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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Canada IS Stompin’ Tom…

CBC-Canada-SocialCommentary-StompinTomConner 1

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Whether high-brow, conservative Canadians wanted to admit it or not, Stompin’ Tom Connors WAS the face of Canada for many decades, the writer of The Hockey Song, he gave us our own cultural national anthem that actually felt real.

Most of Us will remember him on the 1970s weekly CBC show, Marketplace, where he would do a singing vignette mid-show while the talking heads took a break, highlighting, in a way only Tom could, the absurdity of a certain issue. Standing up on blackened stage - with only one klieg light over head, his guitar in hand, his face close to the microphone, his high Stetson always at a slight angle, the highly abrasive yet alluring loud stomp his right cowboy boot wearin’ foot would give, timed to the beat of his song, well, rather folksy poetry married to music - his delivery was utterly mesmerizing to say the least.

No one I can think of has ever managed to grasp as a single living being, the Western and the Eastern flavour of Canada. Tom dressed as if from the West, his facial look surely the East and his mind-set a mix, a hybrid, but with a purity of thought, the No Nonsense attitude of a true Canadian and what was really important in living here - enduring the weather, gathering and cheering as One, enjoying what our Land and our People have to offer.

My parents thought he was brash. Many upwardly mobile Canadians did, those that were children of parents themselves who were raised with the more conservative British/Irish/Scotch ideal. But Tom spoke directly to the “workin’ Man”, the labourers, the blue-collar grunts of the coal mines and factories, Tom WAS the Pioneer of what Rita MacNeil now has made internationally famous.

But somehow, like a good book whose cover is very frayed, the jacket never seems to detract you from reading the good words. When Stompin’ Tom was on stage, you just HAD to look, and listen. Even in his down-home, folksy manner, he dominated the stage and took hold of our ears and our hearts. We knew, that though his delivery was rough, his heart was the diamond that shone for Us all.

We have so few purely “Canadian” anythings anymore because we have been so slowly swallowed up by the States in allot of ways. But back in the day we had Stompin’ Tom and we knew that if we ever started to feel like a rudderless ship, one note out of Tom’s mouth and one stomp from his boot and we were back on course.

One sure way you can tell immigrant Canadians from native Canadians is if when asked, do they know who Tom was. Not that there has to be a delineation because we were all immigrants once, but what we had in the 50s and 60s and 70s was SO Canadian, so just Us, a yearning definitely exists to hold those few gems we DO have, close to our vest, and call them our own.

I’m already missing Tom. He took with his passing a part of who we really are as a nation, our collective Soul, and may I say a rather nice chunk of my Eastern Canadian childhood. But as I write this, I hear so vibrantly the loud bang of his boot, see his wry smile as he twanged out the words to his latest ditty, the ever-so-slightly-cocked Stetson and his facial expression letting Us all know he never took himself too seriously, a talent we native Canadians have, like snow and ice, in spades.

Bye-bye, Stompin’ Tom, give’em boot stompin’ Hell in Heaven.

CBC, Canada, Social Commentary, Stompin' Tom Conner

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