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(June 13, 2002, Gazette)

May 29, 2002, 10 a.m.
Address to Convocation by Dr. Ron Hynes:

Dr. Ron Hynes"It’s not that you don’t know nothin’.
It’s just that you don’t know that you don’t know nothin’ (Noel Dinn)."

That statement from a pioneer in the resurgence of traditional song in the musical community may very well describe my state of mind and awareness of my surroundings in ’67 when I left Ferryland and came to St. John’s to enter Memorial University.
Suffice to say I tumbled head first into MUN without a clue as to why I was doing so, or what the end result would be. I would later come to realize that I’d come to university simply because that’s what everyone else in the grade 11 class from St. Joseph’s Central High was doing, as were hundreds of students from numerous central high’s all over the province.

Ferryland in those days had not yet built Baltimore Regional High. There was not yet any notion of starting an archeological dig or an annual folk festival celebrating life on the Irish Loop, and Gerry Squires was still a few years away from a life of artistic solitude as artist in residence at the Ferryland lighthouse.

But somewhere amongst the cross purposes of NHL hockey and Bob Dylan, Holy Trinity Church and the Beach Boys, The Fermeuse Fish plant and Johnny Cash, and the rift between those who saw Bonanza and those who saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I had developed a wonderful obsession with original song and with the elusive realm one had to reach to create good song. And what is that? A good song!

Our songs have colored the fabric of our lives in the province of Newfoundland for some four hundred years, and our very existence as a people has been written down by singers and bards and poets long gone. But their songs survived. And why? Because they were good songs. Because they touched us on some level that spoke to us of who we were, and of what we loved, and why.

Once back in ‘76 I thought I’d written a good song so I sent it off together with a cheque for $25 to the American Song Contest. I received the tape back some time later with a critique on side B from an industry professional. I really like this song, he said. Good melody. Good lyrics. But there’s something missing. Further he advised listening to radio more to determine what was contained within those songs that was obviously missing in mine.

I’m happy to say I ignored the professional advice and that same song with the simple melody and even simpler lyric called Sonny’s Dream would eventually pay the interest on a long overdue student loan as well as sell several million copies around the world. Who knew? In those days there was only a rumor of industry where good songs had tremendous financial worth. This new era of creative endeavor finds our songwriters at the forefront of the country’s musical landscape, touring, recording, cowriting with industry professionals, participating in songwriting workshops and conferences that focus the writers intent toward creating songs that will have success in the universal music industry.

And as unavoidable as it was that we would come to that point, let us hope that we never lose sight of the desire to still write of ourselves and the land and the people who nurture and encourage us. And if you do get a hit song along the way, well more power to you. The truth as I’ve learned it dictates that you have to base your work in what you know, and not in what you think you know. If the intent of your creation is the industry award, or the shot at media stardom in an unforgiving and extremely forgetful arena, you will fall short in the long run. And the work will not last. And that’s about as preaching as I’m willing to get here today except to say just this.

All songs eventually become the property of the people. The people need to feel a sense of themselves in what we strive to create. They need to feel pride in what we do create. They deserve the right of disappointment if we don’t always measure up. And we won’t always measure up.

But at the end of a sunny day on any shore in any part of the province, the people now and then just need to hear a good song.
I want to thank the university for it’s kind recognition of my work and I hope to be able to deliver the odd "good song" for a long time to come.

My congratulations to all the graduates here today and I wish you all a world of success and achievement and only the best of life.