The Coolest Black Family in America, No 30: The Tyneses

The Coolest Black Family in America, No 30: The Tyneses

Bobby and Tracy Tynes, the husband-wife team of smooth jazz band Never Say Never, make beautiful music together

by Alexandra Phanor-Faury, November 25, 2013

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The Coolest Black Family in America, No 30: The Tyneses

It’s been said time and again that one of the quickest ways to destroy a relationship is by spending too much time with the one you love. The Tyneses would beg to differ. Bobby and Tracy have never subscribed to the long-standing adage of “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” They believe the depth of their extraordinary bond is thanks in part to all the time they share.

“We do everything together. We commute to and from work together, we work together, we play in the same band together and we spend the weekends together,” reveals 49-year-old Bobby, a saxophonist and assistant principal at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tracy, also a singer, has worked as a nurse for the last 17 years. “A student asked me, ‘Don’t you ever get sick of each other?’ and the truth is, never. There is such an ease to everything we do together,” adds Bobby.

The two first met at the school back in 2004. “People may think, how can we possibly spend that much time together without driving each other nuts? But I think we break the mold,” adds Tracy. “Everything is that much better because we do them together. I couldn’t imagine not spending so much time together.”

Not everyone is fortunate enough to find their true love, and Tracy and Bobby know just how blessed they are. Prior to falling for each other in 2007 and becoming inseparable, they were both in marriages that were far from effortless. “It’s smooth sailing with us, but that wasn’t the case in the past,” shares Tracy, who got married at 18 after graduating from nursing school. “I was very young when I got married, and the way I was raised, you stay married because that’s the right thing to do.

“I turned 40 and knew there was more for me in life,” she continues. Her ex-husband was 10 years older and White. “The cultural differences between us were always an issue. There were constant reminders in public of how it wasn’t easy to be accepted as an interracial couple. It was a battle I was always fighting against,” reveals Tracy.

As for Bobby, his decision to get married at 39 was mired in doubt. “I went into my first marriage thinking, what am I doing?” explains Bobby. Similar to Tracy, Bobby was also in an interracial relationship. Although cultural differences were at the center of Tracy’s troubled first marriage, Bobby’s divorce was mostly the result of incompatibility.

“I married the wrong person, except in God’s eye it was the right person because out of it came my daughter. There will always be societal issues in an interracial relationship, but love should supersede that. But when it’s not the right fit, it’s just not the right fit,” says Bobby, who points to Tracy and his shared ethnic backgrounds (he is African-American and Tracy is Cape Verdean) and their respective large families as common traits that make them well-matched pair.

“Tracy and I were married when we first met,” he says. “There wasn’t a love attraction, but there was a sense of, ‘Wow, this woman is a good person and we get along well.’ We later realized we had something here.”

“I loved the way he loved his mother, his aunts and his siblings,” says Tracy. “I wanted to be loved that way. I also loved the whole idea of our cultures becoming one. These were things I longed for but didn’t even know it. Being in a relationship with Bobby was like finally coming home.”

Tracy has a 30-year-old daughter from a past relationship preceding her ex-husband. For her, this homecoming also meant a return to God. While she was raised in the church, as an adult, Tracy stopped attending. It wasn’t until she started dating Bobby that she recognized how much she yearned to restore her tie with God.

“One of the first things we did when we came together was get into the church as a couple, and we have not let God go since. God is at the center of our relationship,” says Tracy. “Our relationship was designed and planned by God. We have to continue to give thanks for it,” says Bobby.

The love of creating music comes a close second to God at the heart of their marriage. It was jazz that first led them to one another. “People at work would tell me we should hook up to make music because she is a singer. I was in a band at the time, and she was also in a band. My band needed a singer and she ended up working with us,” recalls Bobby.  

Music has always played an essential role in both their lives. Bobby was raised in a musical household. His uncle was a well-known pianist, his dad a drummer who played with B. B. King, and his mom sang in the church choir. Since he was 10, Bobby has been playing the saxophone and later attended Berkeley College of Music. “The saxophone is an extension of me. Playing and exploring music is truly something I never get tired of doing,” he says. “It’s an outlet, a challenge and a passion.”

The healing power of music got Tracy through a very rough time in her life following the devastating sudden death of her 9-year-old nephew to meningitis 15 years ago. She always loved listening to music, but when her nephew passed, she couldn’t bare to listen to any music. “I was so depressed. I felt there was nothing good in the world. How could I listen to music with my nephew gone?”

One year to the day of her loss, Tracy woke up one morning and decided she needed to live again. “I thought, ‘I need to sing,’ and I never sang before because I was very shy. I got on the phone and booked my first voice lesson. Before you know it, I developed a song book and started performing.” After her first year of singing, Tracy had booked over a hundred gigs. “My nephew was my guardian angel. He gave me a very special gift.”

Writing and composing music together was part of Bobby and Tracy’s courting ritual, and it helped their relationship blossom. Many of the themes in Tracy’s love songs, written years before meeting Bobby, were coming to fruition now that they were together. “It was less coincidental than meant to be. We create beautiful music together, and I’m attracted to her. How much better does it get?” asks Bobby.

Tracy’s singing style once leaned more towards the folk genre, but when she started collaborating with Bobby it morphed into a soulful R&B sound. In 2008 they formed their smooth jazz band, Never Say Never. “It’s about never giving up on your dreams. For us we went through the storm and came out winners,” explains Bobby. Never Say Never performs four to six times a month at local jazz clubs and private functions.

“We always have music on the brain. We work all week and we’ll have these gigs on the weekend and think, how are we going to this? Somehow we have more energy on three hours of sleep than if we slept for 15 hours because we love it,” exclaims Tracy. In between performing with their nine-piece band, Tracy and Bobby are also pursuing a songwriting career penning songs for other artists.

A year after forming their band, Bobby proposed to Tracy in 2009 the old-fashioned way: by first asking her father for her hand in marriage.

“I always dreamt of someone like her. I can’t believe we have each other. I’m sitting here trying so hard not to cry. My life is so much richer because of her. It’s not perfect. But I don’t want perfection, I just want love,” says Bobby. The wedding was a modest affair, with only immediate family and close friends. They wanted to elope to keep things simple and budget-friendly, but their parents really wanted to witness them exchanging their vows.

The wedding took place in the chapel at their church, and for the reception, they rented a two-floor suite in a hotel. They got a ton of Chinese food, wine and champagne to celebrate. It was a dream come true for Tracy. “I felt like for so long I had this concept of what it was I wanted in a marriage and finally this was it. I still feel the same today.”

 
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