By Rhiannon Morley
As Denis Handlin, Sony
Music Australia, has stated, "She has turned her
dreams into reality". Tina Arena's childhood dreams of success within the
music industry were very often deemed unlikely.not by herself, so much as
the arrogant and narrow-minded people around her.
These days, proof of her success is clearly illustrated through her
multi-platinum albums, sell out tours, multitude of websites dedicated to
her, and of the comments of many well-known and respected Australian and
International industry insiders.
"No artist deserves more success than Tina. She's an incredible singer, an
excellent songwriter and her enthusiasm and work ethic are an inspiration to
all" (Molly Meldrum, Australian music guru)
However, it was a long and diligent road to the top.
The story begins in 1967.
Filippina Lydia was the second daughter, born to Guiseppe and Frances Arena,
on November 1st, at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Melbourne, Australia.
Tina grew up in Moonee Ponds, Victoria, and has two sisters - Nancy is older
and Silvana is younger.
It was obvious from a very young age that Tina loved to perform. She enjoyed
singing along to her parents' records, not only in English but Italian and
French. She would sometimes stand up on a chair, a hairbrush as her
microphone, dressed in her Mum's clothes and stilettos, and sing. She was a
born performer, and she aspired to show her talent to the world.
The Springvale Town Hall was the location of Tina's first public and
ground-breaking performance. Appearing at her cousin's wedding as the flower
girl, Tina openly asked the master of ceremonies if she could sing with the
As Frances Arena has revealed, the MC asserted, 'you can't sing with us,
you're only a baby' but, says Frances, 'she kept asking and he finally gave
The song Tina sang was Daryl Braithwaite's 'You're My World'. She had learnt
the lyrics from listening to her sister's record, and the appreciative crowd
stood on their seats cheering!
Soon after, Tina began singing lessons, and then went on to audition for
Young Talent Time. This show began in 1971, and was a TV program for
children who loved to perform. Obviously, Tina was a big fan of ABBA, as for
her four auditions, she chose to sing ABBA songs.
"Ring Ring", "Save Your Kisses For Me", "Rock Me" and "Money Money Money"
awarded Tina three victories, and also a place on the show. Tina was
ecstatic. She has since said that the moment when her Mum and Dad told her
she was wanted on the show is her favourite childhood memory.
Before appearing on Young Talent Time, the show's host, Johnny Young, asked
for Tina's name to be changed, as it was thought that her birth name of
Filippina was not suited to television. Therefore, she became "Tiny" Tina
Young Talent Time was a great learning experience for Tina. She gained
knowledge of performing in front of an audience and recording, and her voice
grew and grew.
She had the opportunity to record and release an album, with John Bowles
(1997's Gold selling Tiny Tina & Little John), and to travel Australia and
perform in concert with the Young Talent Team.
By the time Tina turned 16, it was time for her to leave the show. It was
common knowledge that once 16 years of age, members had to leave.
Johnny Young was hoping to keep Tina for a while longer, but understandably
Tina had had enough. She wanted to enjoy a normal life of a teenager, which
included completing her HSC (Higher School Certificate), at St. Columbus
College in Essendon, Melbourne, and spending time with her friends.
In 1983, Tina won the Penguin award for 'Best New Talent - Television
Society of Australia certificate of special recognition'.
In 1985 Tina Arena released her first solo single, titled 'Turn Up The
Beat'. Unfortunately it wasn't a huge success. Written by Brian Cadd, Tina
was singing someone else's lyrics. She would later find that her success is
in singing her own words, because she feels and understands the songs.
For three months, Tina decided to give a proper 9-5 job a go, and worked in
Melbourne at an insurance agency. She disliked working there, and was more
convinced that her destiny was to be a singer.
In 1987 Tina had the opportunity to be the support act for Lionel Ritchie's
tour of Australia. This was an eventful year, as Tina also made time to star
as 'Renata' in the stage musical, 'Nine', in which Tina was on stage for the
'Nine' also featured John Diedrich, Nancye Hayes, Peta Toppano and Caroline
Gilmer (Cheryl from 'Neighbours').
Tina's time since YTT has also involved working with bands and doing gigs as
often as possible, including her 1988 stint with a band called 'Network',
and singing with a big jazz ensemble. She certainly has proved the phrase,
'practice makes perfect'. Although Tina has always had a powerful voice,
over the years it has become exceptionally stronger.
In 1989 Tina Arena released the first single, 'I Need Your Body', from her
forthcoming album. Countless people considered the film clip to the song too
raunchy. Australian audiences were used to her "tiny" Tina image portrayed
on Young Talent Time, and couldn't comprehend that she had grown up to
become a mature and experienced singer. It took Tina a long time to overcome
'I Need Your Body' was quite successful around Australia, reaching number 1
in various cities.
