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Stompin' Tom Connors was a Canadian folk legend. He was 77 when he died Wednesday at his home in Ontario. To those of us stateside, his most well-known tune is "The Hockey Song," played at hockey games everywhere. But to Canadians, Stompin' Tom Connors was an inspiration because of his naked nationalist pride.
"He was a very patriotic Canadian that actually waved the flag, and that was something we don't see up here," says Brian Edwards, Connors' concert promoter. "We do have a national flag and everybody likes it, but you don't see it being waved very often, and a lot of Canadian entertainers don't do it."
Tom Connors spent his youth hitchhiking around Canada. He did odd jobs and collected the stories that would become his songs.
"Everything I write about is pretty much about Canada — the places I've been and the people I've met and the jobs they do," Connors told the CBC in 2010.
His nickname came from his habit of keeping time with the heel of his cowboy boot. He even carried a plywood stompin' board with him to gigs to keep from damaging the stage.
Among Connors' many fans, one you might not expect is musician Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana. Grohl first heard Connors' music when he was touring in Canada with one of his early punk bands.
"Punk rock was all about walking it like you talk it, and integrity was always something that we measured an artist by," Grohl told NPR's Melissa Block. "And it just seemed like, how could you be more for real than Stompin' Tom?"
Connors released 50 albums and toured Canada until he was 75 years old. He told the CBC he hoped his songs instilled pride.
"I would like people, and especially young people, to, when they wake up in the morning, instead of whistling some tune about good ol' Nashville or good ol' somewhere in Texas or something in the United States, maybe whistle 'Sudbury Saturday Night' or something, kind of unconsciously, and say to themselves, 'Hey, we're actually whistling about Canada,' " Connors said.