Yesterday, I learned that Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away. You’ve likely heard his “Hockey Song”, which has become that sport’s de facto anthem, but he leaves behind 50 years’ worth of uniquely Canadian music. Connors was 77.
I first became aware of Stompin’ Tom while listening to the Dr. Demento show in LA back in the late 80s. Dr. Demento was known for playing wacky, obscure songs and I heard “Bud the Spud” – a Connors song about a happy truck driver transporting potatoes from the “bright red mud” of Prince Edward Island to market in “T’ronno”. It’s catchy and funny, and it was something of an earbug for years until 1996 when we took a road trip up through the Canadian Maritimes. Somehow, I remembered “Bud the Spud” and bought a Stompin’ Tom best of cassette, which we listened to non-stop for months.
When I say the songs are uniquely Canadian – there’s one about the back-breaking tobacco picking near Tillsonburg, there’s one about the Leamington tomatoes, there’s the song about an obscure small plane crash in the Arctic where an “Eskimo boy” sacrificed his life to try and save the pilot, whose legs were both broken. His music wasn’t as dark as Johnny Cash’s, but Connors was as central to Canadian country-folk music as Cash was to Americans.
He was so nationalistic – uncharacteristically so for Canadians at the time – that he halted his career in the late 70s to protest the lack of radio support for Canadian artists. He returned to the stage in the late 80s and performed right into this year. His website released this statement yesterday:
We must regretfully announce today the passing of the Great and Patriotic Stompin’ Tom Connors. He died this March 6th 2013 with his Family seeing him off. His family have given us a message from Tom that he wanted passed along to all of you upon his death:
“Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin’ Tom.”
“It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with it’s beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world.”
“I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future.”
“I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done.”
Your Friend always,
Stompin’ Tom Connors
Here’s some of his work: