The Rambler by Graham Henderson: Sam Sniderman, “Et in arcadia ego”
The Rambler is a column by Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada. Graham writes from time to time about developments in the music industry, new trends or just about music! Let’s face it, Graham has been around for a long time and has a lot to ramble on about.
I don’t know why we find events like this shocking. We all knew Sam was very old, we all knew his health was declining, but when the news comes that an icon, someone who has inspired us our whole life, has died, it always hits us like a bolt out of the blue. The first reaction is invariably shock and disbelief which then settle into an over arching, brooding gloom that will often not lift for days. Flaubert wrote of this in Madame Bovary, saying, “Anyone’s death always releases something like an aura of stupefaction, so difficult is it to grasp the irruption of nothingness and to believe that it has actually taken place.” So it is with Sam.
Do I need to say his last name? Does anyone? If you said, “Sam is dead”, who in Toronto, who in Canada (of a certain age, at least), would not know immediately that you were referring to our Sam Sniderman, better known, perhaps, as Sam the Record Man.
Oddly, I never actually met Sam in my career as a music lawyer or industry “insider”. But I DID meet him as a fan, as a teenager in search of records, on the floor of that amazing music store – perhaps music warehouse is a more apt description. He seemed to be ubiquitous. He was unfailingly polite, and unfailingly customer-oriented and unfailingly RIGHT. He knew music inside out and could correctly answer any music question ever asked of him. And if he wasn’t there, one of his astoundingly knowledgeable employees was there to help in his place.
Anyone growing up in Toronto will have a Sam story. I grew up waaay out in the suburbs, so for me, the Sam era was ushered in with….the GO Train — in 1968 or so. The routine was simple. Up early, mom delivers a fast breakfast and you were out the door for the half hour walk to the train – in all weather. In Toronto, you disembark, grab the subway and trudge up the stairs at the Dundas station to emerge…..in the BIG CITY!! Wide eyed and breathless. And what did the big city, mean to, me? It meant Sam the Record Man. For hours I would coast up and down the aisles looking at album covers, asking questions, and eventually buying all too few records – restricted by a young boy’s allowance.
It was Sam who created the magic. Sam who had the vision. Sam who created a store like no others. Sam who literally defined an era. Sam, you will be mourned, and you will be missed but you will NEVER be forgotten. As the Romans would say in their spare, incisive language, “Ave atque Vale, Sam Sniderman”. Hail and Farewell. It falls now to us, those he left behind, to honour his memory with our recollections.
Graham Henderson is the President of Music Canada. He also writes on an eclectic range of topics on his personal blog at www.grahamhenderson.ca.