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Celine Dion channels grief at Billboard Music Awards with Queen’s ‘The Show Must Go On’

Celine Dion performs at the Billboard Music Awards.
(Chris Pizzello / Invision / Associated Press)

To say that emotions were sitting close to the surface while Celine Dion accepted her Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards on Sunday would be an understatement.

The year started horribly for Dion. Rene Angelil, her longtime husband and business manager and the father of their three children, died in mid-January after a long battle with cancer. Two days later, Dion’s brother Daniel, also stricken with cancer, died.

So when Dion was surprised to see her son presenting her trophy, she nearly broke down. Holding back tears, the superstar Quebecois singer accepted it with a quivering voice.

“I’m sorry for crying,” she said. “I want to be so strong for my family and my kids, and I didn’t expect that,” she said. She then asked him to stand next to her while she accepted her award.

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“I want to thank the fans for traveling through music with me, in good times and in bad times,” she said, and thanked her label, songwriters and producers. Then she acknowledged her “beloved husband, who I know will continue to watch over me from up above.”

The show must go on/ Inside my heart is breaking/ My makeup may be flaking/ But my smile still stays on.

Queen, “The Show Must Go On”

For her return to American network television, Dion chose to interpret “The Show Must Go On,” the devastating late-period Queen song that closes the band’s final album. The choice was notable, as it was one of the late Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury’s final recorded performances before he died in 1991 from HIV/AIDS-related complications.

Twenty-five years later, Dion brought the song into the present.

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