The album, 'Strong As Steel', followed, achieving gold status within
Following singles included 'The Machine's Breaking Down', 'Woman's Work' and
'Strong As Steel'. Tina toured the record, performing live at shopping
centres, as well as singing and being interviewed on many TV shows
Tina went on to appear in more musicals, next being the hugely successful
1990 David Atkin's production, 'Dynamite'.
Then in 1992 Tina had a starring role alongside David Dixon (Indecent
Obsession), in 'Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Her role was
the narrator, and she told the story of the multi-coloured coat given to
Joseph by his father.
'Joseph' was a sell-out throughout Australia, and Tina received outstanding
reviews for her performances.
Tina had the chance to make guest appearances in some TV shows. This
included 'All Together Now', which starred Jon English and Tina's friend,
Rebecca Gibney. Tina featured as 'Vanessa The Undresser', a role that was a
lot of fun for her.
Furthermore, she recorded a few jingles for advertisements. One that still
plays today (on local radio up to 5 times a day) is Tina's 'Movieland' tune.
When Tina was 17 years of age she met Ralph Carr at his bar in Melbourne.
He told her that in order to be a success she needed to write her own songs.
Ralph's invaluable advice was a turning point in Tina's career. Once she
began composing her own lyrics and music, she was able to take her career in
the direction that SHE wanted to. Not how she was told.
In 1991 Tina headed to Los Angeles, California, to work on her songwriting.
This was an extremely worthwhile trip, as the work she created there was the
starting point of the legendary songs of 'Don't Ask'. Tina was able to
collaborate with renowned writers. This included David Tyson, who Tina chose
due to his work on Allanah Myles' 'Black Velvet'. David recognized Tina's
awesome voice and songwriting capabilities right from the start!
"Immediately, the first thing you notice, within the first eight bars, is
her glorious voice and consummate of skill as a singer".
After that, Tina headed to Japan where she performed at the Pan Pacific
Festival's 'Women With Great Voices' concert tour, representing Australia.
During 1992 Tina met Rick Price. He asked her to sing on his album, 'Heaven
Knows'. Most recognizable on the album is Tina's voice on 'A House Divided'.
Tina even appeared with Rick on 'Hey, Hey It's Saturday' to perform the
song. Tina and Rick became great friends, and Rick has also sung, played
guitar and co-written on both 'Don't Ask' and 'In Deep'.
The 'Wizards of Oz' showcase was presented while Tina was living in Los
Angeles. This gave Tina to privilege to appear, and display her gift to
America. She performed alongside many other Australian artists, a concert
specifically designed to reveal our singers to the US. It was a great
opportunity to get a foot in the door.especially in America, which is a
place Tina has always wished to have success.
When at home, Tina was still performing whenever she had the opportunity.
One place in particular that she liked to sing at was 'The Grainstore
Tavern' in Melbourne. She would sing classic and favourite songs with her
The first song Tina wrote while on her journey in LA was "Message". It was
created when she was homesick while in the United States.
The songs Tina had written, with Australian and US songwriters, were for her
brilliant 'Don't Ask' CD.
Released in Australia in 1994, the first single was the powerful and
expressive, 'Chains'. This song was the defining moment in Tina's career. It
was a huge hit, both in her home country, Australia, and overseas. 'It's
about letting go of the past and looking forward to a positive future' (Tina
Arena, You Asked For It tour program).
The 'Chains' - the US remixes' CD single was also released both in Australia
and the US. The remixed were played in nightclubs around Australia, and even
in New York City!!
After poor management throughout Tina's 'Strong As Steel' days, her new
management, RCM (Ralph Carr Management), was a phenomenal change, and one
that heightened her career dramatically.
After 'Chains' was the release of the album, 'Don't Ask'. On the album Tina
openly wrote of her childhood experiences, lost loves and other personal
emotions. The album, still selling today, has reached higher than 9 x
platinum. An awesome accomplishment, and one which earnt Tina the standing
of the highest selling female artist in Australia's history.
Single releases that followed included 'Sorrento Moon', 'Heaven Help My
Heart', 'Wasn't It Good' and 'That's The Way A Woman Feels'.
1995 was an absolutely huge year for Tina, and it wasn't until now that she
received the national recognition and adulation that she had worked so hard
She appeared on many TV programs, including the 1995 AFL Grand Final, where
she performed the national anthem, 'Advance Australia Fair' and an
remarkable, acoustic version on 'Waltzing Matilda'. Besides Australian
performances, Tina received international exposure on shows such as the UK's
'Top Of The Pops' and US chat shows Jay Leno, the Tonight Show with David
Letterman and Regis & Kathy Lee.
