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Rene Angelil, who discovered Quebec songstress Celine Dion when she was 12 and went on to manage her thriving career and become her husband, died Thursday. He was 73.
Angelil, a Montreal native who had a career as a Canadian pop singer in the 1960s before turning to managing, died at home in Las Vegas, Dion said in a statement on her website.
Dion canceled her shows at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas on Saturday and Sunday, with her next performance set for Feb. 23.
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 on Aug. 27.
“I didn’t want to be here at first, I don’t need it,” she told USA Today in an interview before her first show back. “Don’t get me wrong, I love singing for people, but I have priorities. But Rene really gave me a gift. All my grieving, it was during this last year. I think I’ve got this. For now. When it hits me, it’s going to hit me. But my biggest job is to tell my husband, we’re fine. I’ll take care of our kids. You’ll watch us from another spot.”
The couple have three sons, Rene-Charles and 5-year-old twins Eddy and Nelson.
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.
The news of his death was first reported by People magazine.
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