Stompin’ to more than a memory

Ever look back at your life and adjust and assign a higher degree of profound importance to certain events or people? Increasing introspection can be a great benefit of aging and it revealed today, for me, that someone who I never met had a distinct impact during those few short, intensely awakening years of college.

The revelation came about as I read an obituary in the Globe and Mail for Stompin’ Tom Connors, Canadian music icon. And then I read this obituary in the New York Times of him about an hour later and I thought, the dude really caused a change in the way I looked at my own country.

Growing up in Windsor, Ontario only one mile from Motown during its heyday meant that the US was the lens through which we viewed almost everything. The media we were subjected to, the sports we played, watched, and attended, the politics and the entertainment we consumed were overwhelmingly American. Despite studying my own country’s history, political structure, and culture through grade school and high school, they were mere shadows under the blanket  thrown over us by American culture. That began to change during my first year in university and I credit my friend, Kevin.

He was lucky enough to have relatives in the Ottawa Valley and he spent a few weeks each summer at a summer cottage in that region, far enough away from the intensity of American media to be able to hear some distinct sounds and voices of Canadians. It was there that he first heard Tom Connors, and then he brought him to us, his circle of friends in Windsor.

He brought recordings for us to hear. The voice was strained and whiny, the melodies rather simple but the lyrics spoke of emotions that could only have been real for Connors. We were heavily into Springsteen for the same reason; Elvis Costello got us pumped up; REM were our poets; David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Steely Dan created, for us, cool girl-friendly sounds. And while The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones infused us with manic energy, somehow it was Tom Connors who we sung in unison to.

About once a week, Kevin would drink enough beer and whiskey and accede to the siren call. First for us in our basements, and then soon afterwards in pubs in the city. On stage he performed Connors songs right down to the stomping left foot. Living in a manufacturing town meant that our young political minds leaned decidedly from middle to left and Connors’ music and lyrics reinforced the quest for fairness and also for celebrating the small things in life. But most importantly, during all our nights of laughter and drinking, of flirtation and electrically charged looks with girls across the room, Kevin’s regular willingness to get on that stage with his guitar and be Tom Connors for 45 minutes altered the way I started to think of Canada. My thoughts and gaze began to subtly shift away from Detroit, Chicago, and New York and towards Toronto and the north.

About Peter Armaly
I get jazzed by automation, big data, and blockchain tech. Business, technology, and fitness are things I understand. Scotch, wine, food, and fiction are things I appreciate.

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