“Stompin’ Tom Connors”, Charles Thomas Connors, “A True Canadian Original”

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Born February 9, 1936  Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada

Died March 6, 2013 Ballinafad, Ontario, Canada

Charles Thomas “Stompin’ Tom” Connors, OC, singer, songwriter, guitarist, fiddler (born 9 February 1936 in Saint John, NB; died 6 March 2013 in Ballinafad, ON). One of the most iconic figures in Canadian music, Stompin’ Tom Connors was a working-class, salt-of-the-earth troubadour and perhaps the most overtly nationalist songwriter Canada has ever produced. His traditional country songs about Canadian people and places — such as “Bud the Spud,” “Sudbury Saturday Night” and “Big Joe Mufferaw” — were humorous, patriotic and widely popular, and reflected his extensive travels throughout the country. He was a passionate activist for Canadian music and culture, going so far as to return six Juno Awards in protest of what he saw as the organization’s favouring of expatriate Canadians over those with only domestic success. He received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the East Coast Music Awards, the Toronto Musician’s Union and SOCAN. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame. 

Tom Connors had as hard a childhood as one could have, experiencing poverty, homelessness, hunger, and the rigours of the child welfare system. In his very early childhood he and his mother begged on the streets of New Brunswick, and when she was jailed, the young Tom was incarcerated with her. Eventually he was placed in an orphanage and foster care before being adopted by a family in Skinners Pond, Prince Edward Island.

Connors wrote his first song, “Reversing Falls Darling,” at age 11. At 15 he began playing the guitar. The country music of Wilf Carter and Hank Snow had a profound influence on him and his music. He left his adopted home at age 15 and hitchhiked his way across Canada, working for 13 years at various jobs and occasionally spending a night in jail for vagrancy. This period, during which he saw a great deal of the country and experienced the seamy side of life, informed his musical persona as a rough-hewn, sincere, grassroots songwriter.

Connors began singing professionally in 1964 at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario. He initially performed in exchange for a beer but remained there for 14 months, eventually earning $35 per week. He was also heard locally on CKGB radio. In the absence of amplification at the Maple Leaf and other bars where he performed in Ontario, Connors pounded the floor with his booted foot to establish the rhythm of his songs (partly sung and partly recited) above the noise of the crowd. He was first referred to as “Stompin’ Tom” when he was introduced before a performance at the King George Tavern in Peterborough, Ontario, on Centennial Day, 1 July 1967. To avoid damaging the stages, he would place a sheet of plywood under his boot. This “stompin’ board” became as much part of his image as did the black Stetson hat he habitually wore.

Connors sang with a piercing edge that reflected the grittiness of life on the road and his hard-won life experience.

His successes came mainly on country and university radio stations. However, he received the Juno Award in 1971 for best male country singer and became something of a cult figure, due in large part to his popularity as a live performer; he toured exhaustively throughout Canada, and his record-setting 25-night run at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern became legendary.

Connors won the Juno Award for best male country singer every year from 1971–75, and his LP To It and At It (1972) received a Juno in 1974 for Country Album of the Year. In 1978, however, he returned the awards in protest of Junos given to expatriate Canadians. He subsequently retired and launched a personal, one-year boycott of radio and other media to protest their lack of support for identifiably Canadian material.

Connors did not return to performance until 1988, when he released Fiddle and Song. The album, which introduced the fiddle style he had developed during his retirement, included the popular “Canada Day, Up Canada Way,” “Lady KD Lang” (see k.d. lang), and “I Am the Wind.” It was followed in 1990 by a triumphant 70-city tour of Canada, culminating in two concerts at Massey Hall. That year also saw the release of the greatest hits compilation, A Proud Canadian (1990), which was the first of Connors’s albums to go gold, and eventually platinum in Canada. Capitol Records also reissued many of Connors’s earlier albums and in 1991 released a new recording, More of the Stompin’ Tom Phenomenon.

