St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)

Album: Best Of, 1980-1990 (1985)
Charted: 6 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • David Foster and John Parr wrote this song specifically for the movie St. Elmo's Fire, but the song itself is about a Canadian athlete named Rick Hansen, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a car crash when he was 15. On March 21, 1985 Hansen began his "Man In Motion" tour, traveling about 70 miles a day to raise money for spinal cord research. At first, Hansen had trouble getting media attention and donations, but when this song was released with the movie in June, it became his anthem, and as the song rose up the charts, interest in Hansen's journey grew. By the time the "Man In Motion" tour was completed on May 22, 1987, Hansen had put over 40,000 Kilometers (24,856 miles) on his wheelchair in 34 countries on four continents, raising $26 million. He became a national hero in Canada, where he is closely associated with this song.

    Foster, like Hansen, is from the Canadian Province of British Columbia. He is a very successful songwriter and producer who also wrote "Glory Of Love" for Chicago and After The Love Has Gone for Earth, Wind & Fire. Parr is a British singer-songwriter who had a hit with "Naughty Naughty" in 1984 that got the attention of Foster, who asked him to work on the St. Elmo's Fire theme.
  • John Parr told us how this song came together: "I wrote the lyric when we were working on the movie. David showed me a video of Rick Hansen and I was inspired to write the story of his planned epic journey to circumnavigate the globe in his wheel chair. I wrote the lyric ambiguously, so the film company would think "all I needs these pair of wheels" referred to Demi Moore's jeep when actually I am referring to Rick's wheelchair, or "for once in his life a man has his time" actually refers to when Rick would end his journey wheeling back into Vancouver with a million people lining the streets - not when Emilio Estevez finally kisses Andie Macdowell."
  • In the movie, St. Elmo's Fire is the name of a bar. A group of young actors known as "The Brat Pack" starred in the film: Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy. The phrase "St. Elmo's Fire" refers to the spectral light sometimes seen around a ship's mast.
  • John Parr didn't see the movie before he and Foster wrote the song. In his Songfacts interview, he explained: "Fortunately I didn't see the film, specifically because the phenomenal force of nature known as St. Elmo's Fire was a metaphor. To me it was the embodiment of a dream, a focus to strive towards as it glows in the sky. In the movie Rob Lowe pulls out a gas canister and tells Demi Moore not to get too hung up about her problems. He lights the gas and as it ignites he dismisses her plight as no big deal just like St. Elmo's Fire. That would have killed it for me."
  • John Parr is a British singer/songwriter who in 1984 had a #23 US hit with "Naughty Naughty" and charted two other songs on the Hot 100 from his first, self-titled album, which was reissued with "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" added to the tracklist in 1985. Parr was signed to Atlantic Records, and the label was crafting an image for him as a virile rocker, with sexually charged songs and videos.

    Parr's first album caught David Foster's attention, and when Foster needed a title song for the film, he contacted Parr. The success of the song elevated Parr's career to another level. Talking about how he handled the sudden success, he told us: "I had been a giggling musicians for 20 years prior. I started when I was a kid, so I had already seen and done it, but this time I was in the fast lane. When I got my shot I just carried on working hard, practicing, trying to get better. I had my moments but for me I love what I do and would never compromise the gift."

    Parr's next album was Running The Endless Mile, issued in 1986. It contained the theme song for the movie American Anthem, "Two Hearts," but the only track to chart from the album was "Blame it on the Radio," which reached #88. Parr, who also co-wrote the Marilyn Martin hit "Night Moves," faded from view, releasing two albums in the '90s before leaving the industry, returning in 2011 with his album Letter To America. It was a lawsuit that kept him from recording during this hiatus. "Someone in my team betrayed me," he said. "I brought a legal action against them but they were very cunning and kept the case running for almost 18 years until I got justice. During that time no label could sign me as I was in litigation and therefore unsignable. During that time my wife and I raised our two boys. I never missed a day of their childhood. Those terrible years career-wise were the greatest gift of my life."
  • The video combines clips from the movie with footage of Parr singing the song. Near the end, Parr interacts with the actors on set, which wasn't a big deal to him because the Brat Pack wasn't well known in England and Parr didn't know who they were. "I thought they were just kids," he told us. "When we were shooting it seemed like they weren't doing anything, so I was stupid enough to offer them the benefit of my experience. After all I had done a few school plays."
  • David Foster's instrumental "Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire" hit #15 in the US also in 1985.
  • In 2012, John Parr recorded a new version of this song called "Tim Tebow's Fire," in honor of the quarterback who was making an improbable run with the Denver Broncos and captivating the media. Parr got the idea when he was at ESPN's studios and producers asked him to wear a Tebow jersey as he sang this song. He spontaneously sang it as "Tim Tebow's Fire," then recorded a new version completely dedicated to Tebow a short time later. The video got nearly a million views on YouTube.
  • The song is featured in a commercial for the Android operating system that first aired on the Oscars telecast in 2016. In the animated spot, the natural enemies rock, paper and scissors find common ground and learn to celebrate their differences. No Android products appear in the ad, which closes on the tagline, "Be together. Not the same." The anti-bullying message in the spot got a lot of positive attention on social media.
  • It's not often that movie theme songs are later used in other films, but this one has shown up in the following:

