Céline Dion (b. 1968) was twelve when her mother contacted René Angélil (1942 – 2016). She had recorded her daughter singing and sent the tape to René who realized that Céline’s voice could lead her to stardom.
When Pope John Paul II visited Montreal in 1984, Céline sang while doves were set free. It was a very touching performance.
Then came the years when René Angélil honed her. Céline needed training. She had to learn English. Exposure was of course essential. Céline therefore participated in various contests winning first prizes. When she emerged on the international scene, she was prepared, lovely and successful.
The unexpected was that she fell in love with the man who had guided her to stardom. She married him at Notre-Dame Basilica in 1994, and Notre-Dame Basilica is the Montreal church where a National Funeral was held on 22 January.
The age difference, 26 years, did not bode well for the couple. For the last year or so, rumours circulated that Céline and René were ending their marriage. The truth is that she took a sabbatical to be home looking after him and their three children, two of whom are very young, twins Nelson (from Nelson Mandela) and Eddy (from Eddy Marnay, a French songwriter). Their first son, René-Charles, is 15.
René Angélil was born in Montreal to a father of Syrian and Lebanese descent and a French-Canadian mother. He was a performer and manager. In fact, managing Céline’s career soon became full-time employment.
He was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s and, in September 2015, Céline announced that nothing more could be done to save his life. He died on 14 January 2016.
What prompts me to write is compassion. Céline was barely out of childhood, when René Angélil became her manager and she is now 47 years old. René had been her world for 35 years. She will be returning to her profession a few weeks from now, but imagine the grief she is experiencing.
She is the mother of an exceptionally mature and articulate 15-year-old son, René-Charles. He will be there for her as will the rest of her family and her public, but her loss is immense.
She is unlikely ever to replace so loving and admiring a husband. I hope she finds another companion, but one cannot duplicate as extraordinary a love story as that of René and Céline. He helped her rise to stardom, but she remained humble, kept close and loving ties with her family and was a responsible and good wife and mother.
I want her to know that I feel enormously sorry for her.
© Micheline Walker
25 January 2016