Last week Canada lost a legend of music in Stompin’ Tom Connors. Best known in this country for his slap shot hit, “The Hockey Song”, Stompin’ Tom’s music was enjoyed coast to coast by just about every Canadian stereotype you can think of. He died a member of the Order of Canada, with flags flying at half mast at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
Everyone loved Stompin’ Tom. When he met Queen Elizabeth II at a dinner he outright refused to remove his trademark black Stetson and Buckingham palace came to his defence by likening it to a religious headdress so as to not cause a scene. So what was it about Stompin’ Tom that made him so gosh darn lovable?
He smoked 3 or 4 packs of cigarettes a day and drank just as much, but that didn’t matter. He wrote songs that spoke to Canadians of every age and of every background. He sang about things that people could relate to. Based on their titles alone you can get a sense of what his songs were like.
- “Bud the Spud”
- “Ketchup Song”
- “Snowmobile Song”
- “Moon-Man Newfie”
- “Fire in the Mine”
- “Canada Day, Up Canada Way
My personal favourite, “Margo’s Cargo”, is a song written about what can happen when you take a piece of cow shit and turn it into a wall clock:
His nickname may have been Stompin’ Tom but I prefer to refer to him as The Canadian Legion’s Dr. Seuss.
They say you’re supposed to write about what you know; that if people can associate with something they are more likely to appreciate it. My friend Jim Tigwell wrote a song that exemplifies this concept really well. Taking ideas from Twitter, Facebook, and his own brain, he wrote a song about all the things you could do with a simple cardboard box. Everyone can relate to the unmitigated joy experienced by playing with a brand new, kick-ass cardboard box. Have a listen – the song starts at 2:29.
Andy Warhol’s art defined a genre, if not an entire generation. His most iconic image is that of a simple can of Campbell’s tomato soup. One of the Barenaked Ladies’ most popular songs answers the question “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” with answers of Kraft Dinner, faux fur coats, “K” cars, and Dijon ketchup.
All of this got me thinking: What do I know? I am writing a novel, the topic for which I am certainly familiar, but I wouldn’t say that I “know” any of the concepts any more than anyone else with access to Google. Maybe that’s why I’m having a hard time with some of it. I am doing more research than I thought I would have to and that’s hampering progress. I think it will great for the finished product, but it’s certainly not doing much for my word count!
This is the time of year where I remember a dear friend and family member who passed away on my birthday in 2009 and one story I do know, and know all too well, is the story of what happened in the days following his death. From March 13th to 17th a unique series of events transpired that, in looking back at it, has me shaking my head and laughing. If you subscribe to any sort of afterlife theory you can imagine Ryan following us all around and laughing his ass off at what was going on. Last December I wrote about it and submitted it to the Orange Karen Anthology – and it was accepted.
Maybe there’s something to be said for writing about things with which we are familiar. Maybe “they” were right after all.
Today we say goodbye to two legends: Canadian music icon Stompin’ Tom Connors; and my brother-in-law Ryan. Two souls forever linked together in a blog post and by the fact that the memorial service for one will be taking place on the day we lost the other.
We remember Stompin’ Tom’s lyrics, his black Stetson, and all the toe tapping, hand clapping enjoyment he brought into our lives. We remember Ryan; who had the heart of a giant, the compassion of a child, the soul of an angel, and laughter so honest and pure you you’d swear it was the best music you’ve ever heard.
We remember them, and all the other people who have shared their lives with us, even if it was just a small part. We thank them for opening up and letting us in and for giving us all something worthwhile to write about.