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Nadine Gelineau

It’s probably fair to say that in the year 1979, Ottawa was not a particularly “cool” place.


I was 13 years-old, hopelessly white and just starting high school. I wanted to be cool but didn’t have the foggiest notion how to go about it. Cool was an undiscovered, mythic country that existed off at some unknowable distance, and I was lost, so very, very lost.

Eventually, I learned that the best passage to this land was through music. At the time, while punk and new wave were exploding around me, Billy Joel was my God, and this was not cool.


I found out that the music I had been listening to was wretched kid’s stuff, as were the lame, middle of the road radio stations I pledged allegiance to. If I wanted to be cool, I had to listen to college radio, CKCU specifically.


Listening to this radio station felt subversive, like receiving secret transmissions from a dangerous and lawless place. Unlike the chipper and inauthentic DJ’s I had previously been listening to, the ones who used sound effects and clearly knew nothing about music, the college DJ’s seemed singularly interested in what they were playing, as if it was their holy mission to bring “good music” to you. It was, I think, my first exposure to what might be thought of as the alternative scene.

It was here where I first heard the voice of Nadine Gelineau. She was a DJ at CKCU, and for whatever reason she struck a chord with me. I loved her. I mean, I was in love with her.

nadine gelineau

Her voice, so knowledgable, confident and fun, suggested worlds I had never imagined. It was a voice that for a 13 year-old boy in Ottawa, was a path, a path to a world of music and cool and all that lay beyond, a path out of the childhood I had always inhabited and on toward something much grander. Her voice conjured the possibility of thousands of different lives.

She was a legend. Hosting radio shows, spinning discs at the counter-culture clubs, championing music and just generally being Ottawa’s single-combat hero of cool, she was the way we collectively wanted to be seen. She gave us all hope and pride, I think, and now she is gravely ill. I hope that she’s able to get through it and return to herself and the legions of people whom she loves and love her.

The thought of her passing is a kind of cataclysm. Ridiculously, it seems impossible, but time, it just slips away, quietly sliding away into a larger and larger pool now forming beneath and behind us. Who knew that pool would get so big and we would get so old? Who knew the present would so mercilessly raze our beloved past?

I was recently reminded that the last song she played at all the club sets she performed was Enjoy Yourself by The Specials.

At the time it struck me as a drunken party song, but now when I listen to it, there’s a sadness and inevitability to it. It was an appropriate song for Nadine to have played, I think. It’s a funny time, that last song of the night, bittersweet. I never wanted it to end, I wanted it to stretch out infinitely, with more and more people joining in, each one a light in the greater constellation of who we were, each one shining so brightly.

So, thank you Nadine, thank you.


( Photo courtesy of Julie Beun)

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Alyssa Mancia #

    My heart is so sad. I just heard about Nadine. I was unable to find out if she had passed, yet, or not, though, after reading your words, I assume she hasn’t.
    I don’t know her entire situation, but I do hope that if there’s a way to come out of this, that she finds it.
    I was lucky to have interned at the MuseBox with her in LA while I was studying music business. We hit it off, immediately, and I even had the pleasure of staying at her place to watch over her sweet kitty, Tiger (who I adored almost as much as Nadine did!), while she was traveling on business a couple of times.
    I learned a lot while I was working with Nadine and I always loved her passion to help save all of the animals.
    I am truly heartbroken, but my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

    April 6, 2016
  2. S #

    You captured the experience of so many.

    April 6, 2016
  3. Beijing York #

    Lovely tribute, Michael.

    April 7, 2016
  4. Julie beun #

    Well done, Michael. Nice job.

    April 7, 2016
  5. John Bickle #

    This is so beautiful. And i can totally understand you. You put it perfectly. She was an incredible influence that many simply don’t understand. And to top it all off, she just moved on and influenced so many more, it didn’t really matter where she ended up, NYC or LA, they all knew they had someone special in their midst. We were just lucky to have her up front, when she was just getting warmed up.

    April 7, 2016
  6. Russ Friel #

    Thank you for the story. Nadine introduced me to a whole lotta cool music, I distinctly remember lstening to Bowie’s Scary Monsters when I was 10 or 11 at her apartment . From CKCU to Brave New Waves and in any one of the cities she lived in that I visited I would always get the special mix of music I needed to hear . i am going to pay it forward to the next generation

    April 7, 2016
  7. For what it’s worth here is my own particular memory of Nadine… The year 1985. I had moved from Montreal (my hometown) to attend the University of Ottawa at the tender age of 20.

    In addition to cherished memories of my dorm – late nights watching the Reverend Dr. Gene Scott on the Rochester affiliate station as well as commercials for the House of Guitars featuring the resident band The Chesterfield Kings – there was CKCU…

    Nadine had her own show and the club where she was a dj was often mentioned – and soon enough I got to see in person this force of nature -Nadine Gelineau – spinning records at The Zinc just across the river in Hull.

    I must admit I was smitten with this larger than life lady and though I did want to introduce myself – I could not work up the courage to say hi.

    A few months later I would have the pleasure of being acquainted with others at CKCU because of my involvement as a musician and songwriter fortunately.

    I did read about Nadines music ventures with interest through the years because as everyone who was ever in her presence knows she was someone that really stood out from the crowd – a really special person – in the truest sense.

    April 9, 2016

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