The power went out in St. John’s after Ron Hynes died. And even the Man of a Thousand Songs couldn’t have written it like that.
In Newfoundland, we are saying goodnight to a legend. And when we wake up in the morning, for songwriters like me, it will be a different sort of craft.
Newfoundland songwriters have always paid tribute to Ron Hynes. We have played his songs at kitchen parties and stood in awe of a particular turn of phrase or melody structure. We did impressions of him and laughed and laughed. But what’s more, we drank with him. We shared stages with him and we got to be lifted by his vote of confidence and berated by his sharp tongue and sometimes in the same breath.
In St. John’s, there was little separation between Ron and those of us who looked up to him so. Ron was around. A fellow who was called “a living legend” for the last several decades of his life. So celebrated here at home that when he was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the folk festival in 2006, he looked at me and said “Hello, I used to be Ron Hynes”, just before walking on stage to receive it.
From now on, we are telling you a story of us. Because every Newfoundland songwriter is after the legacy of Ron Hynes. And we have always known that. We have always been proud of that. Now, it is something a little weightier than before. Now, as a Newfoundland songwriter, it is a responsibility.
We’re losing legends in music. We’re getting used to saying goodbye and things have changed so drastically I don’t think we’re in the business of creating legends anymore. To be alive now, in whatever skip generation allowed me to both admire Ron Hynes and to know Ron Hynes, well . . . I’m honoured for it.
There are poignant and beautiful things that make themselves very apparent in times like this. Now, I haven’t looked it up, and maybe it’s our outdated electricity grid or maybe some poor sap ran into a hydro pole somewhere, that doesn’t matter. What matters, what’s apt, is that the power went out in St. John’s after Ron Hynes died.
And that’s what a lot of us will remember about that night. How, at around 7:30pm the news started to roll. How at around 7:45 I went on automatic pilot and headed to the Ship Pub. How, at around 8:05, the lights went out.
How candles were lit and the door remained open. How more and more people came into the pub and ordered a whiskey and peered into the other faces in the crowd for recognition. And some were devastated and some were compelled to respectfully celebrate.
At around 11:30, the lights came on again. When I left the pub at 1:00am, they were still parking their cars, and packing the bars, and dancing the St. John’s waltz.