Category Archives: Popular Culture

Four Strong Winds

Ian_and_Sylvia_1968 publicity photo-wikicommonsI’ve been thinking about Ian Tyson lately. With the recent death of Leonard Cohen, the songs and the songwriters of Canada – and an era – have been heard a lot.

One song that often sneaks into my head is Four Strong Winds, the most evocative, and most Canadian of songs. Written by Ian Tyson, recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1963, then by almost everybody else.

Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high

Could be any part of Canada. West, east, south or north – strong winds blow; seas, lakes, rivers run high. But it’s Alberta in the song. And, for many people for many years, it’s been Alberta in the reality. Going out west for work. Ranch work. Before oil.

Ian Tyson with_2011_Charles_M._Russell_Heritage_Award-wikicommons-Lee-Gunderson
Ian Tyson, at home, with 2011 Charles M. Russell Heritage Award

It is the reality for Mr. Tyson. He’s owned a working ranch in Alberta for decades. And he’s kept writing and singing songs. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t settle in the States. With many of them, he spent time in California and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Then he came home.

Born in British Columbia, he worked the rodeos. Then the music, and his time with Sylvia (Fricker) Tyson. The years of his Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon and her You Were On My Mind. Many more too but, for those three songs alone, they deserve to be canonized.TCH 1 west road sign in Alberta photo O Ogglesby

Think I’ll go out to Alberta…

Four Strong Winds is about Canada. The distances that make leaving one part of the country for another a big deal. Winters that make you think twice. “And those winds sure can blow cold way out there.” In the song, it’s Alberta’s winds but it could be almost anywhere, in winter.

Ian-Tyson_-Hat-boots-rope-photo-Don-Kennedy-Cdn-Country-music-hall-of-fame.jpg
Ian Tyson display at Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame

There still are ranches in Alberta, there is still a beef industry. There are cowboys, but fewer of them. It is all still part of the mythology of place. But oil took over the reality. The westward drift of labour continued, in search of oil work. The lure of the big bucks. Then, as the economy elsewhere faltered, it was simply the lure of a job – any job. But Stetsons and roper boots come out, at least during the Stampede when everybody’s a cowboy.western heritage statue-2006 Calgary airport photo O Ogglesby

The song is about more too. It’s about the bittersweetness of leaving the familiar for somewhere new. Leaving the beloved, hoping that time and distance can be bridged. Knowing that it can’t, and maybe that’s a good thing. “Our good times are all gone, and I’m bound for moving on.”

So there’s the story of Canada, and the human heart – in two verses and a chorus. Thank you, Ian Tyson.

For the story of the woman he would send the fare, see MacLean’s from 2012. And at American Songwriter, Rick Moore discusses the lyrics and slight changes made by other artists.

Olympic Games of Chance

Two days to the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies, and the games of chance are still being played. The Zika virus, polluted water venues, 1964_Olympics_equestrian_stamp_Japan-wikicommons games of chanceand a bacterial risk to horses.

Glanders is a contagious fatal equine respiratory disease. Humans can contract it too. In the past few years, hundreds of Brazilian horses have been killed to stop its spread. Horse owners argued that the tests are too often inaccurate. Health officials did not want to endanger horses coming for the games. The risk of infection is still there, and riders decided to take it.

You’d expect a story like this would get a lot of coverage. It didn’t. There’s been too many other things going wrong in Brazil.

Rio_de_Janeiro_bid_banner_2016_Summer_Olympics-rodrigo-Soldon-wikicommonsOfficials of the IOC and host country will take any and all measures to ensure safety and smooth-sailing, so to speak, for the games. They can kill horses, can’t they, but they can’t kill problematic humans. They can move them however. Poor areas deemed unsightly or dangerous to visitors and tv cameras are relocated, with bulldozers usually.

National funds are used to build facilities always said to improve post-Olympics life for residents. Rarely do they. Rushed or shoddy construction, and Olympic-size facilities that are way more than what a city needs for sports and recreation. Velodromo_Municipal_do_Rio_2016a-Team-Erdgas-wikicommons

Tracks, playing fields and pools don’t keep themselves up. They require continued expenditure of money and time. Cities around the world are littered with unused remnants of their Olympic Games. No money. The buildings may crumble quickly, but the Olympic debt doesn’t.