At the ARIA (Australian Record Industry Association) Awards Tina went home
with 4 awards - Best Female Artist, Best Album, Pop Release and Song Of The
In '95 she also won numerous other awards, including the Variety Club award
for 'Entertainer of the year' at the end of 1995, the Advance Australia
Foundation Award for her 'outstanding contribution to the growth and
enhancement of Australia and it's people', the 'Take 40 best Australian
performer on radio',
and an APRA (Australian Performing Rights Association) for her amazing
songwriting ability for "Wasn't It Good", along with Robert Parde and
This was a very special award for Tina, as it verified her great songwriting
skills, though all awards are greatly appreciated.
Due to the success of the album, Tina traveled around Australia on her 'You
Asked For It' tour, performing in small towns as well as big cities. The
tour began on October, 3rd, in Ararat, Victoria, then on to Melbourne and
the other capital cities. Tina's support act was CDB.('Create, Dream,
Believe') a Melbourne based group of 4 guys who sing a mix of pop/rock/dance
Included in the shows were, obviously, the new album's songs, as well as
all-time favourites of Tina's (including a brilliant performance of 'People
Get Ready') and 'Strong As Steel'.
'95 saw an occasion for Tina to sing on Rick Price's new CD. Titled
'Tamborine Mountain', it contains the duet 'Trust Me This Is Love', as well
as background vocals on other songs, such as 'River Of Love'.
She capped off the year with her marriage to Ralph Carr. On December 10th.
Tina walked down the aisle, with her sister Silvana, and a friend, as her
bridesmaid's, at St. Mary's church in Melbourne.
Tina's 'You Asked For It' tour went so well that there was a tremendous
demand from the Australian public for her to do more live concerts -
therefore, her 'You Asked For It - the encore' was presented.
For Australia day, January 26th, 1996, Tina was the leading star at the
Australia Day concert. She performed 'Heaven Help My Heart', 'Sorrento
Moon', 'Chains', and 'Wasn't It Good' for Australia's television audience,
and also another song not filmed for television, before heading to the
United States to begin her onslaught.
1996 saw Tina in America, with the release of 'Don't Ask'. 'Chains' was the
first single released in the US, reaching number 38 on the Top 40 chart.
The addition of Tina's version of Maria McKee's 'Show Me Heaven' was the
second single released there. 'Show Me Heaven' was specifically included for
the American market. It was not Tina's idea to include the song, yet she was
very happy with the outcome - it was recorded in only one go!
'Love's Funny That Way' was a song Tina wrote and recorded in Nashville, and
this song was featured on the 1996 film, 'One Fine Day', starring Michelle
Pheiffer and George Clooney.
Tina also had the privilege of winning the 'World Music Award', for being
the 'Best Selling Australian Artist', and she performed the smash hit
'Chains' at the ceremony.
In addition, she won an ARIA in 1996 for 'Highest Selling Album', a
nomination for a BRIT award and a RAWARD (radio award)!
Another CD release during 1996 was the re-release of 'Strong As Steel', by
Standard Music (Ralph Carr's label). This CD had a different track listing
to the original, and the cover art was also changed, to correspond with the
time of release.
During this year, a video titled 'Don't Ask.the short films' was released.
This was a wonderful video for fans, compiling Tina's 'Don't Ask' film clips
and behind the scenes footage from events such as the AFL Grand Final, the
recording process of 'Don't Ask'. This video achieved Gold status.
While Tina was on the road touring 'Don't Ask', she spent time writing songs
intended for her highly anticipated follow up album.
A song, originally called 'Burn For You' was one that Tina revealed to her
'You Asked For It' audiences. She received great feedback from the song, and
it became the first single from Tina's third album, released in 1997.
Renamed, and with slightly different music, 'Burn' debuted at number 2 on
the ARIA charts. It had a sophisticated film clip, and Tina's voice was
better than ever. Tina's fans were not disappointed.
Afterwards, 'Ti Voglio Qui', the Italian version of Burn, was released, as
was a remixes single.
In 1997, before 'In Deep' was even released, it went platinum from pre-order
sales. This proved that Tina's fan base was as strong as ever. At the
album's launch, Tina was already handed multi-platinum plaques - an amazing
effort, especially since the CD wasn't even in shops yet!
You could say that there was a lot of pressure surrounding the release of
'In Deep'. After 'Don't Ask' was SUCH a success, Tina had to prove that she
could again release something as, if not more, successful.
