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'Kind of like Don Quixote in a cowboy hat': How Canadian artists remember Stompin' Tom

Stars of the Canadian music scene share their memories of Stompin’ Tom Connors

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Alan Doyle, lead singer, Great Big Sea: When I was a kid growing up in the 80s in Newfoundland, most popular music was made by guys from West Hollywood or guys who tried to look like they were from West Hollywood. Stompin‘ Tom was someone who was unafraid to be exactly who he was – a proud Canadian. In terms of his influence, as a songwriter, I’ve always had a tendency to write songs that are serious and songs that are silly, and I’ve never had a problem with that. But most serious songwriters don’t write silly songs, and most silly songwriters don’t write serious songs. Stompin’ Tom was one of those guys, like Shel Silverstein, who wasn’t afraid to write about anything – silly or serious as it was. I’m so grateful to have had a model for that.

EMI CANADA

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Murray McLauchlan, folk singer: I remember the day I introduced Tom to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. That’s not the kind of thing you forget. Later, Tom said, “Don’t know if I’d want to be travelling with him. Every time you turned around he’d be standing on his head or something!” Tom took some tough stances that were true to his principles, and for that he must be admired. I think of him kind of like Don Quixote in a cowboy hat.

MIKE DUNLOP

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Brian Edwards, president, Rocklands Talent and Management (Peterborough), business associate of Stompin’ Tom Connors since 1988: Nobody’s ever going to replace him. … The death wasn’t a surprise. I knew and he knew that he was ill and that he was coming to the end. He was very nonchalant about it and very much, “This is the way it’s gotta be.” … He just figured it was another day and if he has to pass, he has to pass. … I spoke with him last Friday [Mar. 1] and visited him 10 days ago at his house [in Halton Hills, northwest of Toronto], had a good chat and we decided a public celebration of his life was the best way to go, because he’d never want the public to be left out. So that’s what we’re doin’. [The event is set for Mar. 13 at the Memorial Hall in Peterborough, starting at 7 p.m. ET]

John McNeill/The Globe and Mail

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Brian Edwards, president, Rocklands Talent and Management (Peterborough), business associate of Stompin’ Tom Connors since 1988: I first met him in Peterborough back in 1971 when I was nine years old. I was such a fan. I’d got my first Stompin’ Tom album in 1970 for my eighth birthday. We did our first tour in 1990. There’s two people involved here. One is Tom Connors, the very private individual, family man, the intellectual who could tell you anything about world politics and world religion, who could sit there and write a letter that could sound like 12 lawyers had had a crack at it, who had very few people in his inner circle. I was very privileged to be part of that. From a business perspective, you never could work with or for a fairer person; he always understood both sides of the fence. However, there was always this very guarded spot where Tom Connors the businessman who owned and operated this character called Stompin’ Tom knew what he wanted and what he didn’t. And just because someone, a director or a producer, had vision of the way he thought he was, well, that wasn’t the way he was.

Margaret Malandruccolo

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Brian Edwards, president, Rocklands Talent and Management (Peterborough), business associate of Stompin’ Tom Connors since 1988: We had differences of opinion at times. But at the end of a meeting, if ever there was an issue, he’d be the first to stand up and say, “I don’t understand you 100 per cent and you don’t understand me 100 per cent, which is probably why we get along so well; in the middle is this respect for each other.” There was never an issue that could never be resolved. Was I in 100-per-cent agreement with everything we did? Not always. But never to the point where we couldn’t find common ground. His last gig was in August, 2011, at the Migration Hall in Kingsville [in southwestern Ontario]. That was part of a very memorable tour because we ended up playing in downtown Montreal, where the fans came out in droves and loved everything about the show. Tom was a nationalist; for him, everybody was equal and there was no such thing as Quebec separating! One tour he sewed a fleur-de-lys in the middle of the Canadian flag and was waving it around. You shoulda seen how that went over in Alberta!

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k.d. lang, singer: Stompin' Tom was dedicated to documenting life in Canada in a way that was unapologetic, uncontrived and uncompromisingly Canadian. We owe him our pride and respect.

Mike Dunlop/Handout

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Tom Wilson, former lead singer, Junkhouse; singer, guitarist, Blackie and the Rodeo Kings: He was the King of Canada. Stompin’ Tom lead the way with fearless pride and defined our “Canadian identity,” when intellectuals and teachers were still stuck asking us the question. I played one show with him on Parliament Hill. Everyone was asked to step inside our dressing room trailers when he arrived. No one was allowed to view or speak to him. Kinda like Lenny Kravitz, only way cooler. These interviews has been edited and condensed.

Ron Kocsis/CP

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