Nfld. & Labrador

Ron Hynes, 'man of a thousand songs,' dead at 64

Legendary singer-songwriter Ron Hynes, who documented hope and heartbreak in his native Newfoundland for decades with songs like Sonny's Dream and Atlantic Blue, has died at the age of 64.

Close friends confirm his passing Thursday at hospital in St. John's

Singer-songwriter Ron Hynes died Thursday in St. John's. (Kent Nason)

Legendary singer-songwriter Ron Hynes, who documented hope and heartbreak in his native Newfoundland for decades with songs like Sonny's Dream and Atlantic Blue, has died at the age of 64.

Close friends of the famous musician confirmed to CBC News that Hynes died Thursday and that family are flying home.

Hynes, who had been battling cancer, was rushed to hospital earlier this week. 

Hynes, known for years as "the man of a thousand songs," was born in December 1950 in St. John's. He was raised in Ferryland.

Through a career that spanned more than three decades, Hynes became known as one of Newfoundland and Labrador's greatest singer-songwriters. His songs became commonplace in St. John's, around the bay and indeed around the world.

His songs have been covered by more than 100 artists from all over the world.

Hynes released seven solo albums, starting with Discovery in 1972. The record holds the distinction of being the first made up of all original material from a Newfoundland artist.   

Hynes was well decorated for his creative contributions, garnering seven East Coast Music Awards, including male artist of the year in 1994 and 2007, along with numerous Juno and Canadian Country Music Award nominations.

A founding member of the Wonderful Grand Band, Hynes helped form the group in 1978. He also starred as part of a show of the same name for CBC Television, contributing to the show's 40 half-hour television episodes for CBC between 1980 and 1983.

Not just a talented singer and writer, Hynes also acted on both the screen and stage in various roles since the 1970s.

In recognition of his original songwriting and his contribution and cultural heritage of Newfoundland, Hynes also received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Memorial University in 2002.

Health problems

The singer first announced that he was unwell during a performance in July 2012. A few weeks later, the singer made clear that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer and that he would be taking a break from performing.

Hynes has released seven solo albums throughout his career, starting with Discovery in 1972

"He writes tender songs but he's a tough man," Hynes's manager Lynn Horne said of the singer-songwriter at the time of his diagnosis.

"He's an eternal optimist and he's a man of strong faith and he's loved by many and their prayers and good thoughts are most welcome."

Before undergoing treatment in 2012, Hynes performed before a sold-out crowd at Mile One Centre, joined by the reunited Wonderful Grand Band, an all-star cast of Newfoundland musicians, and more than 3,000 voices in the crowd.

"He's worked so hard and he's sung so many places, and he's always performing," friend and fellow WGB member Greg Malone after that performance. "The songs of Ron and the sounds of Ron are the sounds of Newfoundland, you associate them with him."

Born in St. John’s and raised in Ferryland, Hynes is a Newfoundland icon. He is shown here in a portrait by artist Tara Feener. (Tara Feener)

The singer spoke out in March of 2013, thanking fans and colleagues alike as he accepted a special achievement award from the East Coast Music Association.

"During my recent illness, it was a humbling experience not only to have my own province, but an entire country in my corner," he said.   "It felt … unbelievable."

By the fall of that year, Hynes was back on tour, taking better care of himself, and taking care to rest his voice in preparation to record a new album.

"I have no choice in the matter, I have to keep doing what I'm doing, because if not, I might as well just lay down and die," he said at the time.

"This is what I do. This is who I am."

Hynes continued to tour and record until he began experiencing pain in his right leg, lung and rib cage while on tour this year.

He revealed last month that his cancer had returned, this time in his hip and lung.

With files from Lukas Wall


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