Remembering a Canadian legend

Beloved Canadian icon Stompin’ Tom Connors passes at 77.

Wednesday March 6, during the “Battle of Ontario”, broadcasters announced that legendary Canadian singer-song writer and King of Canadiana, Stompin’ Tom Connors, passed away in his home in Ballinafad, Ontario, as a result of renal failure. Connors is survived by his wife Lena, four children, and a number of grandchildren. This shocking announcement during our nation’s favourite pastime was accompanied by several anecdotes from the broadcaster’s memories of Connors and his songs, as well as clips of him performing what is probably his most famous tune, “The Hockey Song.”

Connors’ career spanned five over decades, each filled with highs and lows, controversy, and accomplishment. Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Connors had, to say the least, a turbulent upbringing. When he was still young, Connors was taken away from his mother, who struggled to raise him, and was sent to live with a family in Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island. However, this did not last for long: Connors soon left his foster family for a life on the road as a professional vagabond. Fun fact for all you future drifters: during the colder months of the year, Connors would voluntarily be incarcerated for vagrancy just so that he could have a warm place to sleep. This is where Connors mined inspiration for some of the 200-odd songs he wrote over the career. But it wasn’t until he was a nickel short for a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario that Connors got his “big break.” The bartender let the young Stompin’ Tom play for his beer, which ultimately led to a thirteen-month stint playing in the hotel bar — the rest is history.

Connors had a whopping twenty-seven studio albums under his belt. even after a period of brief retirement in the 1970s. After emerging from a brief retirement, Connors returned the seven Junos he had won, believing that the awards catered to artists who made most of their earnings south of the border. Connors was always a strong advocate of homegrown talent staying in Canada, and this remained a mission throughout his lengthy career. Connors’ love for his home and native land was unsurpassed, and will surely remain that way for years to come. Connors was recognized for this love of his country when he received the Order of Canada 1997, as well as an honorary doctorate degree in law from St. Thomas University.

Stompin’ Tom wrote a song about, or set in, every province and territory, and it would be hard to find a better apostle for Canadian lore and legend. He celebrated our culture and the aspects of our nation that makes it special. And hell— you’ll be hard pressed to find a better drinking song than “Margo’s got the Cargo.” There’s a void now in Canadian folk culture that won’t be soon or easily filled. If you want to commemorate this Canadian legend, let’s make everywhere this Saturday a Sudbury Saturday Night.

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