He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

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"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
Single by The Hollies
B-side"'Cos You Like to Love Me"
Released26 September 1969 (1969-09-26)[1]
Format7" 45 RPM
Recorded25 June and 7 August 1969
Abbey Road Studios[1]
GenreSymphonic rock
Length4:00[2]
LabelParlophone R5806
Epic 5-10532[1]
Writer(s)Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
Producer(s)Ron Richards
The Hollies singles chronology
"Sorry Suzanne"
(1969)
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
(1969)
"I Can't Tell the Bottom From the Top"
(1970)
 
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"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
Single by The Hollies
B-side"'Cos You Like to Love Me"
Released26 September 1969 (1969-09-26)[1]
Format7" 45 RPM
Recorded25 June and 7 August 1969
Abbey Road Studios[1]
GenreSymphonic rock
Length4:00[2]
LabelParlophone R5806
Epic 5-10532[1]
Writer(s)Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
Producer(s)Ron Richards
The Hollies singles chronology
"Sorry Suzanne"
(1969)
"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
(1969)
"I Can't Tell the Bottom From the Top"
(1970)

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" is a popular music ballad written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.[when?] Originally recorded by Kelly Gordon in 1969, the song became a worldwide hit for The Hollies later that year and again for Neil Diamond in 1970. It has been covered by many artists in subsequent years. The Hollies version of the song has also been featured in the film Zoolander.

Origin of the song[edit]

Scott and Russell had been introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer, at a California nightclub. Although Russell was dying of lymphoma and the pair met in person only three times, they managed to collaborate on the song. The publishing rights to the song were the subject of a legal battle following Russell's death.[citation needed]

Origin of the title[edit]

In 1884, James Wells, Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, in his book The Parables of Jesus tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy. Seeing her struggling, someone asked if she wasn't tired. With surprise she replied, "No, he's not heavy; he's my brother."[3]

In an 1918 publication by Ralph Waldo Trine titled The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit, he relates the following anecdote: "Do you know that incident in connection with the little Scottish girl? She was trudging along, carrying as best she could a boy younger, but it seemed almost as big as she herself, when one remarked to her how heavy he must be for her to carry, when instantly came the reply: 'He's na heavy. He's mi brither.'"[4]

The first editor of Kiwanis magazine, Roe Fulkerson, published a column in September 1924 carrying the title "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother", the first use of the phrase exactly as it is rendered in the song title.[citation needed]

In the 1940s, the words, adapted as "He ain't heavy, Father, he's my brother", were taken as a slogan for Boys Town children's home by founder Father Edward Flanagan.[5]

The statement is a use of paraprosdokian, a figure of speech in which the second half of the statement causes the hearer to reinterpret the first part. Often used for comedic effect, this is a rare use of the form as pathos.

Chart performance[edit]

The Hollies' recording, which featured Elton John on piano, was released in the UK on 1 September 1969 and on 1 December 1969 in the US. "He Ain't Heavy" reached #3 in the UK[6] and #7 in the US. The song, paired with "Carrie", was re-released in late 1988 in the UK following its use in a television advertisement for Miller Lite beer. It reached the #1 spot in the UK chart for two weeks in September 1988. In Ireland, the Hollies' version of the song entered the charts twice, on its first entry in October 1969 it peaked at #3 and spent 10 weeks in the charts, and on its second entry in September 1988, as a result of its Miller Lite advertisement usage, it peaked at #2.

Neil Diamond's version of the song, recorded for his Tap Root Manuscript album, went to #20 on the Billboard "Hot 100 Singles" chart in late 1970.

The Osmonds covered the song in 1971. It was a staple at concerts and was on their first pop album.

Chart (1969-2013)Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[7]16
Canadian Top Singles[8]11
Canadian Adult Singles[9]35
Germany (Media Control AG)[10]9
Ireland (Irish Singles Chart)2
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[11]15
Norway (VG-lista)[12]7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[13]5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[14]1
US Billboard Hot 100[15]7

Neil Diamond version[edit]

The Neil Diamond version bowed at #68 on the Hot 100 on 7 November 1970 [16] (UNI Records, 55264, length 2:47). The flip side was "Free Life".[17] The song appears on the Neil Diamond album Tap Root Manuscript, which was released 21 November 1970.[16] The song was played by KGB-AM radio, San Diego, California, in late 1970, prior to the then-new Walk for Mankind, in dedication to those who would be walking for donations that day.