Reuse: A Permanent Home

It’s way past time for a permanent Olympics home. Greece, for summer games, and Switzerland, winter games, would work. Greece has the history of the ancient Olympians. Switzerland has the Alps, clock makers and an aura of neutrality. It also has the IOC headquarters. Greece, analysts and athletes have made good arguments for these sites long before I thought of them. Maybe another couple of sites as well, so there is a fallback in case of natural or political turmoil.

Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympics, believed that moving the games around would foster global understanding by letting people get to know different countries, different peoples. Good point. But it is outweighed by the cost, corruption and conflict that accompany every Olympic games.

Sarajevo_1984-Olympic_Symbol-Hedwig-Klawuttke-1997-wikicommonsI hope the Rio Games go well. But I hope too that we remember the frightful games of chance – natural and socio-political – that occurred in the lead-up to them. It’s time to rethink the Olympics for the long term. Not just say whew, that went better than expected, and stumble along to the next ones.

Earls of Grantham

Earls of Grantham coat of armsBelow is the lineage of the Earls of Grantham. The family name is Crawley, and their home is Downton Abbey in Yorkshire.

It is a fictional family in a television series I have never watched. I found family trees online, read summaries of the show and characters, and mapped out connections. Could I use only the internet to figure out a family history, I wondered. I think I did, and it made me want to get to know them better.

I will meet the Crawleys on DVD. Those watching on television will end their acquaintance with them in 2016. The sixth, and final, season on PBS begins January 3rd. The series is set between April 1912 and December 1925.

The Crawley family was given the Earldom of Grantham around 1772 for deeds unspecified. A subsidiary title is Viscount Downton. The earl’s heir may use this as a courtesy title. The title and estate are entailed, meaning inheritance can be passed only through the legitimate male line.

Grantham Family Tree

Downton Abbey Earls of Grantham family tree
Click for larger view

The house and lands of Downton Abbey came into possession of the Crawley family through the unnamed daughter-in-law of the 3rd Earl, great-grandmother of the ‘present’ earl, Robert Crawley. Presumably, she inherited her family home or received it through the will of a previous husband.

Jessica Fellowes, author of companion books to the series, refers to grave of sybil daughter of 5th earl dailymail.co.uk 1 Mar 2013Robert Crawley as the 7th Earl of Grantham. Other sources call him the 6th. Observant viewers noted a publicity shot of the gravestone of Sybil, Robert’s daughter. Carved on it is “daughter of the 5th Earl of Grantham”. The series does not fully explain the line of inheritance.

Robert had no son and no brother so after he inherited the title, his heir presumptive became his first cousin James, the son of his father’s unnamed brother. James had a son Patrick, who would inherit in turn. However, both men died on the Titanic in 1912. The male next closest in the family line was Matthew Crawley, Robert’s 3rd cousin once removed. The presumably deceased Reginald was Matthew’s father.

Amazon link for World of Downton Abbey
Click for book on Amazon

While daughters could not inherit, strategic marriage could keep it in the immediate family. Robert and his mother Violet had sought marriage between Robert’s daughter Mary and Patrick, son of then heir presumptive 1st cousin James Crawley. After their deaths, Mary wed the new heir Matthew and they had a son, George. Matthew soon after died, making George heir.

Through the marriage of his daughter to the heir, Robert’s grandson will be earl after him. Mary, daughter of one earl and mother of the next, will never be countess. She would have held that title only through her husband had he lived to become the next earl.

Apples to Apples

TV writer David Shore was on CBC Radio’s q (formerly Q) today. He was introduced as battle creek cbs by David Shorecreator of House and Battle Creek, writer on Due South and originally from London Ont.

He described Battle Creek as premised on male friendship. Then they discussed male friends or frenemies in House. House? Wilson’s friendship with House was a big part of the show, but not vital to it. Not like the relationship between the lead characters in Battle Creek.

Battle Creek is a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright FBI agent and a cynical Battle Creek, Michigan cop. Due South was a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright Mountie and a cynical Chicago cop. I waited for that comparison. Didn’t happen.

Amazon link for Due South
Click for Amazon link

Watching the first episode of Battle Creek, I thought, wow, this is Due South twenty years later with two Americans. I like the show, just as I liked Due South.

A CTV series, Due South was a cult hit in the US for CBS. Stereotypes of the Canadian worldview versus American was the appeal but also a drawback to going beyond “cult” to “mainstream”. Battle Creek, with colliding American worldviews, will not have that problem.

