René Angélil, aged 73 and husband-manager of award-winning pop singer Celine Dion, died Thursday at her residence in Las Vegas, Nev., after an 18-year fight against throat cancer. The family wishes to mourn in privacy, and some fans wonder if Dion will lean on her devout and conservative Roman Catholic upbringing for comfort. The couple married in 1994 at a lavish wedding in Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica.
Dion canceled her Las Vegas shows planned for this weekend, reports Billboard. All purchases will be refunded. Her next scheduled show is Feb. 23.
Coroner officials determined Angélil's death was due to natural causes. His illness was diagnosed in 1999. He is survived by their children Rene-Charles, 14, and 5-year-old twins Nelson and Eddy, and his adult children from a previous relationship: Anne-Marie, Patrick and Jean-Pierre.
In Montreal, flags were flying at half-staff in honor of Angelil, praised by the city's mayor as a man who "never forgot his roots."
Before signing on as Dion's manager, Angélil started as a pop singer in Montréal. He as part of the Canadian pop rock group The Baronets in the 1960s, reports People. The group also was his childhood friends, Pierre Labelle and Jean Beaulne, also known as "Québec's Smithtones." While the group had a modest number of hits, they eventually broke up, and Angélil found success as a music manager.
When he met Dion in 1980, however, he believed in her talent so much, he mortgaged his home to finance her first record La Voix Du Bon Dieu. She was 12 years old at the time and had submitted a demo tape of a song she had written with her mother.
Dion credited God for the gift of her voice, saying: "I think God has given me something to work with, a voice, and I'm just trying to serve the lyrics and the music to get messages through."
In 1987 and 1988, Angélil won the Félix Award for Manager of the Year.
Angélil was married twice before he wed his protégée - first to Denyse Duquette from 1966-1972, then to singer Anne Renée from 1974-1980.
The "My Heart Will Go On" singer publicly promised she would keep Angélil's dying wish. "I'll say, 'You're scared? I understand. Talk to me about it' ... And René says to me, 'I want to die in your arms.' Okay, fine, I'll be there, you'll die in my arms."