End of the game

End of the game

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Canada bids farewell to a musical legend.

Any self-respect­ing Canadian knows “The Hockey Song,” but most may not know the unique life of its truly Canadian source. On March 6, Cana­da lost the music icon Stompin’ Tom Connors. Stompin’ Tom—most fa­mous for “The Hockey Song,”—died of natural causes at the age of 77.

Stompin’ Tom Connors was born in St. Johns, New Brunswick on Feb­ruary 9, 1936 to an impoverished sin­gle mother. Connors lived hand-to-mouth until Children’s Aid took him from his home and placed him with a family in PEI. He lived with this fam­ily until age 15, when he left to hitch-hike across the country. For the next 13 years, Stompin’ Tom hitch-hiked from place to place, visiting almost all of Canada and writing songs about his experiences, the people he met, and the places he saw.

Connors lived on minimal funds throughout the 1950’s and early 1960’s, held no real job, and went unnoticed by the music industry. He got his break in the late ’60’s while at a hotel bar in Timmins, Ontario—all due to the fact that he was a nickel short to buy a beer. Connors talked the bar tender into letting him play a few songs for the much desired beer which lead to a 13 month contract to play at the hotel, a regular spot on the local radio station, and eight record­ings.

In 1969 Stompin’ Tom Connors was noticed and promptly signed by Dominion Records. In the next two years Connors released six albums of original music, a compilation album, and a five-album set of traditional music. These prolific two years al­lowed Stompin’ Tom to leave Domin­ion shortly after and help form Boot Records, under which he released another ten albums of original music, along with helping to produce other Canadian talent.

After the release of his 1979 album “Gumboot Cloggeroo,” Stompin’ Tom Connors all but quit music, angered by the Canadian industry. Connors saw and was enraged by the increasing Americanization of Cana­dian music and, in protest, returned all six of his Juno Awards and exiled himself from the industry. Feeling re­jected for his highly patriotic songs, Connors dropped off the musical ra­dar for seven years. In 1986, he formed A-C-T Records, with the purpose of recording and promoting Canadian musicians. Shortly after, Stompin’ Tom began to write music again, and was soon signed to EMI Canada.

The prolific Connors earned his ‘Stompin’ nick-name from his habit of bringing a beat up piece of plywood onstage to stomp on as he played. Always a hard working musician, Connors earned himself the Order of Canada, the keys to the city of Pe­terborough, Ontario, an Honorary Doctorate of Law from St. Thomas University, and many more awards. In total, Stompin’ Tom Connors re­leased 20 albums of original music and wrote several children’s books, an autobiography, a movie, and a tele­vision series.

Stompin’ Tom Connors was an icon of Canadian music, and it is safe to say that the industry today owes a lot to his life work. With his death comes the loss of one of this country’s last bastions, not only of uniquely Ca­nadian music, but also uniquely Ca­nadian and patriotic character. Con­nors was one of only a handful in an industry focused upon appealing to an American audience unwilling to compromise his artistic integrity to be successful. His life and the sacrifices he made in the name of Canadian mu­sic, although extreme at times, show what had to be done to keep his brand of Canadian music ‘Canadian.’

Buttons and Bricks

Buttons and Bricks

On Deck | with Justin Poulsen and Chris Montgomery

On Deck | with Justin Poulsen and Chris Montgomery