Eric Peterson and Street Legal

Listening today, hoping the discussion would move to the shows about which male friendship would be really applicable, I thought of a Street-LegalQ interview with Canadian actor Eric Peterson. The host introduced him as a star of CTV’s Corner Gas, the musical Billy Bishop Goes to War and CBC’s 1980s Street Legal. He talked eloquently about the importance of exploring Canadian culture in Canadian entertainment. Corner Gas and the story of Canadian WWI pilot Billy Bishop were the examples. Why not Street Legal?

LA Law dvd Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Canadian-made, -set and -aired, Street Legal started just months after NBC’s LA Law. Both centred on law firms – big deals, backstabbing, sex and intrigue. LA Law‘s was big and
glitzy, Street Legal‘s was Toronto storefront office scale. Canadian, eh? I waited to hear what Mr. Peterson would say about Canadian and American takes on the same dramatic premise. Didn’t happen.

Both q and Q’s interviews led straight to Street Legal and Due South: apples to apples comparisons. If q/Q have no staff familiar with old Canadian television shows, please contact me. I’ll be your “old codger” if you can’t find one in the CBC building.

Turcotte, the movie

If you live in or are from New Brunswick, if you’re Canadian, if you like horseracing, the dvd cover Secretariat's Jockey Ron TurcotteNFB has a film for you:  Secretariat’s Jockey:  Ron Turcotte (2013).  In 1973 Mr. Turcotte, already well known in racing circles, became famous world wide as the man who rode Secretariat.

The Triple Crown has been won only eleven times since it was established as the pinnacle of Thoroughbred racing in America.  Never has a horse won it in such jaw-dropping style as Secretariat did.   And Ron Turcotte was on his back for all three rides.

As a young man in northern New Brunswick, Mr. Turcotte worked in the woods with his father and brothers.  With a downturn in that industry, he moved to Toronto in search of a job.  He had worked with horses at home and knew them well, and he was a small man.  Still, working as a jockey was a suggestion that came from someone sports illustrated cover 1973 with Secretariat and Ron Turcotteelse.  He tried it, liked it and found he was good at it.  Eventually he went to the big leagues – Kentucky.  There he met Penny Chenery and her horses and the rest is wonderful horseracing history.

His riding career ended horribly in 1978 with a race accident that paralyzed him.  But he stayed associated with horseracing, not as the trainer that many said he would have been so good at, but as an ambassador for the sport and for jockeys.  He knows firsthand the physical, psychological and financial costs of such a risky occupation.  He also knows the hard work of training, and the thrill of race days and wins.

Ron Turcotte takes us to the races

Mr. Turcotte takes us on a road trip to Kentucky.  There we meet the other two jockeys of those five years of three Triple Crowns, Jean Cruguet (Seattle Slew 1977) and Steve Cauthen secretariat running the belmont stakes(1978 Affirmed). We go with him to Churchill Downs on Derby Day 2012.  We go on to Maryland, where Triple Crown talk is in the air when I’ll Have Another wins the second leg.  Then to New York and the dashing of hopes when I’ll Have Another is pulled from the Belmont Stakes due to the threat of laminitis.  The Triple Crown wait continues, a much longer dry stretch than even the 25 year one after Citation in 1948 that Secretariat and Ron Turcotte broke.

Ron Turcotte at Ron Turcotte Bridge Grand Falls NBWe go back home to Grand Falls, NB, driving over the magnificent falls on the “Ron Turcotte Bridge.” We meet his family and friends and go to his home.  Seeing the photographs, trophies and statues in his living room, I thought of the house of a man similar in many ways to Mr. Turcotte.

Dale Dufty, harness racing driver

It is a small house near St. Thomas where the late Dale Dufty, a retired harness racing driver, lived.  I had the good fortune of Harness racing driver Dale Duftybuying a saddle from him.  Good fortune both because I really like the saddle and because I got to meet him.  His house was filled with awards, photos and memorabilia of his favourite horses.  He repaired and made tack and racing harness, usually while watching races on a specialty channel.   Like Mr. Turcotte, his love of horses and the sport of horse racing never disappeared. He too was happy to share his great knowledge of horses and tracks, owners and fellow drivers, great risks and great joy.

Click for Amazon link to The Will to Win book
If you want to learn more about Mr. Turcotte, he and Bill Heller wrote his life story in The Will to Win.  It is an excellent read. (click cover for Amazon link)

For my take on the 2012 Triple Crown run, see I’ll Have Another.

