US & Canada

Tom Connors, Canadian country-folk legend, dies at 77

Tom Connors file picture November 2009
Image caption Connors wrote many songs about his experience as a wandering teenager

Canadian country-folk singer Tom Connors has died of natural causes age 77, his promoter has said.

Known as Stompin' Tom and one of Canada's biggest cultural figures, he embraced vibrant patriotic themes.

Connors would often lament that other Canadian songwriters never seemed to sing about their country.

Three of his best-known songs - Sudbury Saturday Night, Bud the Spud and The Hockey Song - play at every home game of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team.

'Starving for songs'

Connors had been in declining health and in recent days he wrote on his website that Canada made him feel "inspired with its beauty, character and spirit".

The singer earned the nickname Stompin' Tom by his habit of thumping the stage with his left foot during performances.

In 2008, Connors said: "I don't know why I seem to be the only one, or almost the only one, writing about this country.

"This country is the most underwritten country in the world as far as songs are concerned. We starve. The people in this country are starving for songs about their homeland."

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Twitter: "We have lost a true Canadian original. RIP Stompin' Tom Connors. You played the best game that could be played."

And the National Hockey League tweeted: "Sad to hear that legendary Canadian Stompin' Tom Connors has passed. His legacy lives on in arenas every time The Hockey Song is played."

Beer for a song

Connors was born on 9 February 1936 in Saint John, New Brunswick. His mother was an unmarried teenager and in an autobiography he describes hitch-hiking with her as a three-year-old and having to beg at age four.

Eventually he was placed in the care of a charity and was adopted by a family on Prince Edward Island, but he ran away four years later and criss-crossed the country, hitch-hiking.

At age 14, Connors is said to have bought his first guitar. Later he did odd jobs in the towns he passed through - working as a grave digger, tobacco picker, fry cook, and on fishing boats.

His first job as a singer came at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins, Ontario, when the barman agreed to give him a beer if he would play a few songs. Connors quickly earned a 14-month contract to play regularly there.

Connors's first album followed three years later, featuring one of his hit songs, Bud the Spud. Many of his hundreds of subsequent songs were based on his experiences on the road as a teenager.

He was honoured with the Order of Canada in 1996 and was featured on a postage stamp.

Connors is survived by his wife, two daughters, two sons, and several grandchildren.