'If I Didn't Love You', the second single from 'In Deep', was not the
success that it deserved.
'Now I Can Dance' was more accepted by the public...a hit everywhere, with a
fantastic and amusing film clip, involving Charo, a famous, eccentric
Mick Jones, of Foreigner, worked with Tina on 'In Deep', and was part
producer. He also helped write a couple of the songs.
Included on the album is Tina's commanding adaptation of Foreigner's 'I Want
To Know What Love Is'. This became the fourth single. Foreigner's vocalist,
Gramm, features in the song, and to make it even more distinct, Tina and
Mick wrote a bridge for the song - something not included on the original.
Remix singles were also released for both 'Now I Can Dance' and 'I Want To
Know What Love Is'.
During November and December of 1997 Tina toured Australia on her 'In Deep
Live' concerts. Included in the sets were not only songs from the latest
album, but the 'Don't Ask' favourites and some special all-time favourites
This included a breathtaking rendition of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' - the
Simon & Garfunkel classic. This song was dedicated to INXS frontman, Michael
Hutchence, who unfortunately passed away on the day of Tina's first concert.
Subsequently, 'In Deep' was released in many countries around the world,
each with different track listings. For the US release, this saw the
inclusion of the Diane Warren penned 'If I Was A River'. Cairo, Egypt, was
the setting for the film clip, and this song was a single from the album in
In 1998 Tina Arena re-released 'Tiny Tina & Little John'. This gave fans
that were too young at the time of 'Young Talent Time', to have a copy of
this rare recording.
Tina had many great opportunities around this time. She recorded 'Whistle
Down The Wind' for Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of the same name, sang
'I Want To Spend My Lifetime Loving You' with Marc Anthony, for the
soundtrack to the Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones film, 'The Mask
Of Zorro' and performed a duet of 'No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)' with
All through 1999, France was a place of extraordinary success for Tina.
Her fans there adore her. So much, that Tina recorded two songs in French,
for the release of the album. 'Aller Plus Haut' was the first single,
attaining number 2 on the charts, and this was undeniably a major hit. The
second single was 'Les Trois Cloches', the Edith Piaf classic.
Tina lived in France for quite a long time. She easily sold out two concerts
in France, and performed on many TV and radio shows.
Given that international artists are not usually so effortlessly accepted in
France, 'In Deep' reached the Top 3. This was a huge accomplishment,
especially for an Australian performer. 'In Deep' remained high in the
charts for over four months.
The duet, 'Segnali Di Fumo', with Italian star Luca Barbarossa followed
shortly after. Tina traveled to Italy, to showcase the song with Luca, to
the press and media. Unfortunately this song was not successful, falling out
of the Top 100 after only two weeks.
After many rumours, during 1999 and 2000 was the discovery that Tina and
Ralph had separated. Tina has declared, ".. As we evolved our visions
changed and we realised that, in the end, we didn't really have a lot in
common".."we outgrew each other" (New Idea)
This led to a change in management. 'Magus Entertainment' in Sydney,
Australia now looks after Tina.
Next, Tina moved to London for her starring part in 'Notre Dame de Paris',
the musical. Tina played Esmeralda, the gypsy.
The West End production was written by Luc Plamondon and Ricardo Cocciante,
and is established from "Victor Hugo's tale of Quasimodo's impossible love
for a gypsy girl" (The West Australian, 9/2/00)
The soundtrack to the musical was huge in France, and is released over the
world. It spawned the beautiful single 'Live (For The One I Love)'
Tina traveled to Monte Carlo in 2000, to receive the 'World Music Award' for
the 'Highest Selling Australian Artist', where she performed 'Live For The
One I Love' live on stage.
September saw her in Sydney, to perform 'The Flame' at the Olympics opening
ceremony. 'The Flame' was written by John Foreman, who is the musical
director on Australia's long running television show - Good Morning
Australia. This, undoubtedly, was the hugest audience Tina had ever
In October, Tina deservedly won the 'Outstanding Achievement Award', at the
ARIA's, finally signifying her international success.
In late 2000, Tina Arena released 'Souvenirs'. A CD specifically for
Australian fans, as it comprised of rare songs which many Australians missed
From 'Show Me Heaven' and 'Love's Funny That Way' to 'If I Was A River', the
French hits, and fantastic live versions of 'Burn', 'Chains' and 'Sorrento
During March 2001, Tina appeared as the ambassador for the Melbourne Fashion
She now lives in Australia, yet spends a lot of time in the United States
working on her forthcoming album. She is working with legendary songwriters
from around the world, and fans are eagerly awaiting its supposed September