She Loves You

Some things you will never ever forget.  One, for me, is Ed Sullivan introducing “these CBS Beatles ad on tvyoungsters from Liverpool.”  Hands clenched on head, pulling at hair, “eek, aah, oohh”.  In the living room with parents, sitting on the floor in front of the television, screaming.  Watching John-Paul-George-and-Ringo, February 9, 1964. I still can hear “well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean, the way she looks, is way beyond compare.”

Even now – old enough to realize that my parents must have been looking askance at each other, each blaming the other’s gene pool for having produced such a half-wit of a child – the memory sends shivers through me.  After that and before, I watched bands I loved on girl-in-audience-screenshotEd Sullivan’s “shew”.  But the Beatles were “way beyond compare.”

I think we in North America were lucky in our introduction to them.  They were already an established sensation by the time they came on tour.  We already knew it was ok to like them; indeed being Beatle-crazy was de rigueur.  Probably in England, there had been girls who said ‘they’re ok but it’s Frankie and the Fruitcakes who are really going to make it big.’  In light of knighthoods, billions in sales and historical perspective of the musical and social change started by the Beatles, those girls probably still feel a bit silly.

Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein made a way bigger misjudgment. According to Terry O’Reilly on CBC’s Under the Influence, Epstein let someone else market Beatles products – at a 90/10 split, the 10% going to the Beatles.  Who didn’t buy a Beatle wig?  And I had Beatles cards tv screenshotBeatles bubblegum trading cards, uncut sheets.  My father got them from a friend at O-Pee-Chee Gum.  I cut them into individual cards, not keeping even one whole.  I could have retired on the proceeds of those.

The fact that none of the plentitude of Mersey Beat bands ever matched the Beatles’ success does not deny the success that many did achieve due to the spin-off effect.  The Beatles were not created in a vacuum; they were influenced by their contemporaries and they opened doors for others.  In September 1964, the Beatles came to Toronto.  My mother would not let me go, despite wheedling DC5 London Ont UWO Archives lfpress.com James Reaney 3Nov2011and tantrums.  Two months later, my friends and I stood along Oxford Street in London (Ont.), waiting for the Dave Clark Five to drive past. They were playing at Treasure Island Gardens and, again, my mother said I couldn’t go.  But being in that crowd of girls on the street, screaming our heads off, made up for a lot.  The Dave Clark Five weren’t the Beatles, but they were close enough. Tellingly, I have no memory of the Rolling Stones coming to London the next year. That suggests their music was beyond my pre-adolescent ken.

Beau-Brummels-Teen-Aug-66-beaubrummels.tripod.com_laugh_60sjpgTerry O’Reilly mentioned a 1960s band called the Beau Brummels. They were from California but their music and foppish suits seemed British.  And, maybe more importantly, their name put their records alphabetically right after the Beatles in record bins, thereby increasing their sales.

I will be watching the Beatles special February 9th  on CBS. I’ll probably sit on the floor as close as possible to the tv, maybe scream a little.  For sure, I’ll cry a little for four lads and a girl from long ago.

Ford Branding

Rob Ford at Ford Nation t-shirt boothTobacco companies are probably heaving a huge sigh of relief.  As far as we know, no cigarettes were smoked by Mayor Rob Ford.  So they do not need to distance themselves and their brands from him. One of few industries spared.

Due to the mayor’s littering, Newfoundland’s Iceberg Vodka distillery released a statement decrying drinking and driving.  Ford Motor Company said its logo can’t be used on t-shirts made by his supporters.  CFL officials must have had kittens seeing him wearing a Toronto Argonauts jersey while making his infamous statements Thursday about whom he was going to sue and why.

shocked cat with text Rob Ford Eats What?And speaking of kittens, I wonder when a cat food company will distance themselves from him after all of his revelations on Thursday.

We made a point of watching The Daily Show and the Colbert Report Thursday night.  This was way too good for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to pass up.  They and every other comedian could not believe he had actually said what he said.  In a nation grown accustomed to dirty little scandals like Anthony Weiner’s crotch ‘selfies’, Elliot Spitzer’s call-girls and a President’s hair-splitting denials of what exactly he dailyshow-14-Nov-13was doing with an intern, you would think nothing could shock American late night tv hosts.  So when the mayor of a Canadian city grosses them out, that’s an accomplishment of some sort.

I’m not a fan of Saturday Night Live, but I saw they plan to do something about him in their show this week.  You know we’ll be watching, along with the rest of Canada – except for maybe a few truly mortified Torontonians.

iceberg vodka-bottle-TO-police-picCongratulations, Mayor Ford, you have well and truly made Toronto a memorable city.  And provided hours of entertainment, both with your own words and the commentaries on them.  Thank you.  I haven’t enjoyed watching the news so much since President Clinton was Bad Billy.  Please don’t stop now!

