Monday, 18 March 2013
We’ve lost a few legends in the music world lately, and some that I noted with much sadness were the likes of Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Levon Helm, artists who spent a lifetime just doing what they did.
I’m not much of a celebrity person, but I’ve never felt the loss of one more keenly than I did when I learned of the death of Stompin’ Tom. I felt like the biggest cornball out there because I was in tears, and I couldn’t figure out why I was having this reaction — until I thought about it a little more.
Tom Connors was like family to every Canadian. He was like a favourite uncle who told fantastic stories. I wanted to go to his funeral, hug his kids and bring a loaf of egg salad sandwiches to the lunch because he represents what I so deeply respect in a fellow Canadian and in a musician.
He told the story of people, real people. He was a folk musician who was entertaining as hell, and as clever in his writing as anyone you’ll meet in Nashville. He didn’t follow trends or place himself at the mercy of record companies who wanted to change his music to make it more popular to an ever-changing demographic. No, against amazing odds, he put his head down and did his thing and never once apologized for it.
What he represented to me was a return to my musical roots, where I realized that really good music was nothing but four chords and the truth. In the mid-to-late 1990s, I was feeling major dissatisfaction with the music I was hearing commercially. Rock was grungy and obscure, and country was steadily losing its torch and twang and, in my (never humble) opinion, straight into pop music territory.
This suited some people just fine, but I was looking for something else. I wanted music with life in it. I began to shun commercial radio in favour of our new “8-disc changer” stereo, where Stompin’ Tom, A Proud Canadian, was on heavy rotation. I remembered many songs from when I was a kid. We played it over and over again until I knew every word to every song. It was fun music and as we danced our babies around the living room to the Gumboot Cloggeroo and Margo’s Cargo; it became the soundtrack to our early family life.
Fast forward 15 or so years, and I find myself very involved with a music camp and festival that takes the essence of what traditional music is, teaches it to young and old, and presents it across the generations. It’s real people playing real instruments telling real stories – people trading in mics and amps for kitchens and campfires (and maybe even a chunk of plywood).
So when I think of Stompin’ Tom Connors, I think of the man, the patriot, the story and the storyteller. But I also think of my young family, sweet memories of my infant daughter bouncing in my husband’s arms, and the beginning of a blessed road to finding my place with music. I’m proud to say I’ve stomped along with Stompin’ Tom and will continue to do so. Thank you, sir.