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The Star Phoenix
September 27, 2001

War Songs Hit Home For McDermott

By Cam Fuller

No entertainer in Canada is associated as closely with war veterans as John McDermott.

With the world on the brink of creating a whole new generation of veterans, McDermott finds himself touring at a difficult time.

In light of the recent terrorist bombings, "I miss my family more. I don't particularly like being on the road but for two hours a night, it's magic,'' McDermott said recently.

One of the biggest honours of his life had to be postponed when McDermott was due to receive the Bob Hope Award in Boston three days after the Sept. 11 attack. It's voted on every two years by members of the Congressional Medal of Honour Society and is given to an entertainer whose career has served or positively portrayed veterans.

"It was such an honour to have it voted on by these Medal of Honour recipients. And they voted for me. That's pretty staggering,'' said McDermott.

He's earned the distinction. His main cause is homeless veterans. Last year in Boston, he opened the Hope McDermott Day Program Centre, named after his mother. It helps veterans make the transition to self-sufficiency. In 1999, he opened The McDermott House in Washington, a housing co-op for veterans. He's been a guest at the White House on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs. And he contributes to numerous causes, like Boston's New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, which named him their Man of the Year in October of 1999.

McDermott is revered for his versions of war songs like The Green Fields of France, A Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square and We'll Meet Again. The events of Sept. 11 haven't discouraged him from choosing that kind of material. In fact, the songs are stronger than ever. In concert, One Small Star is dedicated to the families of the victims. Back to You, a song about returning to Canada, hits home even harder now.

"That's taken on a whole new meaning.''

The concert isn't too sad, however. On the tour with McDermott is Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle, who wrote And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

"Eric will have you in the aisles with a song called Endangered Species,'' McDermott said. "It's absolutely hysterical.''

McDermott has also discovered Saskatoon's own Eileen Laverty, who's been hired to open four or five shows on the tour, starting in Saskatoon.

"After listening to her CD I knew my audience would enjoy her,'' McDermott said.

"She's just good. She's really good.''