    The Brothers Solomon (2007)
    Daddy's Home Two (2017)
    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

    It was also used in the 1994 episode of The Simpsons, "Sideshow Bob Roberts."
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Comments: 14

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 31, 1985, John Parr performed "St. Elmo's Fire (Man In Motion)" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV Saturday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #2 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, the following week it would peak at #1 {for 2 weeks} and it spent 22 weeks on the Top 100.....
    It reached #1 {for 2 weeks} on the Canadian RPM Singles chart and #6 on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
    The week "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" peaked at #1 on the Top 100 chart, David Foster's "Love Theme from 'St. Elmo's Fire'" was at #69, and on November 11th it would peak at #15 {for 1 week}.
  • Jeremy from Spokane, WaMy 10 year old autistic son Drew actually found this song for me if you can believe that. Since he doesn't rarely talk much. I found out he had been listening to it on his tablet for a while now. Its one of his favorite songs. So now we both jam it. And after reading about how the song was made makes it even more special. Thanks to my special son Drew. And thank you Jon Parr.
  • Travis from Colombo, Sri Lanka (ceylon)This song was played for a traning program in the hotel.I realy enjoyed listing to it and my 13 years old daughter sing's it beautifully.The song is used as the Motivation song for the Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Sri Lanka.
    Thank you,
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdThere are two themes from St. Elmo's Fire this one and the love theme, an instrumental by David Foster that became one of his few Billboard hit singles as a solo artists. His other hit was "The Best of Me" with Olivia Newton John.
  • Madison from Norway, MeI still like the song John Parr did in that Spongebob episode (Band Geeks).
  • Eric from Lewisburg, TnI read in a book about the background stories of popular songs that "St. Elmo's Fire" was actually supposed to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (1985). It also said that the Academy was very confident about the song and was certain that it would be the front-runner in the nominees. But when it was found out that it wasn't really written for the film, they had to take it out of the nominations.
  • Vikas Kuchu from San Jose, CaThis song reminds me of my escapades
    from San jose to Lake Tahoe(yr 1999)..the spectacularscenary Accent & decent into Wilderness, & pictureque snow capped Lake..Simply magnificent. I recall i got a job after an interview at the World biggest chipmaker(no pts for guessing) in Folsom. I drove a Chevy (mid size rental car) to Tahoe and heard this wonderful song... Thanks John !..

    Ofcourse i got fired a yr later ..all good things
    come to an end sadly.

    --Vikas Kuchu
  • Martin from Yorkshire, EnglandHi,i only live 3 miles from john and my mum lives about 500 meters from him.I went to see him 2 weeks ago in Doncaster at the dome.John said he couldnt get inspired to write a song for the film untill he met Rick.So the song was written for Rick.John's last album was man with a vision in 1992 from which came restless heart the theme to the running man for Arnie.Hes wrote a movie called the road to damascus a couple of years ago for which he almost won an oscar.By the way if you get a chance to see him play live,do it cos he was fantastic.
  • Mikko from Helsinki, FinlandGreat great upbeat song - the REAL 80's spirit.
    The movie was great too. I even have the poster on the wall.
  • Rob from Vancouver, CanadaThe original title was "Man in Motion" and was actually written about Rick Hansen. It was written by producer David Foster from Victoria. I love the line "you broke the boy in me, but you won't break the man".
  • Dylan from Greenville, OhThis song was playing on the radio as I was driving to my first ever job interview. I got the job. I love it.
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InI always get pumped up when I hear this song. It gives me hope and makes me look to a bright future. I've only seen the movie all the way through once, and I love the soundtrack!! Not a bad tune on it if you ask me.
  • Mia from Wellston, MiThis is in bowling for soups 1985
  • Ayns from Vancouver, CanadaThe full title of the song is sometimes listed as St. Elmo's Fire (Man in MOtion). It was the theme song used by Rick Hansen as he wheelchaired around the world for spinal cord reserach in 1986.
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