Canadian country-folk legend Stompin' Tom Connors, whose toe-tapping musical spirit and fierce patriotism established him as one of Canada's strongest cultural icons, has died. He was 77.
Connors passed away Wednesday from what a spokesman described as “natural causes.”
Brian Edwards said the musician, rarely seen without his signature black cowboy hat and stomping cowboy boots, knew his health was declining and had penned a message for his fans a few days before his death.
In the message posted on his website, Connors says Canada kept him “inspired with its 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.”
On Twitter, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said “we have lost a true Canadian original. R.I.P. Stompin' Tom Connors. You played the best game that could be played.”
The National Hockey League tweeted “Sad to hear that legendary Canadian Stompin' Tom Connors has passed. His legacy lives on in arenas every time The Hockey Song is played.”
Connors is survived by his wife Lena, two sons, two daughters and several grandchildren.
Dubbed Stompin' Tom for his propensity to pound the floor with his left foot during performances, Connors garnered a devoted following through straight-ahead country-folk tunes that drew inspiration from his extensive travels and focused on the everyman.
Although wide commercial appeal escaped Connors for much of his four-decade career, his heritage-soaked songs like Canada Day, Up Canada Way, The Hockey Song, Bud the Spud, and Sudbury Saturday Night, have come to be regarded as veritable national anthems thanks to their unabashed embrace of all things Canadiana.
Legend has it that Connors began his musical career when he found himself a nickel short of a beer at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ont., in 1964 at age 28.
The bartender agreed to give him a drink if he would play a few songs but that turned into a 14-month contract to play at the hotel. Three years later, Connors made his first album and garnered his first hit in 1970 with Bud The Spud.
Hundreds more songs followed, many based on actual events, people, and towns he had visited.
“I'm a man of the land, I go out into the country and I talk to people and I know the jobs they do and how they feel about their jobs,” Connors has said.