John Parr – St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)

First Hit #1: September 7, 1985

St. Elmo’s Fire is a strange song, not because of anything that is actually in the song – it’s really not too far off from yesterday’s Power of Love – but because of the dual life the song took on. One was part of the film St. Elmo’s Fire, the other being part of Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion world wheelchair journey – a two year trip where he wheeled through four continents raising money for spinal cord research, before the journey ended on my second birthday. These two purposes might seem at odds with each other – though I am not familiar enough with the film to know if the plot revolves around wheelchairs – but it actually sort of works anyway. The reason is that it’s a bit of generic uplift, and even as the song specifically references Hansen – the line about breaking the boy but not the man refers to Hansen becoming a paraplegic at 15 due to an accident – it also kind of just relates to being a teen in general. Somehow, it manages to be both incredibly specific and completely generic, which seems to be a contradiction but is somehow possible. If you don’t know about Hansen, it makes as much sense as anything for it to be the theme of a teen movie.

Also, if you lived in Canada during at any point from 1985 to present – and I have exclusively lived in Canada from 1985 to present – you have heard this song about a billion times. The Man in Motion tour was a huge deal, and Hansen remains one of the country’s major figures in both sport and charity work. That I’m somehow not sick of it also can speak highly of the song.

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One Response to John Parr – St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)

  1. RBerman says:

    Regarding the movie: It’s about a bunch of young adults trying to figure out their lives. No paraplegics in sight, as far as I recall. The song, like the soundtrack whence it came, is basically a David Foster vehicle. This recording happened to be sung by John Parr, but it could have been anyone; on the David Foster DVD I have, it’s sung (well, I might add) by some American Idol. Like many David Foster songs, there’s a step-and-a-half key modulation, the same one favored by Jonathan Coulton these days. The chugging shuffle beat gives the song a great drive. The lyrics may find added meaning for Rick Hansen, but like “Eye of the Tiger” all it really says is that people can overcome obstacles through perseverance. As noted before, a very 80s message.

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