René Angélil, musician and husband of Celine Dion, died Thursday morning (Jan. 14) after a years-long battle with throat cancer, Dion’s rep said in a statement. He was 73.
“Rene Angelil, 73, passed away this morning at his home in Las Vegas after a long and courageous battle against cancer,” the statement reads. “The family requests that their privacy be respected at the moment.”
Angelil had a career as a Canadian pop singer in the 1960s before turning to managing. The Montreal native discovered Dion when she was just 12 years old and went on to manage her thriving career.
Angelil and Dion married in December 1994. The couple have three children together: René-Charles, 14, and 5-year-old twins Nelson and Eddy. Angelil also has three adult children from a previous relationship, Anne-Marie, Patrick and Jean-Pierre.
In August 2014, Dion, 47, announced that she was postponing her career “indefinitely” to care for her husband, whom she married in December 1994. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999 (Dion put aside her career then as well) and had surgery in December 2013 that removed part of his tongue and limited his speech.
“I want to devote every ounce of my strength and energy to my husband’s healing, and to do so, it’s important for me to dedicate this time to him and to our children,” Dion said then.
However, she returned to her residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Aug. 27, with performances scheduled through June.
“The reason why I was not there was because it was difficult and that’s the reason that I could not come back,” Dion told Billboard backstage at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards in May. “At this point I have to admit that we’re more than ready, my husband and I, because we’ve been a team all our lives. And he’s doing really well. It’s hard, but he’s doing what he needs to do. He’s showing me every day how much of a champion he is. And he so wants me to go back out there, because this is what we’ve done — aside of our children — this is what we’ve done the best together. He wants me back out there, and I really want to show him how good we did. And he’s part of every productive meeting that we have, he brings ideas and he’s excited. I will never disappoint him, that’s what I don’t want. So he wants me back and he wants me strong, and I walk toward this and I have his support and his love and I can’t wait.”
Angelil stepped down as Dion’s manager after 30 years in June 2014 and was replaced by Aldo Giampaolo, a former head of Cirque du Soleil’s business unit.
The pair met in 1981 when the 12-year-old Dion, the youngest of 14 children, sent Angelil a demo tape of her belting out a song she had written with her mother and brother. Later, at an audition, “While I was singing, he started to cry,” Dion once said.
Angelil mortgaged his house to help produce Dion’s first record, La voix du bon Dieu (The Voice of the Good God), and took her (and her mother) on a tour through Canada, Japan and Europe.
Angelil, twice divorced and with three children (Patrick, Jean-Pierre and Anne-Marie), began dating Dion when she was 19, and she broke the news of their five-year romance in the liner notes of her third English-language studio album, 1993’s The Colour of My Love. Their wedding in Montreal was televised live on Canadian television.
Dion has sold tens of millions of albums, and since she began a Angelil-orchestrated residency at the 4,300-seat Colosseum, she has performed more than 900 shows for more than 3.6 million people, accounting for $500 million-plus in ticket sales.
Angelil’s hobbies included gambling; he won $1.6 million in a poker tournament in 2007.