To those who thought I was speaking of some sort of honest politician (doubtful) or clean athlete (really doubtful), sorry to disappoint. I am referring to, of course, the man from Skinners Pond, PEI, Stompin’ Tom Connors (1936 – 2013).
According to reports, he died peacefully/. His fans, meanwhile, are mourning his passing by staring at a worn piece of plywood next to a lonely microphone-stand straining to hear the beat of a boot pounding out the rhythm. The rhythm of another song that made you smile from the “other” Man in Black, wearing a black hat.
I first heard his singing on a CBC special as a kid. A small hall in some PEI community packed to rafters to hear their favourite son sing of such note worthy characters as “Bud the Spud” and “Big Joe Mufferaw”, and historic recounts of the Hollinger Mines fire in Timmins, Ontario and the Reesor Crossing Tragedy from 1969 which three union workers were murdered. No topic too regional, to controversial, to “Canadian”. He wore the maple leaf on his sleeve, in his heart and played it on his Gibson Southern Jumbo. Years down the road, living in Moose Jaw, SK, sitting in the Park Hotel tavern after a hockey game, a few of the boys were as excited as all-get-out that they had tickets to his cross Canada tour. I was floored. They knew all the words to all his songs. The Karaoke girl couldn’t compete and had to leave that night.
He was never afraid to take a stand. When faced with lack of support from the CRTC (Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission) and the disregard for home grown musicians actually plying their trade in Canada at the Junos, he returned all his previous 6 awards in a box with this letter:
- “Gentlemen:I am returning herewith the six Juno awards that I once felt honoured to have received and which, I am no longer proud to have in my possession. As far as I am concerned you can give them to the border jumpers who didn’t receive an award this year and maybe you can have them presented by Charley Pride. I feel that the Junos should be for people who are living in Canada, whose main base of business operations is in Canada, who are working toward the recognition of Canadian talent in this country and who are trying to further the export of such talent from this country to the world with a view to proudly showing off what this country can contribute to the world market.
- Until the academy appears to comply more closely with aspirations of this kind, I will no longer stand for any nominations, nor will I accept any award given.
- Yours very truly,
- Stompin’ Tom Connors”
He was ahead of his time. A “True Canadian” in that he was a trail blazer and hell raiser…along with a tip of his hat, a “please” and a “thank you, m’am”
(The above video is “The Hockey Song” on YouTube somewhere, if you don’t see it: FIND IT.)
The song that gets the most play these days is “The Hockey Song”. From coast to coast in Canada in all different leagues, all different ages. It may be the one tune, aside from “O Canada” that everyone will sing at a hockey game AND will know the words.
Good bye Stompin Tom, you will be missed, and certainly not forgotten.