René Angélil, the husband of and mentor-manager who helped make Canadian singer Céline Dion a mega star, has died after a years-long battle with throat cancer. He was 73.
The news was confirmed on Dion’s websiteThursday where a statement announced Angélil died at their home in Las Vegas “after a long and courageous battle against cancer. The family requests that their privacy be respected at the moment; more details will be provided at a later time.”
Dion, 47, told USA TODAY in August, after months of caring for her dying husband, that she promised him she’d be there until the end, to support “the only boyfriend I’ve ever had.”
Her husband’s death culminates a remarkable openness by Dion about Angélil’s struggles and her response to living with and facing the inevitable end.
“And René says to me, ‘I want to die in your arms.’ OK, fine, I’ll be there, you’ll die in my arms,” she said in an emotionally intense interview just before returning to the Strip for another extended run on her Vegas residency.
Dion cancelled her shows at The Colosseum this weekend but is scheduled to be back as planned on Feb 23, according to Caesar’s Palace.
Added John Nelson, senior vice president of AEG Live, “(Rene) and Céline were so devoted to each other, their relationship has been a model for us all.”
Dion met Angélil when she was 12, and he later became her manager and, in 1994, her husband. They have three children: René-Charles, 14, and 5-year-old twins, Nelson and Eddy.
Angélil also has three adult children from his two previous marriages: Patrick, Jean Pierre and Anne Marie.
Angélil had been ill for years, and on a feeding tube for the last two years, Dion said in August. After a series of procedures in Boston hospitals, he was back living at the family’s Las Vegas home.
After a year long hiatus to care for her ailing husband René Angélil, Celine Dion says she’s returning to center stage at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas because “he wants me out there.” USA TODAY
He suffered a heart attack in 1992 and was diagnosed with malignant cancer, after finding a lump on his neck, in 1998.
“We have asked (doctors) many times, how long does he have, three weeks, three months? René wants to know,” she says. “But they say they don’t know.”
Dion said she dutifully took notes during talks in which Angélil spelled out the details of his funeral service.
“Don’t forget, he’s been the leader of the band all my life,” she says, having masterminded her career to the tune of 220 million albums sold. “So it (hacks) him off to not see me all day and over here (at Caesar’s palace) working. But he wants me to do this, do the show, do the interviews. But he freaks when I’m not home with him, too.”
Born in Montreal of Syrian and Lebanese descent, Angélil started out as a pop singer in the 1960s in French Canada’s largest city.
Later, he turned to artist management, and in 1980 discovered Dion when her brother sent him her demo tape. The two began a relationship in 1987, when she was 19 and he was 45. They got engaged in 1991 and in married in Montreal’s Catholic basilica at the end of 1994.
Whatever else Dion is remembered for — and her musical legacy is considerable — she’ll also be remembered for her fortitude on behalf of her husband, and her grace in showing the world how it’s done.
“When you see someone who is fighting so hard, it has a big impact on you,” she told USA TODAY. “You have two choices. You look at your husband who’s very sick and you can’t help, and it kills you. Or you look at your husband that’s sick and you say, ‘I got you. I got it. I’m here. It’s going to be just fine.’
“You can have your shaking knees at the end, but when someone you love falls and needs help, it’s not time to cry,” she says. “Afterwards, sure. But not yet.”
While his death was not a surprise, fans, friends and admirers tweeted mournfully.
Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, offered condolences.
Celine Dion tells USA TODAY’s Marco della Cava about her husband René Angélil’s battle with cancer. After a year hiatus Dion returns to her residency at Caesars Palace Aug. 27. USA TODAY