Listen: Tony Dee chats to Clare Bruce.
When the producers from the UK’s Channel 4 first approached Aussie Tony Dee asking him if he’d like to perform in the Paralympics commercial We’re the Superhumans, he thought it was a prank.
A full-time finance guy and a part-time singer from Brisbane, starring in an international TV commercial (below) was something he’d never thought of in his wildest dreams.
But that’s exactly what’s happened, and my, how it’s changed his life. More than 36 million views later, Tony now has international recognition and opportunities to sing that he never expected.
Tony, who was born with spina bifida and gets around in a wheelchair, said the Sammy Davis Junior song Yes I Can that features in the video, was not only from his favourite genre of music – swing and ‘Rat Pack’ era – it also has a personal resonance. Its lyrics are about facing life’s challenges and deciding that they won’t stop you from doing courageous things.
“I’m sure it had a meaning for Sammy Davis Junior as well,” Tony told Hope 103.2, “because it refers to him being a skinny little coloured guy, and he could do things in spite of that. Even though he was nervous, afraid, he could have a go.”
The video was filmed at over 60 locations in the UK, and Tony appeared at most of those locations, singing in all kinds of scenarios: spinning along a wheelchair basketball court with a team crashing around him, gliding around a wheelchair race track, sitting in the middle of a tarmac with a stunt car doing burnouts in front of him, and even smashing through a plate glass window.
Thankfully for Tony, he had a little help from a stunt double for the glass window scene.
He said that meeting the other participants in the commercial was a buzz, particularly the musicians, who he spent the most time with.
“Many of the musicians stayed at the same hotel so we’d hang out together socially and go to dinner after a long day in front of the camera and got to know a few of them really well.”
Alvin Law, the drummer who drums solely with his feet, was one particularly fun guy to get to know, said Tony.
“He’s a wonderful guy. He comes from Canada, he is a professional motivational speaker, and very positive in his own personal life as well.”
How Faith Has Changed Tony Dee’s Outlook on Life
Tony himself is a very positive person, and a man of deep Christian faith. He said that coming to faith early in life has helped him handle life’s challenges, including his disability.
“I grew up with Christian parents and went through a period of wandering or maybe not really understanding the personal relationship with God, and trying to follow a bunch of rules, which, the more I tried to follow, the worse I got at it,” he said.
“One day I heard a message about people trying to live a Christian life without Christ and that hit me between the eyes because that was what I was doing.
“After that encounter, I really knew that God loved me, and that included my disability.”
“So things became more personal with God after that. And a bit later I had an encounter at a retreat that helped me to see how unconditional and just ‘forever’ God’s love is for me, how infinite it is, without any need to earn it. So I just moved on from there, onwards and upwards.
“In the beginning stages [of my disability] I didn’t cope that well and thought that maybe I wasn’t on God’s best-liked-people list. But after that encounter, I really knew that God loved me, and that included my disability, that included everything about me. So knowing you’ve got a God on your side and loves you and is for you, and wants you to thrive, makes it a lot easier to attempt things and be brave.”