Harmony Sue Haynie is a seasoned singer and song-catcher, heavily influenced by Spirit, and the uplifting, soul-touching lyrics and wide-ranging musical styles of the Rainbow Tribe, as well as by a variety of genres: funk, folk, world-beat, gospel, and reggae, just to name a few. She is also inspired by sacred music ranging from chants in Sanskrit and Hebrew to healing yahe icaros, and currently enjoys singing with the Rogue World Ensemble, an Ashland-based choir.
What’s in a Name?
Many people ask me if Harmony is my real name… so I guess I should tell you the story… especially because my birth name, “Susan,” was a highly coveted family name that my mother and her sister argued about through at least the birth of my mom’s first daughter (finally named Kathleen). When a year later my Aunt named her first daughter Nancy, my mom called dibs on the name Susan, and a year later, there I was. Growing up, it was “Susan,” “Susie,” “Susie-Q,” “Suziekins,” “Dav-a-kat-a-sue” (if you were my parents and couldn’t remember which kid was in front of you), “Goo” (if you were my little sister Linda), “Goohead” (if you were my older brother Dave or sister Kathy and wanted to be mean), or finally, just “Sue” (once I became an extremely cool 11-year-old).
Enter in my hippie days, early twenties, being a Dead Head, and starting to attend Rainbow Gatherings. Me and friend Virginia went to our first (regional) Gathering in Vermont, the first leg of our 1988 cross-country summer tour. We immediately were struck by the almost uniform rejection of “normal” names, and so decided that we needed to adopt “Rainbow” names, as well… I began calling her “Tofu Love Sprout,” and I (thankfully) cannot remember what she called me…
The next stop on our journey was a regional Gathering in North Carolina, where we met Jeremy, a local drum-maker, and Garrett, a fiddle-playing Canadian redneck who loved Old-Timey music. We started to jam, me on guitar, Garret on fiddle, and Jeremy on drums; by the second chorus I would be singing along, harmonizing. I credit this ability to a) having musical parents and b) being drafted by my choir-director mom into every church choir possible, since about the age of five… and continuing all through school.
Well, at a certain point, Virginia and I were heading south, to the National Rainbow Gathering in Texas; Garrett had to head back to Canada, for a fiddler’s convention. As he was walking away from the car, heading over to the other side of the road to hitchhike out of our lives, he very pointedly looked at me and said “Harmony.” That’s all. Virginia started looking like she was going to explode right there on the spot. “That’s it!” she exclaimed. “That’s your Rainbow name!”
There was no stopping her after that. From then on, Virginia took great pleasure in introducing me as “Harmony Sue” everywhere we went, although I quickly denied my new nickname and begged to be called just “Sue,” which backfired when a few jokers started calling me “Justsue.” By the time we reached California, more people knew me as “Harmony Sue” than not. The nickname stuck, and after 22 years, most people know me simply as “Harmony.”
Just so the record is clear: none of this happened because I didn’t like the name Sue. In fact, I don’t feel like I abandoned my birth name at all, as much as something evolved within me, or around me, and somehow it was recognized. Or maybe it was just the crazy hippies I was hanging around with…? I will say, though, that hearing (or reading) the word Harmony every day is good to be reminded of in this crazy, chaotic world. Many days I don’t feel like I am living up to the higher meaning of my name… but then I will be reminded, through its sound and vibration, and will take a deep breath, let it out, and let go.