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]
GenrePop
Length4:00[2]
LabelParlophone R5806
Epic 5-10532[1]
Writer(s)Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
ProducerRon 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]
GenrePop
Length4:00[2]
LabelParlophone R5806
Epic 5-10532[1]
Writer(s)Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
ProducerRon 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. 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.

Contents

Origin of the song

Scott and Russell had been introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer, at a California nightclub. Despite the fact that Russell was dying of cancer of the lymph nodes and that 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

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"; variations on the phrase are attested as early as 1884.[3] The phrase is also associated with Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. Flanagan came across a line drawing of a young boy carrying his brother in the Christmas 1941 edition of the Louis Allis Messenger. The caption read "He ain't heavy Mister—he's m' brother!" It was created by Mr. Van B. Hooper who later became the editor of Ideals. The drawing was reprinted in the first issue of Ideals in December 1944. Flanagan felt that the drawing illustrated the work done at Boys Town and received permission from the company in August 1943 to recreate the drawing in color with the caption "He ain't heavy, Father . . . he's m' brother." The phrase became the motto of Boys Town. 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.'"

It was also reported through the media at the time that the song was written by a Vietnam veteran. He and his company were approaching a town after it had been bombed. A little boy was carrying the dead body of a younger boy away from the burning village. One of the soldiers asked the boy if the dead child was heavy? The child responded, "He's not heavy, he's my brother."[citation needed]

The statement is an (unwitting) 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

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[4] and #7 in the US. The song, paired with "Carrie Anne", 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.

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.

Chart (1969)Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 75)[5]16
Canadian Top Singles[6]11
Canadian Adult Singles[7]35
Germany (Media Control AG)[8]9
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[9]15
Norway (VG-lista)[10]7
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[11]5
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[12]3
US Billboard Hot 100[13]7

Neil Diamond version

The Neil Diamond version was released as a single on 7 November 1970 [14] (UNI Records, 55264, length 2:47). The flip side was "Free Life".[15] The song appears on the Neil Diamond album "Tap Root Manuscript", which was released 21 November 1970.[14] The song was played by KGB 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.

Cover versions

In 1988, Bill Medley recorded a version for the end credits of the film Rambo III. This version, produced by Giorgio Moroder, was released in the UK as a single around the same time as the re-issued Hollies version, and both featured in the "Top 40" simultaneously, Medley's version reaching #25.

The song has been recorded by many others, including:

References

  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. http://books.google.com/books?id=41kHAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA163&dq=%22he's+not+heavy%22&hl=en&ei=KO5FTObJCYT68AaMuZmQBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=14&ved=0CGYQ6AEwDQ#v=onepage&q=%22he's%20not%20heavy%22&f=false. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  4. ^ "UK Top 40 Chart Archive, British Singles and Album Charts". EveryHit.com. 16 March 2000. http://www.everyhit.com/. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  5. ^ "Hollies, The – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Hung Medien.
  6. ^ "RPM 100" (PHP). RPM 13 (5). 21 March 1970. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?&file_num=nlc008388.3769&type=1&interval=20&PHPSESSID=m89iq841abagb37ld9c0fdc1f33. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  7. ^ "RPM Adult" (PHP). RPM 12 (26). 14 February 1970. http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?&file_num=nlc008388.7852&type=1&interval=20&PHPSESSID=m89iq841abagb37ld9c0fdc1f33. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (in Dutch). Mega Single Top 100. Hung Medien / hitparade.ch.
  10. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". VG-lista. Hung Medien.
  11. ^ "Hollies, The – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart. Hung Medien.
  12. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Official Charts Company.
  13. ^ "The Hollies Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for The Hollies. Prometheus Global Media.
  14. ^ a b "I Am...I Said, A Fan of Neil Diamond". Iaisnd.com. http://www.iaisnd.com/biography.cfm?id=70. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  15. ^ "Neil Diamond - He Ain't Heavy ... He's My Brother (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. http://www.discogs.com/Neil-Diamond-He-Aint-Heavy-Hes-My-Brother-Free-Life/release/1325092. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 8th Edition (Billboard Publications), page 455.
  17. ^ Hyatt, Wesley (1999). The Billboard Book of #1 Adult Contemporary Hits (Billboard Publications), page 180.
Preceded by
"A Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins
UK Singles Chart number-one single
(The Hollies version)

18 September 1988
Succeeded by
"Desire" by U2