Sonny don’t go away, I am here all alone
And your daddy’s a sailor, and he never comes home
And the nights get so long, and the silence goes on
And I’m feeling so tired, I’m not all that strong
— Sonny’s Dream, by Ron Hynes
I’m foregoing the usual Five-for-Friday with a musical interlude.
A guy you’ve never heard of from a place you’ve probably never been who is famous for a song I’m guessing you don’t know the words to died yesterday. I owe him much.
I never met Ron Hynes, the Newfoundland folk singer who among hundreds and hundreds of songs wrote a barroom howler called Sonny’s Dream.
If you read the lyrics sober, it is a profoundly sad and moving song about a young man trapped in the service of his mother, long abandoned by his father for life on the seas. She implores him to never leave; he stares down the road to the cities he’s never seen and dreams of something better.
If you sing the song in a pub in a less-than-sober state, you will make friends, have a grand time, completely miss the sadness of the song, and possibly marry someone you sang with.
The song was only written in 1976, so by folk standards it’s practically brand new. But I can tell you the song was a staple in my university experience of pub crawls and beery afternoons in the watering holes hugging the Halifax harbour front.
No night in a pub was complete without an extended version of Sonny’s Dream. The entire city knew the lyrics and it was if the populace would rise as one voice to render the song, so loud was the chorus. Windows would shake. Beer mugs were slammed on dented wooden tables in time to the music. Friends were made, loves were launched, bad ideas seemed inspired thinking.
Everything was possible when we sang Sonny’s Dream.
There’s a lot of music in my roots and I won’t bore you with the details except to assure you it’s true. One of the greatest gifts we as parents ever gave our sons was cultivating their interest in music. Both are accomplished guitar players and both play sax.
Chris particularly has a gifted ear and can figure out almost any tune on guitar within minutes. When they were little, I would joke to their mother – who can strum a tune better than me, but we both know some chords – that their guitar skills would assure them new friendships in university when the day came.
I was right – Chris is a regular performer at campus house parties and always seems to have a guitar within reach. Pad is one of several Dal hockey players who perform impromptu gigs at team parties. I’ve seen the Snapchat evidence.
Songs like Sonny’s Dream are – excuse the cliché – part of the fabric of Canada. Like Four Strong Winds by Ian and Sylvia Tyson, or Blue Rodeo’s Bad Timing, or Farewell to Nova Scotia, and Neil Young’s Helpless (I could go on and on and on) it tells a story from a unique part of the country that is nonetheless all of Canada at the same time.
What a great contribution Ron Hynes made to Canada. I am grateful.
Just press play.
– – –
I was better at the gym today, thanks for asking. The workout wasn’t gruelling – it wasn’t without its moments either, but after yesterday it seemed a welcome change of pace.
Tomorrow is Saturday so a little more sleep before a little longer workout. Sounds good to me.
AUS hockey tonight (UPEI at Dal) and peewees tomorrow and then UNB at Dal.
Have a great weekend.