A Nation’s Songs

Whatever one might think of the US of A, they got good anthems. Watching Monday’s Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Alicia Olatuja nydailynewsPresidential Inauguration, the high point for me was the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir giving it to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. What a song!  What voices!  (click to hear)

Wonderful as it is, the Battle Hymn of the Republic isn’t the only great song that Americans can sing at special events. And they all came out at President Obama’s Inauguration. James Taylor sang America the Beautiful and Kelly Clarkson gave a nice country twang to My Country tis of Thee. Beyoncé closed out the nation’s music with the official anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

Star-Spangled-Banner-1908-1919 Lib of Congress PDI especially like The Star-Spangled Banner because of the story behind it. As a Canadian, I feel a bit proprietorial about it. It came from an 1814 British Navy attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812. The American forces won that battle and the tattered flag still proudly flew atop the fort. That sight prompted poet Francis Scott Key to write the words that, when set to music, became the national anthem. Despite winning that battle, the Americans lost the war. But they got a great anthem out of it.  Lemons and lemonade: the fabled American entrepreneurial spirit.

My Country tis of Thee was the de facto anthem prior to the official selection of The Star-Spangled Banner in 1931. It uses the same melody as the older God Save the King/Queen. America the Beautiful also was used as an anthem and efforts have continued through the years to make it the official anthem or at least an official national hymn. The arguments presented for it as national anthem are that, compared to The Star-Spangled Banner, its melodic arrangement is easier to sing and its sentiments are not evocative of war.

Anthem double meanings

Hartford circus fire 6 Jul 1944The official national march of the US is The Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa. It is customarily played after the President gives a speech at a public event or ceremony. In circus and entertainment venues, it is called “the Disaster March” and is played only to signal to performers and personnel that there is a serious emergency.

The Battle Hymn of the Republic has its origins in the Civil War, on the Union side. But the tune was written a bit earlier, in 1856, being first used in a camp hymn called “Canaan’s Happy Shore” or “Brothers, Will You Meet Me?”. Early in the Civil War, Union soldiers used the tune as a marching song, with their own words. “John Brown’s body lies a’mouldering in the grave” was a bit of poking fun at one of their members named John Brown and the memory of the anthem sheet music Battle_Hymn_of_the_Republic_Lib of Congress abolitionist John Brown who was hung after an attack on the Armory at Harper’s Ferry in 1859.

In November 1861 Julia Ward Howe put new words to the tune at the request of a friend, Rev. James Freeman Clarke. The Battle Hymn of the Republic as we know it was born. Indeed, the melody and the words do stir one to an overwhelming urge to march or at minimum stand to attention and salute. It has become perhaps the pre-eminent national hymn of the US. For the most part, its allegiance to one side of the Civil War is overlooked.

Powerful music all. And in the lyrics, melody or musical adaptation of each, a part of the history of the nation is told.

Reading History

Well-written and well-researched historical fiction gives the reader a two-fer:  a good story and a history lesson that you may have slept through during school.

Amazon link for The Boleyn Inheritance historical fiction
Click for Amazon

Recently, I’ve been living in the Tudor and Plantagenet eras courtesy of Philippa Gregory.  I started with the Boleyn sisters books, made into movies that I haven’t seen but I hope do justice to the books and their subjects.  I don’t know how it would be possible to make a bad movie out of the historical material itself and the treatment given the characters by Ms. Gregory.

Next I read the novels about the other characters in the Henry VIII saga:  The Constant Princess tells of his Amazon link for The Queen's Fool
first wife, Katherine of Aragon.   The Queen’s Fool tells of his childrens’ reigns, Edward, then Mary and ending with the ascension of Elizabeth.  The Other Queen is about Mary Queen of Scots in the later years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign.  It is the only one that I kind of wanted to end.  I knew what happened to her:  she ended up “with ‘er ‘ead tucked underneath her arm” and, with the interminable plotting and moving about the countryside, I found myself thinking “please somebody, chop her head off and be done with it.”

Then I moved to The White Queen and The Red Queen, books about the predecessors of the Tudors, the Amazon link for The Lady of the Rivers by P GregoryPlantagenets and the War of the Roses.  There are two more books in this series, telling the stories of the mother of Edward IV’s Queen Elizabeth (The Lady of the Rivers) and the daughters of the Earl of Warwick (The Kingmaker’s Daughter).

