Proud Canadian Stompin' Tom Connors addresses spectators, putting his stamp of approval on the festivities at Rideau Hall
Credits: QMI Agency/Jeff Bassett
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 whcih 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."
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