HALTON HILLS, Ontario, March 8 (UPI) -- Stompin' Tom Connors, the country-folk musician who went from kitschy to Canadian cultural icon, has died of natural causes, a family spokesman said. He was 77.
Connors, who died Wednesday among family and friends in Halton Hills, Ontario, was known for his songs extolling Canada's natural beauty and its working-class inhabitants, the Toronto Star reported.
Though Connors was a four-pack-a-day smoker, close friend Brian Edwards told the newspaper "it wasn't the cigarettes that got him."
Connors, whose health had declined noticeably recently, posted a personal message on his website stompintom.com this week alerting his fans his time was growing short.
"Hello friends, I want all my fans, past, present, or future, to know that without you, there would have not been any Stompin' Tom," he wrote.
"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."
The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Member of Parliament Charlie Angus, also a musician, noted there was a time Connors wasn't highly regarded by some in the music industry.
"We have to remember that he was ridiculed for many years by the Canadian music establishment," Angus said. "They thought his music was embarrassing. They thought he was kitschy, because he sang about Canada. That was taboo. We were a cultural colony at the time and Tom fought against it."
Angus said Connors' songs, like "Fire in the Mine," spoke volumes.
"It just was a chilling song, because my grandfather worked at that mine." Angus said. "It was a song about our people and what happened to us ... He wrote those songs for people that made them feel like they came from someplace that mattered."
Connors recorded more than 60 albums and wrote thousands of songs, his spokesman said.
Fellow Canadian singer k.d. lang called Connors "uncompromisingly Canadian."
"We owe him our pride and respect," she said in a post on her Facebook page.
Harper to appear on TV's 'The Doctors'
LOS ANGELES, March 8 (UPI) -- "Rhoda" actress Valerie Harper has been booked to appear on the medical-themed, daytime syndicated chat show, "The Doctors," in Los Angeles, EW.com reported.
Harper, 73, announced this week was diagnosed in January with terminal brain cancer and told she has only months to live.
EW.com said the actress will appear on Monday's edition of "The Doctors" to discuss her condition and how she intends to spend her final days.
This will be her first on-camera interview since making her grim announcement.
In addition to "Rhoda," Harper also starred in the sitcoms "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Valerie."
Bieber says he is 'getting better' after falling ill in London
LONDON, March 8 (UPI) -- Canadian pop star Justin Bieber said via Twitter Friday he is "getting better" after falling ill during a show at London's O2 arena Thursday night.
"getting better. thanks for everyone pulling me thru tonight. best fans in the world. figuring out what happened. thanks for the love," Bieber tweeted.
People.com quoted Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, as telling the audience at Thursday's concert the 19-year-old singer had been having trouble breathing all night.
"He got oxygen from emergency personnel. He insisted on finishing the show," his representative told E! News after the concert. "He is on the way to the hospital right now."
Mark Ruffalo says he won't play Hulk again until 'Avengers 2'
LOS ANGELES, March 8 (UPI) -- U.S. actor Mark Ruffalo said on Twitter he won't reprise his role of the Hulk until the superhero ensemble picture, "The Avengers 2," which is due out in 2015.
"A lot of folks have been asking about the Next Hulk. The next time you see my Hulk it will be in the Avengers2. No plans for stand alone," Ruffalo tweeted Thursday. "I am not giving up on another stand alone HULK. But it's not in the works right now. One never knows what the future will bring."
Ruffalo, who starred in the 2012 blockbuster "Marvel's The Avengers," played the live-action role of Banner and also the Hulk via motion-capture animation.
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]