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Stompin' Tom - the real deal

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He didn't have a great voice. He strummed a guitar no better than countless other people, and some of what he wrote could accurately be called hokey, but there was something incredibly genuine about Stompin' Tom Connors, something that ingrained him in the Canadian psyche.

I heard about Stompin' Tom's passing while I was watching the Leafs game last night, and they announced it. They talked about how The Hockey Song had become a standard in hockey arenas.

I went on Facebook and it was abuzz. Everyone it seemed was weighing in, many noting their favourite lines from Stompin' Tom songs. “I'm Bud the Spud from the bright red mud.”  “The girls are out to Bingo and the boys are gettin' stinko,And we think no more of Inco on a Sudbury Saturday night.” “that woman of mine'll be in a box of pine before I hock my old guitar.”

And lots of folks shared stories about their memories of Stompin' Tom.

I certainly have mine. I recall canoeing down the St. Croix River with friends, singing Luke's Guitar and trying to do that growl thing Stompin' Tom did, that dang twang-a-diddle-dang-twang thingie that he growled out. Great fun.

So what was it about him and his songs that made him so popular? I mean, let's face it – some of them were god-awful. “The ketchup song” comes to mind.

But many of his other lyrics worked and worked well. The fact we remember them speaks volumes. Other songwriters would kill to have their songs remembered to anywhere near that degree.

But it's not just his songs; it's the whole package. We love a story of people overcoming adversity, and he had plenty. Born to an unwed teenage mother, he and her lived on the road hand-to-mouth, he even ended up living in prison with her for a while. Then Children's Aid took him and adopted him out, but at 14 ran away, hitchhiking across the country doing whatever odd jobs he could find.

Somehow it seems so fitting that his music career started when he found himself five cents short for a beer and the bartender offered to give him a drink if he'd sing a few songs. That turned into a steady engagement, then came Bud the Spud and he would never look back.

He went on to win six Junos and then, to protest the state of the Canadian Music Industry he gave them back, then refused his nomination into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Talk about standing up for your convictions. You don't get any more patriotic than that.

Except maybe if you write 300 songs and put out four dozen albums, all Canadian in every nature of the word.

Stompin' Tom – Canadian icon, and the real deal if there ever was one. 

RIP Stompin' Tom – you were part of the soundtrack of the lives of a great many of us. 

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