Friends and Fans to Celebrate Stompin’ Tom’s 80th Birthday
Former Governor General of Canada, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Duncan Fremlin (far right) and the band Whiskey Jack.
It’s a night of stomping, singing and cheer in honour of one of Canada’s most beloved musicians – Stompin’ Tom Connors – this Tuesday in Toronto. To mark what would have been the Canuck troubadour’s 80th birthday, friends, family and fans will gather at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Feb. 9 to pay tribute to the man who brought tunes like “The Hockey Song,” “Bud the Spud,” “The Marten Hartwell Story” and “Sudbury Saturday Night” to the forefront of Canadian consciousness.
“[It’s] a history that’s like an oral history, like the greatest kind of history that you can have in a country, where it’s not written down but everybody knows it,” the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada, said of the music of her longtime friend, Stompin’ Tom, who passed away at age 77 in 2013. “And that’s what Tom was able to do for us. He was able to sing that into our consciousness and we’re grateful for that.”
Clarkson will be among the crowd paying tribute to Stompin’ Tom – and in years past has even performed a tune or two herself at the birthday bash – alongside his wife, Lena, the band Whiskey Jack, who often backed Connors on stage, award-winning Canadian singer (and one of Connors’ favourites) J.P. Cormier, Juno-nominated singer Douglas Cameron and other special guests.
Zoomer recently spoke with Clarkson, as well as Whiskey Jack’s Duncan Fremlin, about the celebration and Stompin’ Tom’s uniquely Canadian legacy.
MIKE CRISOLAGO: Why are Stompin’ Tom and his music so revered across Canada?
ADRIENNE CLARKSON: I think the reason he’s loved so much is that people recognize themselves in him and what he writes about, because it’s their town, it’s their hockey, it’s their potato. He gives us all a kind of ownership on our own lives. It’s because he makes us feel we own what we know we are part of. And plus, he writes wonderful lyrics, they’re funny, they rhyme, and they’re very heartfelt always. He’s very totally and utterly sincere. And I think Canadians respond to that.
DUNCAN FREMLIN: He was an uncompromising person in terms of his values and his stands on issues. And I think if there’s one thing [about] Canadians, or at least the fans that I get to see in the show, they very much appreciate the integrity behind the man … When we were touring with him live, there would be people in the audience in tears because here was the man himself out speaking and singing songs on their behalf. And I’ve never seen anything like it.
MC: That’s interesting because, in an age where celebrity is all about branding and image, it seems that what you saw of Stompin’ Tom was the real man on stage and off.
MC: When it comes to the big 80th birthday celebration, what can we look forward to at the Stompin’ Tom tribute?
AC: Well we will all take part and we’ve invited various people … because we want to always remember Stompin’ Tom on his birthday.
DF: J.P. Cormier, who was one of Tom’s favourite musicians … wrote a song recently called “House of Plywood” and it’s in honour of Tom. It is one of the most moving pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time and he’ll perform that. But the other thing is that the musicians on stage, they’re all seasoned musicians who know Tom’s material inside and out and we’ve been told that because the level of musicianship is so high, it is elevating these songs to a whole different level. It’s placing them at the same level as k.d. lang’s material or Gordon Lightfoot’s material, and Tom, generally, has never been given the same respect, musically, as these acts have been given. I think you’re going to see on the 9th that’s going to change dramatically.
AC: I think the respect that is Tom’s due is really emerging now. He’s always really had it. It was just never stated as such. And I think we hope that by celebrating his birthday, by having people know that we’re still listening to him, that he’s still being performed, that people are still buying the discs and so on, that is really important. And that means it isn’t just a legacy. It’s living music. So I think that’s what we really want – for people to take part and to sing his songs and to feel like they are part of it.
MC: And fans may even get to see Madam Clarkson sing a tune again…
DF: I will tell you that her voice has a bit of a twang to it. I don’t know that she expected that to be the case but when you sing a Tom song somehow that upper lip starts doing something weird. So I’m looking forward to the twang again this year.