He’s played for the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, met Prince Charles and sung on stage with the Duke of Cambridge, and today it was the turn of the Duke of Sussex to meet rock star Jon Bon Jovi. The Bon Jovi frontman welcomed Prince Harry – who he affectionately dubbed “the artist formerly known as Prince” to the world-famous Abbey Road Studios after speaking of his “immense respect” for the royal family.
WATCH: Harry meets Jon Bon Jovi at Abbey Road Studios
Harry was making one of his last appearances as a senior member of the royal family before he steps down on March 31 and ahead of their meeting, the Livin’ on a Prayer singer said: “In light of everything that’s going on right now, I’m happy that he could take the time to be here for the choir and make it happen.”
“I don’t know what it’s like to walk in his shoes and as an American I’m further removed, but [we have] immense respect for the family and for his brother and himself, his wife, his father, his grandmother, his grandfather,” added Jon.” We have much respect for them in America. That’s all I can comment on. I don’t know what it’s like to walk in his shoes.”
Asked if he sympathised with Harry’s desire for more privacy, he replied: “I can understand completely, sure. I can’t really comment, I’m not really here. We see it on the news. It’s very different when you see soldiers at war on the news. People change the channel and then their minds aren’t on them. When we see things like what Harry and Meghan have gone through, we turn the channel off and things are over with. You don’t know what it’s like to walk in anyone else’s shoes.”
Harry and Jon in Studio 2’s control room
Jon explained how he had originally written Unbroken for a documentary about soldiers with PTSD, but wrote to the Duke last August to suggest giving it to the Invictus Games Choir. Explaining how the new recording of single had come about, Jon said: “I had been aware of the Invictus Games and I wrote a letter to Harry. I didn’t know him – I sort of held up the letter to the wind, somebody come and get this! I knew that the Invictus Games had a choir, I knew that the lyric could touch a lot of people and also as a way to give back to the people of the UK who have given me so much love and affection for nearly 40 years – I wanted to give the country a gift and so the Invictus folks responded and said yeah.”
Before meeting Harry for the first time today, he said: “In my letter I said, I’ve met your brother, he’s sung with me, I’ve met your father. I’ve met your grandmother, I’ve met your grandfather. I’ve performed for all of them! We performed at the Royal Variety Show for the Queen. I’ve met Prince Charles at an event at Hyde Park and William jumped on stage with me at Kensington Palace and sang Livin’ on a Prayer.” Asked about the Duke of Cambridge’s voice, the singer replied: “It was actually quite good! Really good, he sang great.”
Jon said of the 12-member Invictus Games choir: “I spent all day with them yesterday just getting them comfortable and confident. They’re singing for the artist formerly known as Prince,” he joked. “They were great. I think they realised the weight of doing something like this for themselves because lyrically it’s daunting, when you’re talking about suicide. They’ve lived it. Then they realised who they were singing it with and they also had to realise where they were singing it. So we all cracked Beatle jokes and made fun to lighten the mood and I went next door to buy a T-shirt and then I came back and then we had some fun singing. Because singing gives them the same enjoyment it gives me. And so we just sang and recorded it and it turned out great.”
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Harry and Jon chat to the Invictus Games choir
Jon added: “These people were from different branches of the military at different times, but they’ve come together and singing moves us as people, you sing in the shower, you feel good, you sing in the car, you feel good. You sing in a choir and you have camaraderie and you have the history in the military that brings you together and you feel good.”
He described meeting the choir as “unbelievable”, adding: “It was amazingly moving because I’m just the narrator in a fictional creation. I don’t know (what they’re going through). My three best friends growing up all joined the navy. My mother and father met in our Marine Corps. My mother served, my father served. So I was surrounded by it but I personally never did it. When you do a song like this you hope that it’s honest and they feel that in that honesty that they can support what it is – because they are the ones that are going to be on a camera singing it. And I think I got it.”
In the legendary control room of Studio Two, which has hosted The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Oasis and, more recently, Ed Sheeran, have been recorded, Jon introduced Harry to his best friend and sound engineer Obie O’Brien and Paul Prichard, the recording engineer who has been working on the single. Speaking about The Beatles, who recorded 11 out of 13 albums there, he said to Harry: “It’s not the original (mixing) board but this is the room, and what you’re seeing on camera down stairs is where they did it – this is the famous room, this is the place.”
