Robert Ouimet, king of Montreal nightlife, has died

Montreal night has lost its most important builder in Robert Ouimet, composer, remixer and DJ, who died suddenly at the age of 74.

Named best DJ in North America by the magazine Rolling Stone in 1976 and DJ of the year in 1977 for Billboardhis notoriety had crossed the borders of the province during the disco era, during which he officiated at the turntables of the legendary Lime Light nightclub, from 1973 to 1981. Thanks to his talent and his formidable desire for new music, he allowed the public to to discover new wave in the 80s, then house, of which he was one of the pioneers in Canada, winning a Juno award in 1994 for one of his compositions.

Musician and DJ Christian Pronovost, another figurehead of the Night life from the metropolis, says he learned everything about the trade from his idol, who became a friend and collaborator. “He showed me and many other DJs in Montreal what it was like to have a vision. He said: “If music exists, it must be played.” To which Robert Ouimet dedicated himself for more than 50 years.

“In the 1970s, Montreal had a lot of clubs and great DJs, but Robert Ouimet was one of a kind,” explains Pronovost, recalling his nights at the Lime Light on Stanley Street. “He was the first to earn the respect of all the other DJs in town, he was untouchable. Robert wasn’t content to play the records for people to dance to: he was convinced that there was music worth sharing. »

Originally from Saint-Jérôme, Robert Ouimet made his debut at Love, rue Guy, “a small club, like a small Lime Light before Lime Light, with the same type of clientele, a mix of straight and gays and a musical selection, especially R&B”, he recalled in 2016 during a conference organized in Montreal by the Red Bull Music Academy. It was at Love that the bosses at Lime Light spotted the talent of Ouimet, who will give the venue the status of a disco temple, even rivaling the famed Studio 54.

style and rhythms

“His contribution was to have been really the first [au Québec] Mix [deux disques] in tempo — before him, the DJs played a 45 rpm and, when the song ended, in the disappearthey left another one,” explains Pierre Gagnon, a member of the PAJ Disco Mix trio who, between 1976 and 1978, made unique montages of disco songs on magnetic tape that Ouimet later played at his parties.

“He saw something in us that no one else was doing at the time. Without him, PAJ Disco Mix just wouldn’t exist,” as would several other musicians of the time, too, including Lime, France Joly, and Gino Soccio, who probably wouldn’t have achieved such huge success without the support of Ouimet, who will testify at the documentary series DISKwhich will air on April 26 on Videotron’s VRAI platform.

His talent for good grooves he has become at least as legendary as Lime Light: the Montrealer would go to New York every week to discover records that could not be found in Quebec and to fraternize with other American DJs. He is also credited for the success of the song. The Mexican by Babe Ruth, who was the first to play in a nightclub and later shared his discovery with New Yorkers Steve D’Aquisto and David Mancuso, famous party host at The Loft club.

“He is the father of disco music in Quebec, our greatest exponent of the art of mixing and nightlife,” insists Pierre Gagnon, who even remembers the first time he heard Robert Ouimet work at Lime Light: “It was the 7th of June 1976, I even remember what Robert was playing when Germain, the bouncefinally we go up: You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine by Lou Rawls, which he mixed with low down by Boz Scaggs. »

beyond the disco

But Robert Ouimet’s legacy is not limited to disco music, to which he refused to limit himself, says Daniel Hadley of La fin du vinyle, who had founded the Nice Music distributor with the late DJ.

After leaving Lime Light, Ouimet set his sights on new wave and later embraced the house movement from his childhood in Chicago, Detroit, and New York. “He was proud of having managed to overcome the disco scene to impose himself on other music scenes,” says Hadley, who welcomes his great curiosity about all music. “As a DJ, he drew his energy from people dancing, it was this exchange that kept him young. »

While pursuing his career as a DJ, Robert Ouimet devoted himself in the 1990s to musical production and direction, in particular with the composer Miguel Graça; the duo, under the name Red Light, achieved several hits on the dance floor, notably with the song GratefulJuno Award for Best Dance Recording in 1994.

Until his death, he still offered musical sessions on ACXIT Radio and collaborated with Christian Pronovost on Mundo Disko events.

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