Nfld. & Labrador

Legendary Newfoundlander Ron Hynes waltzes into Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame

The "man of a thousand songs" will be honoured in the country's Songwriters Hall of Fame with a special ceremony during the East Coast Music Awards in St. John's.

'Godfather of Newfoundland culture' being inducted five years after his death

Ron Hynes died in 2015 at age 64, but the prolific Newfoundland singer-songwriter will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame during a special ceremony in St. John's on Apr. 30. (Submitted by Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame)

In the hearts of many Newfoundlanders, the prolific songwriter known as the "man of a thousand songs," Ron Hynes, has been a hall of famer for decades. 

Now the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame will honour his lifetime of work within its Calgary walls. 

"We've been waiting for the perfect opportunity for somebody like Ron Hynes, and what could be better than St. John's, N.L., for the East Coast Music Awards?" says Vanessa Thomas, executive director of the organization. 

Hynes died in 2015 at the age of 64, but his family will be on hand to mark the moment with his nephew, author and actor Joel Hynes, accepting the award on his behalf. 

Hynes performs in October 2013 in Wolfville, N.S., during a performance for CBC's Vinyl Cafe. (Jeffrey Dreves)

Calling Ron Hynes the "godfather of Newfoundland culture," the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame said he'll be honoured in front of a hometown crowd during the awards show Apr. 30 at Mile One Centre. 

He always remained a hopeless romantic and always optimistic.- Heather McKinnon

Thomas said already "the excitement around it is astounding." And the moment will be extra-special as Frank Davies, a friend of Hynes, "legendary producer, and founder of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame" will present the induction 15 years after Hynes gave Davies the hall of fame's special achievement award. 

Vanessa Thomas, executive director of the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, says it was important to the organization to induct Hynes in front of a hometown crowd. (Submitted by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame)

With a number of awards for his music, acting chops, and his classic folk song Sonny's Dream covered more than 200 times by everyone from fellow Newfoundlanders Great Big Sea to American Grammy winner Emmylou Harris, Thomas said Hynes is "absolutely a Canadian legend, icon, and inspiration for many, many artists."

"Everybody knows he's larger than life," said the director of the non-profit organization. 

A tough decision

Thomas said inductees are honoured in the hall of fame's exhibit at the National Music Centre in Calgary so the public can learn about them. 

"We ask for certain handwritten lyrics, or a guitar, or something special that encompasses his songwriting that we can put on display," she said, plus they incorporate lyrics into the award. 

Heather McKinnon is Hynes's niece and the executor of his estate, so she worked with the rest of his family members to choose those perfectly fitting lyrics. 

Heather McKinnon says the family has chosen a lyric from Hynes's famous St. John's Waltz to be honoured in the award. (CBC)

The line, "in a world of romance, don't miss out on the chance to be dancing the St. John's waltz," from St. John's Waltz won. 

"We know he had his demons, but he always remained a hopeless romantic and always optimistic. That's why he kept writing and performing even while he was battling cancer. And I'd like him to be remembered that way, and that song was a love song to a city," said McKinnon. 

She said the line makes her think of people waltzing in the Basilica at the end of his funeral, as musicians joined to play the song and Joel Hynes carried out his uncle's urn. 

Hynes's funeral ended in 2015 with the congregation singing the St. John's Waltz and with many people even waltzing in the aisles. (CBC)

Just as they often did at "his most famous venue," the Ship in downtown St. John's, said McKinnon. 

"That always reminded me of a happy time."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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