives of grief, anger and sadness to try to appear strong, like you have it all together.
Not only are you lying to yourself, you are cheating others out of your authentic self and you out of being your authentic self And in the end, you are handing someone else the power over your own voice. Isn’t it about time that you belt one out, straight from your own heart so that everyone can hear?