Sunday, July 1, 2012

National Celebrations: Canada Day, Up Canada Way

Stompin' Tom Connors: Canada Day, Up Canada Way

[out of print]

Canada Day, or Fête du Canada en français, is the national day of Canada, a federal statutory holiday celebrating the anniversary of the July 1, 1867, enactment of the British North America Act, 1867 (today called the Constitution Act, 1867, in Canada), which united three colonies into a single country called Canada within the British Empire. The British North American colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada were united into a federation of four provinces (the Province of Canada being divided, in the process, into Ontario and Quebec). Canada became a kingdom in its own right on that date, but the British Parliament kept limited rights of political control over the new country that were shed by stages over the years until the last vestiges were surrendered in 1982 when the Constitution Act patriated the Canadian constitution. Originally called Dominion Day (Le Jour de la Confédération), the name was changed in 1982, the year the Canada Act was passed. Canada Day observances take place throughout Canada as well as by Canadians internationally. (Note: this info was copied from Wikipedia)

Nothing celebrates Canada like it's diverse musical heritage. And no other musician exemplifies the passion for all things Canada like the legendary and beloved folk/country musician "Stompin'" Tom Connors. Charles Thomas Connors was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, and had a trying childhood, being born to a teenaged mother in 1936, and moving around to various foster families. When he was 15 he left his adopted family and spent the next 13 years hitchhiking around Canada between part-time jobs and writing songs. At his last stop in Timmins, Ontario, which may also have been his big "break," he found himself a nickel short of a beer at the city's Maple Leaf Hotel. The bartender, Gaet Lepine, agreed to give Tom a beer if he would play a few songs. These few songs turned into a 13-month contract to play at the hotel, a weekly spot on the CKGB radio station in Timmins, eight 45-RPM recordings, and the end of the beginning for Tom Connors (sources: Wikipedia and Allmusic).

Since then Connors has composed more than 300 songs and has released four dozen albums, with total sales of nearly 4 million copies. He is also a staunch advocate for Canadian musicians' rights, especially against Canadian music awards that acknowledge Canadian musicians who do most of their business in the US. In 1996 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, the second highest civilian award, which recognizes an outstanding level of talent and service, or an exceptional contribution to Canada and humanity, on behalf of the Queen of Canada (Elizabeth II). In 2000, he was awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of Toronto, and was ranked thirteenth on CBC's "The Greatest Canadian" list, the highest ranking artist on that list. He has never toured outside of Canada, and has never had a hit record on the Canadian music charts.

"Canada Day, Up Canada Way" is from his 1994 album Fiddle and Song, which is out of print (at least in the US). It can also be found on his greatest hits album Souvenirs: 25 of the Best, which is also out of print in the US. On this Canada Day, sit back and have a Moosehead and a Tim Horton's donut, ponder NHL free agency (which started today), remember that curling season is only two months away (September!), and as you are listening to Neil Young, Rush, and Celine Dion, take a minute to acknowledge Stompin' Tom and the great musical legacy he has written for our fine neighbors to the north.

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