A hard drinker and heavy smoker, Connors died of kidney failure at the age of 77 on 6 March 2013. The National Arts Centre (NAC) in Ottawa lowered its flag to half-mast in tribute to Connors’s contribution to the artistic life of the country. On 7 March, New Democrat MPs paid tribute to Connors by performing “Bud the Spud” in the foyer of the House of Commons. A memorial service was held at the Peterborough Memorial Centre in Peterborough, the birthplace of his nickname, on 13 March 2013.

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/stompin-tom-connors-emc

 

He sang of maple trees, wheat fields growing tall, the Leamington tomato, New Brunswick’s famed reversing falls. In Canada, as he sang, we get to see them all.

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Canada’s Oscar Peterson – “The Maharaja of the Keyboard” – “A Cat Who Can Really Swing!”

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August 15th, 1925 – December 23, 2007 

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CC CQ OOnt was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, but simply “O.P.” by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won eight Grammy Awards, and received numerous other awards and honours. He is considered one of the greatest jazz pianists, and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, CCCQOOnt, jazz pianist, composer, educator (born 15 August 1925 in MontréalQC; died 23 December 2007 in MississaugaON). One of Canada’s most honoured musicians, Oscar Peterson was widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. A highly accomplished soloist renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style, he earned the nicknames “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie” and “master of swing.” A prolific recording artist, he typically released several albums a year from the 1950s until his death. He also appeared on more than 200 albums by other artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands.” Inevitably, his sensitivity in these supporting roles, as well as his acclaimed compositions such as Canadiana Suite and “Hymn to Freedom,” were overshadowed by his stunning virtuosity as a soloist. Also a noted jazz educator and advocate for racial equality, Peterson won a Juno Awardand eight Grammy Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. The first recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement, he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the International Jazz Hall of Fame. He was also made an Officer and then Companion of the Order of Canada, and an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters in France, among many other honours.

Canada’s First Jazz Star

Peterson made his first recordings for RCA Victor in March 1945. These early releases, notably “I Got Rhythm” and “The Sheik of Araby,” reveal the predilection for boogie-woogie that earned him the nickname “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie.” They also revealed, in nascent form, the extraordinary piano technique that would characterize his playing throughout his career. Peterson made sixteen 78s (32 songs in total) for RCA Victor between 1945 and 1949, the last of which suggest the influence of bebop. These songs were compiled on CD by BMG France in 1994 and repackaged by BMG Canada in 1996 as The Complete Young Oscar Peterson (1945–1949).

-The Canadian Encyclopedia-

 

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Michael Burgess Canadian Icon and our “Mighty” Jean Valjean, Les Miserables

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Born July 22, 1945  in Regina and laid to rest September 28, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario.

Written by MARTIN MORROW SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2, 2015 and UPDATED MAY 15, 2018

Michael Burgess made you feel proud. Whether he was singing the national anthem, stirringly, for a Toronto Maple Leafs game or leading an exceptional cast as a mighty Jean Valjean in the landmark all-Canadian production of Les Misérables, Mr. Burgess knew how to pluck the national heartstrings. He was the world-class singer who chose to remain in Canada; the exquisite theatre artist whose biggest thrill was playing old timers’ hockey with the NHL greats.

Mr. Burgess was also a man with a big heart to match his big voice, whose acts of generosity were legion. He continually lent his golden tenor and magnetic presence to charitable causes and was always there for his friends. Their appreciation was reflected in the huge outpouring of love and affection that swiftly followed the news of his death at the age of 70 on Sept. 28. Everyone from theatre impresario David Mirvish to hockey legend Bobby Orr expressed their sorrow via both traditional and social media. “Today, we have lost a great Canadian,” Mr. Orr said in a statement – a sentiment few would dispute.

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Mr. Burgess, known as Wally to his family, was born Walter Roy Burgess in Regina, on July 22, 1945. A Roman Catholic, his confirmation saint’s name was Michael and he later adopted it as his professional name. He was the oldest child of William (Bill) Burgess and Dorothy (Dolly) Burgess (née Aldercotte), who would go on to provide him with six brothers and sisters.

