End of the game
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.’