Celine Dion and René Angélil weren’t just husband and wife, but partners in every aspect of their lives, especially when it came to their shared love of music. The Canadian singer, 47, always credited her partner with helping her achieve success beyond her wildest dreams, and as she says her final goodbye to her longtime love, we look back on his legacy.
"He has touched people’s hearts," Celine said in a statement following René's passing. "They realize that they have lost a conqueror and a man of great substance and influence. He is now a part of the collective memory of the music industry, be it in Canada or elsewhere in the world."
When Celine met her future manager and husband in 1981, René was already an established force in Quebec’s music scene. After a short stint in a pop rock group called Les Baronets, the Montreal native went on to find his calling in artist management, moulding the careers of French singers like Ginette Reno and René Simard.
After hearing Celine’s demo tape featuring the French song "Ce n’était qu’un rêve," which was composed by the then-13-year-old’s brother and mother, René knew she was destined for stardom. His belief in the young songstress was so strong that he even mortgaged his house to finance the recording of her debut album La voix du bon Dieu.
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The pair hit the ground running and in 1982, René was by Celine’s side when she won the Gold Medal at the Yamaha World Song Festival in Tokyo. The following year, he watched as his client became the first Canadian to receive a gold record in France. Recognizing that Celine’s voice was worthy of international acclaim, René encouraged the singer to produce her first English-speaking album, Unison. In 1991, the duo celebrated the success of the single “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” her breakthrough English hit. In the midst of Celine’s burgeoning career, she and René fell deeply in love and in 1994 started their life as husband and wife after exchanging vows during a lavish ceremony at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica.
His professional efforts were recognized in 1987 and 1988 when René received Felix Awards (like Quebec's Junos) for manager of the year. In 2013, the couple was honoured at a special Order of Canada ceremony where the singer used the moment to thank her manager for all his hard work. “I would also like to thank my husband, René, who I owe so much to for the woman I became and the artist I am.”
Celine's Las Vegas shows are considered some of René's biggest professional coups. He helped secure a deal with Caesar's Palace that would ultimately change the singer's life, revive the city's economy and bring headlining acts back to Sin City. It was a move that even Celine admits was risky. During a sit down chat with NBC Nightly News in 2015, she reflected on the career milestone, telling journalist Joe Fryer, “A lot of people, especially in the industry, they thought it was a very high risk. But you take chances and you go for it. I’m more than glad that we did it."
René’s role in artist management came to an end in June 2014, when it was announced that he would be handing over his duties to longtime friend Aldo Giampaolo. Even though he stepped down from his active role as manager, he remained a constant support and sounding board for his wife. It was his encouragement that gave Celine the strength to return to the stage in August 2015, after taking a year off to be by her husband’s side during his battle with cancer.