Joe Dynan

A Music Collaboration Project

about the joe dynan - "all the roads" - project

Joe Lee - Joe E. - Phil Dynan

There are three energies entwined in this project: Joe Lee Dynan, Joseph E. Dynan and Phil dynan

The Story behind the Project (written by Phil Dynan):


Joe lived with me in Chicago and spent all his time playing and recording music. He played in every club on the near-northside of Chicago and had quite a following. One night an agent from Columbia Records saw Joe play and invited him to sign on with Columbia. He was on his way to sign the deal when he was killed by a drunk driver in Baltimore. Joe had stopped there to tell our parents the good news. He had gone out for a walk after dinner and was struck from behind by a driver who didn't have a license - it had been revoked because of multiple DUIs. He was killed almost instantly when thrown into a tree. It was a great loss-not just for our family, but for a world hungry for original music.

I was still in Illinois at the time and when the phone rang that day I was stunned to hear that Joe had died. It is a moment burned into my mind and heart. Joe and I were three years apart and he was my closest friend, as well as my brother.

After the funeral, I went back to Illinois. After a couple of weeks, I phoned my parents to see what they were going to do with Joe's music. His reel-to-reel tapes, diaries and lyrics never left his side. He had them at the house in Baltimore. My father was angered that I called to ask. He told me that he was going to destroy all "that crap". He blamed music for Joe failing to finish high school, for having had problems with drugs (which he had successfully conquered), and blamed his death on his music as well. Dad was bitter and angry. He could not process the death of his son and we were forbidden to ask or talk about Joe from that day on. I believed Dad had destroyed Joe's music and that I would never hear it again.

Joe was 20 when he died. He had completed four albums, started a fifth, and written volumes of poetry and lyrics.

And then, almost 40 years to the date of my brother's death, I was cleaning out the last of the stuff at my parent's house. Both my parents had died and the house was already cleared out. All that was left was some old chests in a storage locker. Frankly, after a day of sorting through the junk there, I was about ready to chuck all that was left. I cleared the place out and found two chests of old family photos going back to the 1800's . . . thought I better be more careful and check out the remaining trunk. It was the last possession that my parents had left. It was at the back of the storage locker, buried at the bottom and triple locked. My younger brother Mark and I broke the locks off the final box, and as I lifted the lid, I knew what had been saved til last. Joe Lee's reel-to-reel tapes, volumes of lyrics, and personal diaries - all well preserved and in metal boxes. I sat down and cried. It was a wrenching moment. Not just for me, but because I knew the value of those tapes, his music had captured the hearts of thousands of people. I had had people calling and writing me for twenty years after he had died, wanting his music. And here it was, carefully packed and hidden away for forty years.

But reel-to-reel in an MP3 world? So, the challenge is to convert his tapes with today's technology and that is the first step to recovering the music and putting it back out there for people to enjoy.

My son, learning about the find, immediately offered to work with the music, separate it into stems and produce newly mastered work. And so, the collaboration is started!


About 20 years after my brother died, my son was born and it seemed pretty natural for me to name him Joseph, after my late brother. I had no idea that my son would also become a musician. But he is a natural musician and writer. Like my brother, he started very young and mastered most instruments.

I remember one day when Joe was quite young, we were at the Cliff House in San Francisco. The little guy saw that the grand piano was sitting idle, went over to it and started playing. Before a minute passed, the place fell silent and people started putting money in the glass on the piano. Joe was oblivious, just doing what the universe intended him to do. The music was "heavenly", as one patron said.

On another occasion, we were having dinner in Dunsmuir, California at the Blue Sky room. A trio was playing, though it was hard to hear them through the den of conversation in the restaurant. When they took a break - out of frustration with the noise, I think - Joe asked if he could play the piano. I spoke to the owner and was given permission "to play for a minute or two". Joe sat down and within a few seconds, the house went perfectly quiet. He played a jazz improv piece, composing on the spot and enthralling the patrons who remained silent for the next twenty minutes. After ten minutes, while Joe was still playing, the owner came to our table and asked if our son could play a gig the following week. He offered to pay for all of us to stay at a hotel, as Joe was too young to be on his own. Eventually, he played at the club and later played there again with his sister, Sara, who also has a "heavenly" voice.

Joe has never stopped playing music, and works at it every day, just like his uncle did before him.


I have been a working artist for over 40 years - that means I've made my living from my paintings for my entire life. Part of my drive and creative spirit can be attributed to my brother Joe. We were a few years apart in age and very close in spirit. He wrote music and sang. I wrote poetry and painted.

I thought that Joe's work had been destroyed and there are days when I still can't believe I am sitting here surrounded by his music, poetry and diaries. The diaries cover every day during the time he was working on his five albums. I can listen to a song, check the diary from the date of the album, and tell you who Joe was thinking about and why he wrote what he did. It is overwhelming at times.

So, I feel compelled to produce my brother's work in a form that will be accessible in today's world. His lyrics and melodies are still very applicable. He wrote about what all people in the beginning of their adult lives go, love and heartbreak. His lyrics capture the moment of first love the way that only an 18-year-old could see them...with virgin eyes and an open heart. His words are timeless and universal.

I am especially pleased that my son is producing the updated music, adding his own touch as he goes. Joseph is just slightly older than my brother was when he wrote the material, but the concepts in his uncle's writing are very fresh in my son's mind. As Joseph works with Joe Lee's material I can see them drawing closer in the syncronicity of the universe. They speak to each other with their music. And they will speak to you too, if you listen.

Besides organising and financing the project, I am busy working on an illustrated songbook for All The Roads. You can see some of my art at my website.

I'd like to thank those who are helping with this project in different capacities - the website,; my lovely wife, Anastasia; my sister, Denise Dynan; and Paul Simon, who provided so much inspiration to my brother and his music.

Like Graham Nash wrote "Music is Love".