Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Kevin Nelson was one of the greats

Some people are meant to be comets in this life.

They soar through life, burning brightly. Then suddenly, the bright light is extinguished.

Just like that.

Kevin Nelson was one of those comets. He died today at the age of 52.

I wrote about Kevin a few months back when it was announced he would no longer be heard on the radio show that made him famous, the morning show on Majic 100 in Ottawa.

He and longtime side kick, Bill Parker, were being replaced with little fanfare. There were no going away parties, no back-slapping farewells.

Just radio silence.

Like many people in Ottawa, I was mad. I felt Kevin had been mistreated. It turns out, according to those who knew and loved him, I had been misinformed.

I received numerous messages on my blog about Kevin's bad behavior, how he had treated people horribly and turned his back on the people who loved him the most.

Kevin had a problem with alcohol and it, coupled with a liver infection he caught on a Caribbean trip, had ruined his health. He wasn't fired, as many of us suspected, he was eased out. His health made it impossible for him to return. His behavior, his rage and disdain for his fans, were never mentioned in the press releases.

I am sorry to say, I have heard these stories too many times before, whispered behind the backs of people I've known, loved and lost.

Two friends, in particular stand out.

Larry Mootham was a talented bluesman who died at 46. All efforts to help him with his addiction failed. I remember how angry people were, the musicians who played with him, the friends who picked up the pieces, the family which was let down.

Joe O'Donnell was my other friend who lost his life to extreme addiction. Joe was an outstanding journalist and a great guy. But he couldn't kick his addiction, either. And we all watched helplessly as he wasted away to nothing. He was dead in his mid-40s as well.

How incredibly sad.

Everyone was so angry.

They'd ruined relationships. They'd turned into unrecognizable parodies of themselves. They'd thrown their talent away.

But it always struck me that people are talking about the addiction, not the person. Addiction is a baffling yet socially acceptable illness. It brings the best, the brightest, the most favored sons and daughters to their knees.

I hate it when people call the afflicted alcoholics.

It seems so unseemly, so judgmental.

They should not be defined by their disease.

I was shocked by the comments I received about Kevin Nelson. It was too much personal information.

I was not a friend. I was a fan.

I had no idea that he had a problem. Until he was sick.

Then everybody decided to throw stones at him.

I want to think of Kevin Nelson as the best DJ in Canada, a funny fellow with a gentle sense of humor.

He hid his illness well.

Because he was a pro.

I want to remember him as a man who loved this city and its people.

He should be remembered for what he gave -- to his listeners and to the charities and causes he supported.

In the coming weeks, we should mourn the man, not celebrate the disease that took his life.

Kevin Nelson was one of the greats.

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