MONTREAL – The late René Angélil is being remembered as a “great Quebecer” who “influenced the world.”
In Angélil’s hometown of Montreal, Mayor Denis Coderre said flags at city hall would fly at half-mast to honour the man who “influenced the world with Quebecois music and the culture of our nation.”
Parti Quebecois Leader Pierre Karl Peladeau called Angélil “a world monument of show business. He was a great Quebecer who never forgot his roots.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “My condolences to Celine Dion, and to the children, friends and loved ones of Rene Angélil on his passing.”
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard called Angélil “engaged, passionate, talented and courageous.
“Those are the words that come to me to describe his professional career. Throughout the years, we learned to know him, to appreciate him and especially, to love him,” Couillard said in a statement.
A longtime friend and collaborator of Angélil says he felt a strong bond with Celine Dion’s husband from the moment they met.
Vito Luprano signed Dion to what was then known as CBS Records in 1986. He recalled forming an instant connection with Angélil as they worked towards a common goal: catapulting the Quebec chanteuse to international stardom.
“René came in to see me in the office in 1986, and the first day I met him I thought like we were old souls, as if we knew each other for so long,” Luprano said in a phone interview from Montreal on Thursday.
Luprano first teamed with Angélil and Dion on the 1987 French-language album “Incognito.” He was responsible for organizing and overseeing the production team that worked on more than 20 albums with Dion.
“The first (hand)shake I had with him I thought we decided we were going to be partners in the venture of taking Celine to the top…. Then of course, there’s so much that happened. We made so many albums together so there’s a long list of memories.”
Quebec talk show host Guy A. Lepage, another close friend of Angélil’s, also took to Twitter as news of his friend’s death spread.
“My poker partner has died. He was kind and cheerful. And attentive. And loving. And generous. And I am sad,” he wrote.
Rodger Brulotte, another long-time friend and a former Montreal Expos baseball broadcaster, said: “He always took care of us, always made sure we were having a good time. I don’t remember once in 50 years that I even had an argument with René Angélil. He was a great Quebecer.”
Quebec singer Ginette Reno wrote on her Facebook page: “It was an honour to work with such a great person whose art achieved what I call ‘the sacred fire.’ Long live the king, long live René.”
Famed Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan also sent his condolences to the Dion family, writing on Twitter, “René Angélil touched the stars, now he joins them.”
© 2016 The Canadian Press