Rene Angelil, Celine Dion's husband, passes away at 73

PHOTO Courtesy: Georges Biard

Rene Angelil, the husband of Celine Dion, died after a long battle with throat cancer early Thursday morning. He was 73.

Sources tell TMZ his death was unexpected because he was feeling much better recently.

Celine Dion confirmed the passing of her husband on Twitter Thursday afternoon, and the family has asked for privacy.

The couple have three children together, Rene-Charles, who was born in 2001 and twins Nelson and Eddy, who arrived in 2010. Angelil also has a son and daughter from previous marriages.

Dion and Angelil, who were 26 years apart in age, married in an elaborate ceremony in 1994 at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. He was constantly seen by her side.

Dion won Grammy awards for songs including the "Titanic" theme "My Heart Will Go On." She returned to her residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in August after taking a year off to care for her husband.

Angelil was born in Montreal to a Canadian mother and Syrian father. He played in the group Les Baronnets until 1972, when he began managing the careers of several singers in Quebec.

Dion's mother sent him an audio tape in the mail and encouraged him to listen to her daughter, then 12 years old. He took on her career and launched her first English-language album in 1990.