Wednesday 6 March 2013

Goodbye Rubberhead…So Long Boob

I just read that Stompin’ Tom Connors passed away today of natural causes. I hope that he didn’t suffer and was surrounded at the end by those he loved and that loved him. Tom deserved a good send off and I am sure there will be a hell of a wake in the days to come.

I first heard of Stompin’ Tom Connors when I was in high school, I think in grade 12. I was going out with a very intelligent girl who was somewhat quirky. Even though Lois was intelligent, she still allowed me to date her and I am still baffled by that. She was very well read and would burn through a couple of books every day. She smoked cigarettes that she rolled herself with Export tobacco and Export papers. She didn’t believe that a lady should walk down the street smoking a cigarette, so she would sit on the curb, take out the tobacco can, roll and smoke a cigarette. I assume that when I wasn’t with her, she would read one of the books.

I was into the Beatles, Arlo Guthrie, Dylan, Long John Baldry, Joni Mitchell, Carol King, James Taylor any folk music really and softer rock music. I also liked some of the heavier rock, but for the most part country rock was what I would listen to when I was by myself. Most of my friends liked heavier rock, so I did listen to my share of that particular kind of music. Lois was the one person I knew that liked Country music. Not only did she like country music, but she really liked country music and was a regular at the Horseshoe Tavern.

She dragged me (kicking and screaming) to see Stompin’ Tom one Friday night and I was mesmerized. He didn’t have a very good voice, he looked kind of odd with his cowboy hat, and I don’t think he was a very good musician, but the truth of the matter is that I wasn’t a very good judge of that kind of thing. The lyrics were very odd ones, “goodbye rubberhead, so long boob” and the percussion was listed as “Tom’s foot” on the album notes. It is said that he would stomp through a ¾ inch piece of plywood during a show, and I actually watched as splinters flew from the board during the show. He had nothing going for him that I had considered important for a musician, but somehow Tom managed to put everything into a package that entertained and thrilled. The girl is long gone and mostly forgotten, but Tom and his music has stayed with me throughout the years.

Tom somehow captured what it meant to be Canadian in his songs possibly better than anyone else before or since. His music is rough, simple, unpretentious, happy (for the most part) and from the heart. Kind of like the Canada I believe in and sometimes wish would come back. Well, it does come back whenever I listen to Tom and his boot.

Canada lost a folk hero today, but Tom Connors will be with us whenever we listen to “Bud the Spud”, “Tillsonberg”, “The Hockey Song”, “Across This Land”, “Rubberhead” and “The Snowmobile Song”. I guess he reminds me of a Canadian version of Woody Guthrie and if Canadians made heroes, Stompin’ Tom would be one of the greatest.

Goodbye Rubberhead…So Long Boob

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