The Justice Collective version[edit]

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"
Single by The Justice Collective
Released17 December 2012 (2012-12-17)
FormatCD single, digital download, 7" single
RecordedOctober–November 2012
Sleeper Studios, Metropolis Studios, Abbey Road Studios
(London)
Parr Street Studios, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
(Liverpool)
GenrePop rock
Length4:33
LabelMetropolis (5065001566387)
Writer(s)
  • Bob Russell
  • Bobby Scott
Producer(s)

In 2012, a version of the song was recorded, and was released on December 17, 2012, by musicians and celebrities going under the name The Justice Collective, including Melanie C, Robbie Williams, Paul Heaton, Paloma Faith, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Rebecca Ferguson, Beverley Knight, and two original members of The Hollies, Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks, for various charities associated with the Hillsborough disaster.[18]

The song went on to take the coveted Christmas number one position for 2012 on the UK Singles Chart,[19] beating The X Factor winner James Arthur, who was number one the previous week.

Background[edit]

After the News International phone hacking scandal, members of The Farm along with Pete Wylie and Mick Jones of The Clash performed at an anti-The Sun concert at the Liverpool Olympia in September 2011. Following this they formed The Justice Tonight Band and toured the United Kingdom and Europe for the next year in order to raise awareness of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.[20]

Initially, the idea was to re-release the 2009 single "The Fields of Anfield Road" by The Liverpool Collective featuring The Kop Choir; however, this idea was rejected by Peter Hooton as only a relatively small number of people would buy it. Inspired by Everton's Hillsborough tribute on 17 September 2012, the song was played at Goodison Park prior to their match against Newcastle United. It was then decided that a re-recording of this song by various artists including The Justice Tonight Band would be released as the charity single.[20]

Keith Mullen of The Farm recruited Guy Chambers to produce the single and with Chambers offering free use of his Sleeper Studios to record the song. On 25 October, Steve Rotheram, Guy Chambers and Kenny Dalglish announced plans of the single to be recorded by various artists such as Robbie Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight, Melanie Chisholm, Holly Johnson, Mick Jones, Peter Hooton, Chris Sharrock, Glen Tilbrook, Ren Harvieu, Dave McCabe, Paul Heaton, Hollie Cook, Jon McClure, John Power, Gerry Marsden, and two original members of The Hollies, Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks.[21][20]

Personnel[edit]

Musicians[22]
Production[22]
  • Guy Chambers – producer
  • Richard Flack – producer, engineer
  • Oliver Som – engineer
  • Liam Nolan – engineer
  • Chris Taylor – engineer
  • Jon Withnall – engineer
  • Tony Draper – engineer
  • Alec Brits – engineer

Charts[edit]

Chart (2012)Peak
position
Ireland (IRMA)[23]4
Norway (VG-lista)[24]17
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[25]2
Spain (Airplay Chart)[26]33
UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[27]1
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[28]1

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2012)Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[29]49

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Hollies—Epic Anthology: From the Original Master Tapes Epic Records EGK 46161 liner notes
  2. ^ Epic Records 5-10532 45 RPM
  3. ^ The parables of Jesus. Books.google.com. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  4. ^ Trine, Ralph Waldo (1918). The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit. Project Gutenberg. 
  5. ^ http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0211/feature5/
  6. ^ "UK Top 40 Chart Archive, British Singles and Album Charts". EveryHit.com. 16 March 2000. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  7. ^ "Hollies, The – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  8. ^ "RPM 100" (PHP). RPM 13 (5). 21 March 1970. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  9. ^ "RPM Adult" (PHP). RPM 12 (26). 14 February 1970. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  11. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100.
  12. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". VG-lista.
  13. ^ "Hollies, The – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
  14. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  15. ^ "The Hollies Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for The Hollies.
  16. ^ a b "I Am...I Said, A Fan of Neil Diamond". Iaisnd.com. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  17. ^ "Neil Diamond - He Ain't Heavy ... He's My Brother (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  18. ^ "Paul McCartney guests on Hillsborough charity single with Robbie Williams". Guardian UK. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  19. ^ "Hillsborough single is Christmas number one". Daily Telegraph UK. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c "Interview With Keith Mullin | Players | Interviews". Blue Kipper. 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  21. ^ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2252563/The-Justice-Collective-secure-Christmas-number-slot-outselling-X-Factor-winner-James-Arthur-45-000-copies.html
  22. ^ a b c Name (required) (2012-11-22). "Listen To ….. & Order ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ By The Justice Collective | great red north (LiverpoolFC.ca)". Greatrednorth.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 
  23. ^ "Chart Track". Irish Singles Chart.
  24. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Justice Collective – He Aint Heavy, He's My Brother". VG-lista.
  25. ^ "Archive Chart". Scottish Singles Top 40.
  26. ^ "Promusicae (Week: December 26, 2012)". Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  27. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Indie Chart.
  28. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.
  29. ^ "Top 100 Singles of 2012". BBC Radio 1. BBC Online. 31 December 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"A Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(The Hollies version)

September 18, 1988 - September 24, 1988
Succeeded by
"Desire" by U2
Preceded by
"Impossible" by James Arthur
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(The Justice Collective version)

December 23, 2012 - December 29, 2012
Succeeded by
"Impossible" by James Arthur