Bill Burgess, an aspiring lawyer, moved the family to Toronto in 1946. Growing up in suburban Etobicoke, Wally began to embrace two of his lifelong passions at an early age. “He was an excellent hockey player,” his brother Wayne recalled. “Every winter, between the ages of eight and 13, we created a hockey rink in our backyard and broke many a basement window with our unerringly accurate slap shots.”

His true gift, however, began to emerge when he and Wayne were enrolled at St. Michael’s Choir School. By the time he was a teenager, Wally Burgess was singing on CBC Television’s Cross-Canada Hit Parade and Holiday Ranch as well as on the radio.

After briefly considering the priesthood and a career in law, he studied acting at the University of Ottawa, inevitably playing the lead roles in student and amateur productions

As his career progressed, Mr. Burgess began to shift away from musical theatre and into opera. It wasn’t until the end of the 1980s that he found the perfect role that melded both art forms. When he landed the part of Jean Valjean in the first Canadian production of the London-New York hit Les Misérables, which opened in March, 1989, at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, he helped prove that his country had talent every bit as extraordinary as what could be found on West End and Broadway stages. And while Les Mis was an ensemble show with no official “stars,” Mr. Burgess’s performance soon became one of its major attractions.

While there was nobody like Mr. Burgess for making hearts swell at the singing of O Canada, his signature song remained the tear-inducing Bring Him Home from Les Mis. It’s the hero Jean Valjean’s aching plea to God to take him in exchange for sparing the life of the young man whom he considers a son. Perhaps the power of Mr. Burgess’s rendition rests in the way that prayer seemed to come from his own heart, reflecting his own selfless nature.

 

 

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The Extraordinary Glenn Gould

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Glenn Herbert Gould (born Gold), pianist, broadcaster, writer, composer, conductor, organist (born 25 September 1932 in Toronto, ON; died 4 October 1982 in Toronto, ON).

As a child I asked if I could learn to play the piano. I was told I couldn’t because we didn’t have a piano. I was clever enough to say I could practice at school, but my protests were ignored. BUT! Enough of me! Glenn Gould lived in my neighbourhood for the latter years of his life. He haunted the 24 hour Fran’s Restaurant not far from his penthouse apartment. There is a plaque on the lawn. I can’t help but wonder if his spirit still walks those rooms. Those rooms where he sought refuge from the outside world. Such a complex character who’s only real refuge, in my mind, was the music. ©J.E.Goldie

Details from The Canadian Encyclopedia:

During his concert days, Gould noted that European critics wrote about his interpretations, while those in North America wrote more about his eccentricities. In his later years, a growing Gould legend was fed by reports of his personal eccentricities and lifestyle. He lived modestly and alone (he never married), guarded his private life jealously, refused to make public appearances of any kind and rarely left Toronto (especially after 1970, when he moved his recording operations there). In recent years, information regarding Gould’s discreet romantic relationships have come to light, most notably his five-year affair (beginning in 1967) with the painter Cornelia Foss, wife of the American composer Lukas Foss, who left her husband and moved with her children to Toronto for several years to live near Gould.

 

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Broadcasting and Recording Career, 1964–82

While Gould’s live concert career wound down, his radio and TV recitals and documentaries were becoming more innovative and sophisticated as he explored beyond the limits of the conventional broadcast recital. In the early 1960s, he began giving radio and TV recitals that were unified thematically or tied together with his own spoken commentary. He also became prolific as a writer, exploring many musical and non-musical topics in liner notes, periodical articles, reviews, scripts and interviews.

As he approached age 50, Gould was planning to phase out his career as a recording pianist while fulfilling ambitious plans to make recordings as a conductor. He made his first and only official recording as a conductor (Wagner’s Siegfried-Idyll) in the summer of 1982. He also arranged music for the feature film The Wars (1983).

Gould planned to stop recording altogether around 1985, and devoted himself to writing and composing. However, on 27 September 1982, a few days after his 50th birthday, and approximately a week after the release of a best-selling second recording of the Goldberg Variations, he suffered a massive stroke and died on 4 October 1982.

THE INTERVIEWS and THE MUSIC

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