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Harry, Jon and the choir pose for a group photo
“We’ve been gargling next door,” joked the Duke, rubbing his throat. “Warming up some!” added Jon. “We’re ready to go, let’s do it!” said Harry.
Harry then asked about how the recording had gone, and Jon told him: “I’m so excited about everything, we tweaked a couple of lyrics to make them more British-centric – the original lyric being Camp Lejuene which is where the US Marines will train, we changed little things like that. But once they got over the awe of being here, and doing this, they became a rock band. They became a rock band.”
“You had a chance to hear their stories as well?” asked Harry.
“Oh yeah, all of it,” replied Jon. “It’s touching, you know, their desire to serve.. and what they get out of singing, it keeps their camaraderie.”
The royal and the Rockstar then headed into a room to chat in private, having already recorded a clip of themselves in a sound booth which was shared on the Sussex Royal Instagram account. Meanwhile, the choir warmed up in the studio below and as they began to sing, Jon and the Duke stood at the top of the steps to listen before slowly walking down to watch up close.
As they finished to applause, Jon introduced Harry to Liz Weager, the choir’s musical director and choir manager Caroline Rawlings. The Prince told pointed at Jon and told the singers: “Awesome! You didn’t even need him! Who’s this guy?” He then shook hands and hugged members of the choir, listening to their stories and pointing out the original microphone that captured tracks by The Beatles. “This is the microphone right? You’re not allowed to touch it?”
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The pair leave the studios to recreate the famous crossing photo
Harry heard how the choir has been together since March 2016 with the newest member, Gavin Lewis, from Bridgend, joining just four months ago. “You’re a new recruit?” the Duke asked him. “And you’re Welsh? You were born with a natural voice for chorus!” Caroline Beazley overcame tongue and jaw wounds to take part, after she was shot in the lower back, jaw and hands while on patrol in Belfast in 1994. “I’ve had an injury in my face,” she told Harry.
“Singing was something that was a bit of a challenge for me. Only you guys would be in the head space to be shot through the mouth and still singing like you are. You’ve all got amazing voices. Especially the ladies. I’m not so sure about you guys,” he joked to the men. “Singing individually is one thing,” Harry continued. “Singing in the bath, we all do that. When you’re singing together, is that just completely a different experience?”
He was told they were “a family,” and veteran Andy Mudd added: “We are Unbroken. We are not all broken or damaged. That’s a dangerous narrative that has spun out over the years,” agreed Harry. “It sounds amazing, it really does,” he said of the song. “Jon wasn’t sure it was going to work.”
“When I wrote Harry the letter back in August, it was an idea,” said the rocker. “He wrote and I felt like writing back and just saying, ‘Good luck!’,” joked the Duke. “But between you guys you have made it happen. Once served, always serving,” he continued. “And not just in the military. Remember the experience you guys have had and continue making a massive difference. You were given a better toolbox to deal with what you have than the vast majority of civvies. There is this vast responsibility stays with you for the rest of your life – when it comes to mental health.”
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Harry, Susan, Jon and Andy recreate the famous crossing photo
Referring back to the song, Harry said: “It would be great to hear it performed in a stadium. I’m just glad I didn’t have to sing.” After posing for a group photo with the choir and Jon, the Duke was reunited with old friends from previous Invictus Games’ tournaments, including Nathan Jones, JJ Chalmersand David Wiseman. And outside he and Jon recreated the obligatory zebra crossing image made famous by The Beatles with choir members Susan Warner and Andy Mudd.
Susan, 60 from Belfast suffered whole body fractures in an incident in Afghanistan in 2009 and went on to compete in Orlando 2016 in swimming. Andy, 63, sang at the Invictus Games Orlando 2016. In 1989 the IRA placed an IED under his car outside married quarters. He and his wife Maggie were both injured in the explosion, and Andy lost both legs and part of his right hand. Sadly Maggie passed away from cancer in 2004.
They lined up on the famous road crossing featured on the cover of the Abbey Road album to cheers and great excitement from fans who had gathered outside.And after a few minutes of posing in the rain, Harry hugged the veterans and thanked Jon before heading to his car. “Good luck in Canada!” shouted someone from the crowd.
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