Originally published in The Telegram on Nov. 20, 2015
When Ron Hynes bumped into his old friend Glen Tilley - his very first producer, as he liked to call him - a couple weeks ago, he told him that his cancer was back, and had spread to his hip and lungs.
"I'm in that band now," Hynes told Tilley.
"You never wanted to be in that band, did you?" Tilley asked him.
"No, but they came looking for me," Hynes replied.
Hynes died Thursday night at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's.
Known as the Man of a Thousand Songs, Hynes was a founding member of the Wonderful Grand Band and had a singing and songwriting career that spanned more than 40 years.
His debut album, "Discovery," was released in 1972 and was the first album of all-original material by a Newfoundland artist. As a solo artist, his name and work has become synonymous with Newfoundland and Labrador culture, with songs such as "Sonny's Dream," "Cryer's Paradise" and "Atlantic Blue," his tribute to those who died on the Ocean Ranger.
Tilley, who retired from the CBC last year, remembers the first time he heard "Atlantic Blue."
"I will never in my life forget hearing that song for the first time," Tilley said. "I don't know if I breathed. People in the room were in tears. Whenever I hear that song, I think of that."
Hynes went on to earn numerous East Coast Music Awards and Juno and Canadian Country Music Award nominations.
He was presented with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Council (ArtsNL) Artist of the Year and Arts Achievement awards, an honourary Doctor of Letters from Memorial University and the St. John's Folk Arts' Council (now the Folk Arts Society) Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2013, he was presented with the Director's Special Achievement Award.
A documentary on Hynes by filmmaker William MacGillivray called "Man of a Thousand Songs" was released in 2010 and showcased Hynes' private life. He spoke of his battles with cocaine and alcohol.
Tony Murray, who manages The Ship Pub where Hynes performed, had him booked to play on Nov. 26. Even after the return of his cancer, Hynes had every intention of doing that gig, Murray said.
"The minute he was onstage he could forget everything else and he could shine at that moment." — Tony Murray
"A tough man. He was like a larger-than-life guy for us in the music business," says Murray.
Once in Halifax during the ECMAs, Murray watched an exhausted Hynes take the stage in a small pub after a day of interviews and showcases.
"As soon as the light hit him it was like he came right to life. A couple of people in the audience started crying," says Murray.
"The minute he was onstage he could forget everything else and he could shine at that moment."
Hynes, who fought throat cancer in 2012 and had been declared cancer-free afterward, recently revealed that the disease was back in his hip and lungs.
He was optimistic about recovery, saying in media interviews the cancer wasn't as serious as when it was in his throat, and he wasn't afraid. He continued playing gigs until he was rushed to hospital earlier this week by ambulance, and admitted with severe dehydration.
Friend and fellow singer/songwriter Colleen Power was invited by Hynes to play with him at his Nov. 26 Ship Pub gig. It will be her birthday. Power and Hynes had been friends for about 20 years, since he invited her to play on "11:11- Newfoundland Women Sing Songs by Ron and Connie Hynes."
"He was tough as nails. He kept on going right until the end," Power said Thursday evening, holding back tears. "We were very, very good friends and he was also my songwriting mentor. I can't even believe he's not going to be around. I don't know what we're going to do without him."
Local actor and writer Mark Critch remarked upon hearing of Hynes' death, "Ron has been a legend for as long as I can remember. The first song I ever sang was a Ron Hynes song. I often spent my last ten bucks on cover to see Ron Hynes perform. Godspeed' to Cryer's Paradise. All the best Newfoundland songs have been written now."
Hynes would have been 65 next month.