Canadian country singer and cultural legend Stompin' Tom Connors died on Wednesday (March 6), bringing to an end a four-decade career that was at times controversial, but always faithful to his home country. 'Bud the Spud,' 'Sudbury Saturday Night' and 'The Hockey Song' were among his most well-known songs, with the latter being played in hockey arenas across the NHL.

The Saint John, N.B. born singer was known for his style, which always included a black cowboy hat and the pounding of his left boot on the floor during performances. Commercial success alluded him for much of his career, partially because he never wavered in his dedication to the people of Canada. Singers who left Canada to chase their dreams in the United States he called border jumpers, according to the CBC.

In 1978 Connors removed himself from the spotlight for almost a decade after returning six Juno Awards because he didn't think the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys were being decided fairly.

"I feel that the Junos should be for people who are living in Canada," he said in a statement at the time, "whose main base of business operations is in Canada, who are working toward the recognition of Canadian talent in this country and who are trying to further the export of such talent from this country to the world with a view to proudly showing off what this country can contribute to the world market."

"I don't know why I seem to be the only one, or almost the only one, writing about this country," he told the CBC in 2008.

Connors' website shares more details about the man's life and how a difficult childhood helped shaped his music career. After being separated from his mother, he was raised by foster parents until he ran away at the age of 13. For the next few years he knew a life of poverty, orphanages and hitchhiking, but also learned the most intimate details of Canadian life and heritage. His music career began in 1964. Connors would eventually be invited to join the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor he would decline.

"Tom Connors was a great Canadian who truly loved his country," Gordon Lightfoot told CTV on Thursday. "He was just a nice normal guy -- a Canadian and loved working here, a very patriotic person."

Other tributes to the hard-living folk hero began pouring in soon after news of his death broke. "Will miss you stompin Tom," Terri Clark wrote on her Twitter page.

The 'Canada Way' singer died of natural causes, leaving behind his wife, Lena, four kids and many grandchildren. He left fans with a message at his website, written in the days before his death.

"Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin' Tom."

"It was a long hard bumpy road, but this great country kept me inspired with its beauty, character, and spirit, driving me to keep marching on and devoted to sing about its people and places that make Canada the greatest country in the world."
"I must now pass the torch, to all of you, to help keep the Maple Leaf flying high, and be the Patriot Canada needs now and in the future."

"I humbly thank you all, one last time, for allowing me in your homes, I hope I continue to bring a little bit of cheer into your lives from the work I have done."


Your Friend always,
Stompin' Tom Connors

A celebration of Connors' life is planned for March 13 in Peterborough, Ont. The family is asking for donations to the local food bank or homeless shelter in lieu of flowers.

Listen to Stompin' Tom Connors, 'The Hockey Song'

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