'We were old souls': Rene Angelil's friend and musical collaborator says

MONTREAL -- A longtime friend and collaborator of the late Rene Angelil says he felt a strong bond with Celine Dion's husband from the moment they met.

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Vito Luprano signed Dion to what was then known as CBS Records in 1986. He recalled forming an instant connection with Angelil as they worked towards a common goal: catapaulting the Quebec chanteuse to international stardom.

"Rene 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 Thursday.

"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."

Luprano first teamed with Angelil 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 wih Dion.

Dion and Angelil, who were 26 years apart, tied the knot in a lavish Montreal ceremony in 1994. But Luprano said he "felt their love a lot longer than before they announced it."

"We were making a record, and Celine kept telling me: 'Should this one be the one that I'll announce my love for him?"' he recalled.

"I said, 'for "The Colour of My Love" that this should be the one,"' he added, referencing her third English-language album released in 1993 -- the year before their nuptials.

While Angelil had children from previous marriages, Luprano said he didn't have the chance to raise them due to his commitments on the road.

"He was trying to create a career. He worked day and night like we all did," he recalled. "So (with) Celine's children, he had a chance to be more of a father at the get-go."

Angelil is survived by Dion and their son Rene-Charles, 14, and three-year-old twins Eddy and Nelson. He also has three children from his previous two marriages.

By Lauren La Rose in Toronto


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