Years ago, in the town of Worksop, a division of Nottinghamshire, England, a little boy waited for his turn in line. Children had packed the grand old theatre for the Saturday matinee and talent show, something he looked forward to every week. This time, he was going to do it. When the high-flying antics of Rocket Man and Ghost Riders were over, intermission would signal the start of the local talent show. His plan was to get right up on stage and sing.
When it came time for his debut, any anxiousness he felt melted away, and the first performance of his future career was born. Everyone in the theatre began to know who John Parr was; but no one would foresee the impact the Saturday matinee and talent show would have on John Parr.
“That was great,” says John. “I always did love the movies. That was the highlight of my week as a little boy of six, seven, eight years old … going to the Saturday morning movies. I started to win this talent show; and eventually, they let me in free.”
Parr went on to start his own band, The Silence, at age twelve and would eventually became part of another group known as Ponders End. He had considerable success with both bands and gradually started making a name for himself.
However, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that he would truly start to reap the real rewards of success in the music world. While working as a writer for an album with American hard rocker Meatloaf, Parr met John Wolfe, tour manager of the legendary band, The Who. Wolfe eventually brought Parr to America; and, because of that relationship, Parr learned much about The Who and especially of one unforgettable member. “Under A Raging Moon,” was written by Parr and dedicated to then-dead drummer of the band, Keith Moon, a member well-known for his mischievous antics. “Under A Raging Moon” was recorded by Roger Daltry, which gave him his biggest album success in America.
“They were incredible,” says Parr reflecting on The Who.
This new element was just what Parr needed to finally set his career in motion in the United States. He tasted his first big success in the American music world with “Naughty, Naughty,” a chart-climber that brought him to a #1 spot on the American rock charts. Parr then began touring with his group, “The Business,” and, by the time the tour was over, he received a call from someone else that would further enhance his career – David Foster – who, at that time, was one of the most successful record producers in the world.
Foster and Parr teamed up to write a song for wheelchair athlete and activist Rick Hensen, called “St. Elmo’s Fire” or “Man in Motion.” This song, not only brought an American Grammy nomination for Parr, but was popular around the world. It also became the theme song for the movie, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” a film that brought to life another icon for the 1980’s, known as the “Brat Pack.”
Parr’s association with Foster, and eventually the David Foster Foundation, would have a life-long impact, and would provide them both with a way of helping others. Just as when he was a little boy at the Saturday matinee and talent show, neither he nor anyone else would understand the impact this would have in his life, which now would be changed forever.
Last year on July 4, 2011, Parr put out a double album called “Letter to America,” which included some of his most popular work, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “Naughty, Naughty,” and “The Minute I Saw You,” just to name a few. It was a thorough list of his then-best and most popular songs published throughout his career.
Today, John Parr’s heart is for the military, the men and women who sacrifice themselves for their country and for others in danger. This year, his new album, “The Mission,” has hit the stores and is proving to be one of the most popular albums he’s ever created. “The Mission,” is dedicated solely to the military, with proceeds benefiting the USO and USA Cares, both organizations that support the military and their families, helping them in critical times of need.
“Human beings are always inspiring. I find it in animals, too. I find myself drawn to incredible animal stories. In my country, there’s a horse called Red Rum. That was a horse that won against the odds. In America, even before I was born, you had Seabiscuit. If I knew that story as a little boy, I would have been inspired by it. I think that kind of inspiring thing in people, and in all living things, is just what we’re capable of,” says Parr.
That human inspiration is now what John Parr lives for. He is the Ambassador for the USO, something that is near and dear to his heart.
“It’s easy. I mean, I don’t understand why more people don’t do it. I like doing it. It makes me feel good and it’s just so easy. I’m surprised more people don’t,” says Parr.
His focus is on the military’s reinsertion into civilian life after serving their country. Parr says that, with over fifty percent of them suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, he believes it to be our biggest challenge in the coming years.
“I think people thank you for your service without any real understanding of what an incredible transition it is back into ordinary life for these people. I’d like to think we’ve built some kind of an understanding but, moreover, I’d like to think we’ve had a very, very strong network of positive therapy for the Post Traumatic Stress.”
One of the solutions for suffers of PTSD, according to Parr, is the use of service dogs.
“You need special-trained animals and I would very much like to help with the program for that because I think, as simple as it sounds, the animal is with that person 24/7, whether they are feeling suicidal or not, it makes a huge difference,” says Parr.
There’s no doubt that the older military vets hold a special place for John Parr as well. He doesn’t just see an elderly person; he sees a hero and someone who was willing to risk it all for others. “Maybe he’s in a wheelchair, whatever; and you forget that he might be Bronze Star, Silver Star or Medal of Honor.” Parr says paying respect to all is the key. It’s something all who have served have earned.
As posted on John Parr’s website:
I dedicate “The Mission” to all who have served. To those who have put themselves in harm’s way and to those who have laid their lives on the altar of freedom.
“The Mission,” by John Parr can be found exclusively at Walmart Stores. Get ready for “The Mission 2,” which will be coming out early next year, says Parr. Proceeds from “The Mission” go to the USO and USA Cares for our service men and women.
“You could say I’m on a mission here,” says Parr. “I’m trying to get people to share that journey with us.”
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