Rene Angelil's surprising passing: 'Was he at death's door? No.'

Celine Dion and her beloved partner in love and life, René Angélil, have faced more than a few health battles during their 21-year marriage, but the music executive's passing still came as a shock to family and friends. "We knew what he was up against, but he had good days and bad days," a source close to the couple told People. "It was expected, but it wasn't expected. Was he at death's door? No."

René, 73, died peacefully in Las Vegas, watched over by his devoted wife. The couple have three children together, René Charles, 14, and five-year-old twins, Nelson and Eddy, and René also has three children from two previous marriages.

TAP FOR GALLERYCeline Dion's husband René Angélil passed away on Jan. 14 after a long battle with cancer.

He was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 1999, and in late 2013 underwent surgery to remove another tumour, at which time Celine took a year-long hiatus from her residency in Las Vegas to care for him.

In recent days, however, the music producer had been keeping busy and even managed to have a couple of business meetings, added the source.

Read More:Tender moments from Celine and René's marriage

"No one was prepared for this to happen today or this week," the insider said, confirming that 47-year-old Celine has cancelled her upcoming residency shows.

A number of stars have reached out to offer condolences to Celine and her family following René's death. "René spoke softly but carried monumental respect," tweeted Josh Groban. "Some of my first moment in this biz are because of him. Love to Celine & their children."

Celine and René with their three sons in 2011.

"My heart, thoughts and prayers go out to Celine and her family on the passing on René. He fought a long hard battle," wrote country singer Reba McEntire. Destiny's Child star Michelle Williams wrote, "Wow! We love you so much @celinedion! Prayers to you and your family!"

Larry King also reached out to the singer. "Heartfelt condolences to my friend @celinedion on the passing of her husband René Angélil. A dear man & great father."

René's death was announced with a statement posted on his wife's Facebook page. "René Angélil, 73, passed away this morning at his home in Las Vegas after a long and courageous battle against cancer," it read. "The family requests that their privacy be respected at the moment; more details will be provided at a later time."

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