You’ll notice a similarity in topic here – these are stories told from the woman’s point of view.  Even if you were the most dedicated history student, you may well have not been taught much about the queen consorts or dowager queens of England.  Ms. Gregory will fill in those gaps for you as well as bringing to life the monarchs they married or mothered.

A bibliography is always appended to Ms Gregory’s books.  I read it thoroughly and make a list of the books I want to Amazon link for The Other Boleyn Girl dvdfind.  She also writes a note explaining what is historical fact and what is speculation or fiction.  After finishing one of her novels, I always spend an evening googling the people and the era.  She makes me want to know more about them and what I find matches pretty well with what I’ve read in her books.

A while ago, I listened to a CBC radio interview with a writer about his novel set in the American West (sorry, can’t find the details online).  He said he doesn’t worry about historical accuracy because readers want a good story, not to learn about an era so he just creates his own world.  I guess that applies for some readers but not me.  If I’m going to invest my time reading an era-specific book, I want it to accurately tell me about that era and I want to know where Amazon link for The Last Templar by Michael Jecks
it deviates from history.  Philippa Gregory does that, as does Michael Jecks in his medieval England mysteries.  I would think that if you are going to research and travel in order to get the flavour of a historical era and the people living in it, as the writer I heard interviewed said he does, you might as well present your fictional story in a historically accurate setting.  As my father always said, if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Stompin’ Tom Revisited

Thank you CBC Radio!  Just when I think I’ll never hear anything that I haven’t heard at least once already in any given day or week, you give me a wonderful treat.

Stompin’ Tom Connors – his songs and his conversation in radio interviews and call-in stompin tom album cover My Stompin' Groundsshows from the CBC archives.  Last Sunday on Radio One on Inside the Music (listen here).  If you know him and love his music, you will truly enjoy this.  If you know him and think ho hum, take a listen to him talking about his life and where the songs came from.  If you have no idea who he is, listen so that you may learn about someone central to Canadian music and Canadian pride.

My mother was a fan of Stompin’ Tom so I grew up with his music.  I don’t know if ‘Tillsonburg’ was the first song of his she heard, but it was her favourite.  She’s from Aug 1986 priming tobacco West Lorne Fodor farm from elgin.caTillsonburg and she worked in tobacco – one season.  She understood, and connected with, every word.  That’s what Stompin’ Tom songs do for Canadians and Canada.  He is the quintessential Canadian; born in New Brunswick, raised in PEI and has worked out west, in Ontario and pretty much every part of the country.

In the doc, he talks about meeting people who had recently returned from visiting Germany.  The Germans they were with one evening sang their country’s folksongs then asked to hear some songs about Canada.  They couldn’t think of one except for Oh Canada.  So Tom, over the Stompin' Tom accepts 1973 Junoyears, set about writing those songs.  He created the folk songs about our country.

There are strong regional music traditions in Canada.  Certainly Newfoundland, the Maritimes and Quebec are rich in traditional songs that tell the history of their places, events and people.  The west is the homeland of country and western.  But songs about Canada as a whole or regional songs known outside those regions?  Like Woody Guthrie, Stompin’ Tom both created and popularized the music of a land.

‘Stompin’ from St. John’s to Tillsonburg

me with Stompin' Tom in St. John'sThe first time I saw Stompin’ Tom perform was in St. John’s at the old Memorial arena.  He was on a small dais and the audience was seated in front, all of us on the covered ice surface.  It was close and personal.  He didn’t mind you getting out in the aisle taking his picture and he stayed after the performance for a long time signing autographs and talking to fans.

Years later I saw him in Tillsonburg.  The sound system was atrocious.  It was almost impossible to make out his words when he was singing or talking.  But it was worth every cent and more when he started Tillsonburg (My back still aches).  The place went up!  You couldn’t hear him over everyone singing along.  (You can listen to him singing it in Hamilton by clicking the title, also below for Sudbury Saturday Night.)

In his songs, Stompin’ Tom gets at the heart of the people and landscape of every one of stompin tom autograph on cigarette packour regions.  And by focusing on the particular, he speaks to the whole of this large and sometimes fragmented nation.  Thank you, CBC, for the chance to hear him talk about how and why he made the music and to tap my foot and sing along with Sudbury Saturday Night.  You don’t have to have ever been in Sudbury to ‘get it’.