Sonnys Dream Turns 30
The song "Sonny's Dream" by Ron Hynes has been covered and recorded more than 200 times, and translated into multiple languages. Not bad for a tune Ron wrote in just 10 minutes when he was 25 years old.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of "Sonny's Dream" and in August, Ron was awarded a special plaque honouring his song during the annual Shamrock Folk Festival in Ferryland - Ron's birthplace. He spoke with Downhome's Kristine Power about this iconic song and how it has stayed so popular after three decades.
Q. How does it feel to have a 30-year-old song?
A. It feels surprising and it feels really gratifying at the same time. To have any song in your repertoire that people like for 30 years feels good.
Q. Was there anything different about the writing process of "Sonny's Dream"?
A. I don't have a process for writing songs. I just write them when they come...I got the idea for it and I just wrote it down really fast, and didn't really think much more about it. I didn't even sing it for a year.
Q. Do you get annoyed when people request the song?
A. No. Never. I find something new in it every time I sing it...I have sung it practically every night of my life for 30 years...I might appear downtown St. John's and I know I have someone in the audience who has driven all the way from Carbonear to hear "Sonny's Dream."
Q. Why is this song so important to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?
A. I don't know. I have never been able to figure it out..."Sonny's Dream" is not a radio hit...it's an underground song...people take it on themselves and it's like it isn't even mine. It belongs to them. It is a song that is part of the fabric of their lives...In truth it came from family experiences. My father stayed at sea after the war, so he was the sailor who never came home. My uncle Sonny, who is Mom's younger brother, Thomas O'Neil, lives in Trepassey now. He grew up in Long Beach, a pretty isolated community. I spent most of my summers there. He taught me to play guitar and I have his guitar now that he bought at O'Briens music store in 1953."
Q. Do you remember when and where you first sang "Sonny's Dream?"
A. It was at the LSPU Hall in St. John's in 1977.
Q. Does anything stand out about that night? How did the crowd react?
A. I have a vague memory of it. I just remember being at the hall and saying, "This is a brand new song." Another thing I remember is that I sent it to the American Song Festival. That was the only thing I did with it in '76. I made a home cassette, a demo, just so I would have it and I entered it into the American Song Festival and it lost. They [the organizers] sent back the tape and on the flip side, they did a critique of the song. And I still have that tape.
Q. What criticism did you receive?
A. He said he really liked the song. It's got a nice melody and nice lyrics, but there is something missing. And he recommended that I listen to radio and find all the songs that were hits, and try and find out what was in those songs that was missing from my song.
Q. And you didn't listen to his advice?
A. Thankfully no. Because here we are now 30 years later. It's still a song of the people. In time all songs become songs of the people if they last because when the author passes away, the song remains in his estate for 50 years and then the song becomes public domain. It becomes traditional music. So in time all songs belong to the people.