Friday, March 08, 2013

Stompin' Tom

I'm not much of a music aficionado, approaching songs the way a blind person does a Playboy magazine: for the words alone. (Yes, there is, or at least was once a Braille edition of Playboy). I like interesting lyrics that tell a story and make me laugh. And I enjoy listening to songs about the places I'm flying over and landing in. No one has ever written songs to make me laugh about the places I fly like Stompin' Tom Connors. He died yesterday, after a lifetime of singing, travelling and performing in small towns. I doubt I have to introduce any Canadians to him, but foreign readers don't be surprised if he's not as familiar as Shania Twain, Justin Bieber and Celine Dion. He's the musician we kept. He remained in Canada writing Canadian songs for his whole career, and he's a legend here. His death is at the top of the CBC news site, and pretty much every other news outlet, and was immediately commented on by the Prime Minister and the National Hockey League. Here's Jian Ghomeshi's tribute to him. He dedicated the first hour of his show on CBC One this morning to the man. Where Stompin' Tom is concerned, Canadian stereotypes are dialed up to full volume. This song, Sudbury Saturday Night is one of my favourites.

For those Sudbury is a northern town, not so northern in latitude, but northern in attitude. It's on the north shore of Lake Huron, a little bit south of the northernmost reaches of Michigan, but it's hours of bleak driving from anywhere else. Its principle employer used to be the nickel mining company Inco, since bought out by a Brazilian multinational. There's a giant nickel beside the highway (Canadians love our giant roadside things, and don't forget that a Canadian nickel has a beaver on one side, our Queen on the other and is now our lowest denomination coin--we officially stopped producing one cent coins last week). I've never been anywhere in the US that was like Sudbury. Maybe there's a mining town three hours drive from anywhere along a bleak snowbound highway with moose jumping out at you. Listen to the song and maybe you'll recognize it.



I found this version of him singing The Cremation of Sam McGee. Stompin' Tom's stories will be retold for as long as the story poems of Robert Service, and I hope his last words inspire more Canadian songwriters to sing about our land and people and institutions.
P.S. I'm not disregarding the request to make links more visible. It's just going to take a bit of work because I've never upgraded my Blogger template and it will probably break if I use the new tools, so I'm hesitant to go there.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there an english translation of the lyrics?

Aviatrix said...

You made me double check that I hadn't linked a French dub or something! If that's hard to understand, maybe just maybe the people who were offended when I said the New York controllers were hard to understand will forgive me. Lyrics here.

Dr Bob said...

Thanks for introducing me to Stompin' Tom - we don't hear him in England. I Loved his 'Believe in your country'.

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Cedarglen said...

Well now... If there is or once was a Braille edition of Playboy, that's one (probably the ONLY one) claim of "I read it just for the articles..." that I'll believe! If PB also has a tactile version of the center-fold, I guess I do not want to know the details. Thanks for a couple of fun - if silly - posts. -C.

zb said...

Aviatrix, thanks for introducing me to his music. Now that I know folk music doesn't turn you off - have I ever mentioned the Transmissionary Six? They were (mostly) a duo from Seattle, and now play in other projects and bands. The number six is, in case you wonder, not the number of the musicians - it's more likely the band name was taken from a technical drawing, one with at least six transmissionaries. Here is a link to a nice video with their music, featuring vintage aviation footage. If you have the time, I recommend you first watch the video with the sound only, and then with the picture on. It's just something I recommend with any song, being a music aficionado myself.

Once you have watched the video, please feel free to embark on the journey of gender studies vs. aviation as long as you like based on this Mad Men era type of video - and I strongly believe the Transmissionary Six' singer, Terri Moeller, would actually love to read your comments.

Concerning gender issues combined with pop/rock music, we can relax knowing that Terri Moeller not only sings in her small projects, she's also the Walkabouts' drummer, and that's quite something because the cliché goes (and the statistics show) that women in pop/rock are good for singing and looking good on center stage at best. Enjoy the exceptions!

@ Cedarglen: Ever seen those city maps for the blind, with a relief of the buildings and streets?

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

The Cremation of Sam McGee has to be one of the songs on my all time favorite lists.

Perhaps some of the iron mining towns in the UP of Michigan could be Sudbury's twin. All that taconite coming out of the ground in the Mesaba range.

You could take Justin Bieber back and drop him off in the middle of the tundra with my blessing and Celine not far behind. Shania can stay down here.

PPL Driver said...

Godspeed, Tom. Thanks for the music.

PPL Driver said...

True Canadiana can also be found with the music from Stan Rodgers. A man that was taken far too early from us.

PPL Driver said...

Sorry, Rogers. I've been away too long...