Stompin' Tom Connors dead at 77 0
One of Canada's best-known musical icons is dead.
Legendary singer-songwriter Stompin' Tom Connors -- best known for songs such as The Hockey Song and Sudbury Saturday Night -- died Wednesday at his Ontario home from natural causes. He was 77. News of his death was issued through a press release Wednesday evening as well as a note found on his official website.
The musician - born in Saint John, N.B., but raised by foster parents in Skinners Pond, P.E.I. - didn't have the easiest of childhoods, living in orphanages and in poverty before starting out on a musical career that would see him with a myriad of musical and cultural honors bestowed on him.
"It's very rare you can work with someone who's got fans from four to 104," Brian Edwards, a promoter who worked with Connors for many years, told QMI Agency.
He added the musician didn't have any illnesses but just "wore himself out" and that Connors "knew exactly what was going on."
Responding to the news, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted: "We have lost a true Canadian original. R.I.P. Stompin' Tom Connors. You played the best game that could be played."
Connors began releasing albums in the late 1960s and continued throughout the 1970s touring Canada and penning songs about small town life. In 1974 the musician had his own series on CBC entitled Stompin Tom's Canada. But frustrated by the Canadian music industry and what he felt was its Americanization, Connors returned his six Juno awards as a personal protest and statement.
The musician said while he "felt honoured" to receive the awards, he felt "the Junos should be for people who are living in Canada, whose main base of business operations is in Canada" and who were working "toward the recognition of Canadian talent" in the country.
The musician remained popular throughout the decades, signing with EMI in 1989 and seeing a new generation of fans embracing The Hockey Song, which appeared on his 1973 album aptly called Stompin' Tom and the Hockey Song.
The song has become a staple at hockey games across the National Hockey League. Connors even performed the song back in 2004 when Conan O'Brien taped a string of Late Night with Conan O'Brien shows in Toronto.
Touring well into the 2000s and always having a piece of plywood so he could stomp on while performing, Connors earned three honorary doctorates, the Order Of Canada, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award as well as the Queens Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals. And in addition to his 61 recorded albums, Connors also wrote two autobiographies, the first being Stompin' Tom: Before The Fame in 1996 and the second in 2000 entitled The Connors Tone.
A memorial service set for next Wednesday (March 13) at 7 p.m. is being planned for Peterborough's Memorial Centre where the OHL's Peterborough Petes play.
Edwards added the service will be a "celebration of life" for the Canadian icon. As he requested, the event will be open to the public. The Connors family has also asked that in lieu of flowers donations can be made to local food banks or homeless shelters in his memory.
Connors is survived by his wife Lena, two sons, two daughters and several grandchildren.
His family passed on a message from the late singer which they wanted to share:
"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."
STOMPIN' TOM TIMELINE:
1936: Charles Thomas Connors is born on Feb. 9 in Saint John, New Brunswick to an unwed teenaged mother. His early years are spent in extreme poverty, often begging for food.
1947: Connors, who is no longer with his mother but has been placed into a foster home in Skinner's Pond, Prince Edward Island, writes his first song at age 11. It will be a few years before honing his guitar playing.
1951-1964: The musician leaves his home and begins an adventurous cross-country trek, working a variety of odd jobs such as grave digger and a fisherman. The journey takes him from Newfoundland to the Yukon, meeting various people along the way that serves as creative lyrical fuel for later songs.
1964-1965: Connors visits the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario but is a nickel short of buying a beer. Bartender Gaet Lepine tells Connors he can have a beer if he sings some songs. The short audition makes Connors a mainstay at the venue for more than a year. The residency also results in Connors bringing a piece of plywood onstage to stomp, adding for more amplification and drawing in the audience.
1967: On July 1, 1967 -- Canada's Centennial -- Connors officially becomes known as Stompin' Tom Connors with the singer trademarking the name the following week in Ontario.
1969: Connors signs with Dominon Records and releases a series of studio albums with the label. Over that time, Connors releases early signature tunes like Bud The Spud, TTC Skidaddler, Sudbury Saturday Night and Big Joe Mufferaw.
1971: Boot Records becomes the singer's new record label but his proficiency for songs about Canada never falters. Boot Records also becomes home to establishing Canadian talent including Liona Boyd.
1972-1975: Connors continues touring and releasing records but the small screen comes calling for him. He's the subject of two films (This Is Stompin' Tom and Across This Land With Stompin' Tom) and hosts a CBC television series entitled Stompin' Tom's Canada.
1978: At a loss at how the Canadian music industry operates and treats its talent, Connors returns his six Juno Awards and writes a letter expressing his frustration. Connors says the awards should be for Canadian artists working alongside industry people who "are working toward the recognition of Canadian talent" in the country. The decision leads to a radio boycott and eventual lengthy hiatus from the music scene.
1986: A 50th birthday party is written about by two members of the Rheostatics which causes a resurgence in Connors' popularity.
1988: Connors signs with major label EMI and a new album Fiddle And Song featuring the song Lady kd lang.
1992: The Ottawa Senators play The Hockey Song during a home game. The song written in the early '70s becomes huge again and is heard throughout the National Hockey League.
1993-2000: The singer receives several honors including the Order of Canada in 1996 and the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2000. Connors also pens two autobiographies: Stompin' Tom: Before The Fame and The Connors Tone.
2004: The musician appears on Late Night With Conan O'Brien who does a string of shows from Toronto in 2004.
2009: Canada Post honors Stompin' Tom with his own stamp.
2013: Connors dies on March 6 at his home from natural causes at age 77. On his passing he pens a letter thanking fans for their support over the years, passing the torch to "help keep the Maple Leaf flying high..."
Stompin' Tom Connors' casket is wheeled across the stage at his celebration of life, at his memorial service in Peterborough March 13, 2013. Canadian country singer and folk icon Connors, known for songs "The Hockey Song," and "Sudbury Saturday Night" and his staunch patriotism, died at age 77, his record company A-C-T Records said. Connors died at his Ontario home on Wednesday of natural causes, A-C-T said in a statement posted on Connors' website. (REUTERS/Jon Blacker)