He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Single infobox
Name = He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Artist = The Hollies
B-side = "'Cos You Like to Love Me" (Hicks)
Released = 1969-09-01 (UK) 1969-12-01 (U.S.)
Format = 7"
Recorded = 1969
Genre = Pop music
Length =
Label = UK: Parlophone R5806
US: Epic 10532
Producer = Ron Richards
Writer = Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
Chart position =
* #3 (UK Singles Chart 1970)
* #1 (UK Singles Chart 1988)
* #7 (U.S.) (1970)
Last single = "Jennifer Eccles" (1968)
This single = "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (1969)
Next single = "Sorry Suzanne" (1969)

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" is a popular music ballad, the first-released and best-known version of which was recorded by The Hollies in 1969. One of the group's biggest hits, it became one of the most definingFact|date=May 2008 and enduringFact|date=May 2008 tunes of that era.

Chart performance

Bob Russell's son-in-law, Jefferey Spearitt was able to introduce "He Ain't Heavy" to the Hollies in the summer of 1969 while residing in London and the record was released on September 1, 1969. The US release was 3 months later - December 1, 1969. "He Ain't Heavy" shot up the charts reaching #3 in the UK [ [http://www.everyhit.com/ EveryHit.com] ] and #7 in the United States. The song was also re-released in late 1988 in the UK following its use in a television advertisement for Miller Lite beer; it was paired with "Carrie" on the re-release. It was also used in an anti-drug commercial. "He Ain't Heavy" finally reached the #1 spot in the charts for two weeks in September 1988 with this re-release.

Origin of the song

"He Ain't Heavy" was composed by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell. The pair had been introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer at a California nightclub. Despite the fact that Russell was dying of lymphosarcoma (cancer of the lymph nodes) and that the pair met in person only three times, they managed to turn out the song. Bob would never have given up the publishing and Bobby Scott agreed to Bob's company, Harrison Music Corp. publishing He Ain't Heavy. However, Bobby Scott waited until Bob Russell was on his death bed of Feb. 1970 and purposely never signed the papers. A courtroom drama ensued after Bob's passing.

The Hollies soon recorded the emotional ballad, featuring the piano talents of Elton John, and with lead singer Allan Clarke providing a heartfelt rendition of the lyrics. The song had been discovered by the group's guitarist Tony Hicks as a publisher's demo.

Origin of the title

Roe Fulkerson/Kiwanis Magazine

In 1924, the first editor of Kiwanis Magazine, Roe Fulkerson, published a column carrying the title "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". Dated September 1924, the article speaks of Fulkerson's inspiring encounter with "a spindly and physically weak lad" carrying a baby and "staggering towards a neighboring park".

" 'Pretty big load for such a small kid' I said as I met him. 'Why, mister,' he smiled, 'He ain't heavy; he's my brother.' "

Father Flanagan/Boys Town

The phrase is also associated with Father Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town. Father Flanagan came across a line drawing in the Christmas 1941 edition of the Louis Allis Messenger, a company publication. The "Two Brothers" line drawing of a young boy carrying his brother featured on Page 44, in gold & black ink. 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 Magazine. The drawing was subsequently repeated in the first issue of Ideals in December of 1944.

The Girls and Boys Town website recounts the subsequent story: "Over the years, Father Flanagan had seen numerous examples of boys helping each other in a fashion similar to the one depicted in the publication. He thought the drawing would be a perfect example to illustrate the work done at Girls and Boys Town. Father Flanagan contacted the company in August of 1943 for permission to reproduce the two boys in full color and to change the caption to 'He ain't heavy, Father . . . he's m' brother.'" Consequently, the phrase became the motto of what was then known as Boys Town, now Girls and Boys Town, and the image became the universal, enduring image of the organisation. The story of Father Flanagan was told in the 1938 movie "Boys Town" starring Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.

Vietnam photo

Another explanation for the origin of the title "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" is that of a Vietnam War photo. Supposedly, the image depicted a GI carrying a Vietnamese man on his back. The journalist had asked if he had been carrying him far, and the soldier had smiled at the camera and said, "He ain't heavy, he's my brother." Fact|date=January 2008

Cover versions

The earliest recording of the song was made by Neil Diamond, from the "Taproot Manuscript" album, but as this recording was not released until after The Hollies' version (in 1969), it is often mistakenly listed as a cover version. Cover versions have been recorded by (among others): The Osmonds in 1971, and again in 1975. The Osmonds consider it a theme song, and regularly perform it in concert as a show closer.

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 also been recorded by, among many others:

*Cher on her 1971 album "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves";

*Donny Hathaway on his eponymous 1971 album;

*The Osmonds in 1971 (and frequently in concert as a finale);

*Brotherhood of Man on their 1974 album "Good Things Happening";

*Olivia Newton-John in 1975;
*The Housemartins in 1988;

*Bill Medley in 1988;

*Gotthard, in 1996 BMG Ariola version of their third album "G.";

*Rufus Wainwright, for the soundtrack to the Ben Stiller film "Zoolander";

*Barry Manilow in his 2007 album "The Greatest Songs of the Seventies";

*Christian music artist Clay Crosse on his "Stained Glass" album.

Cultural references

*In the film "Austin Powers in Goldmember", Austin makes a reference to the song. After finding out that Dr. Evil is in fact his brother, he states "He ain't heavy; he's my brother, baby!"

*In the film "Heartbreak Ridge", Stitch Jones (Mario Van Peebles) says about his friend Aponte after having turned him in, "He ain't heavy and he sure the hell ain't my brother."

*In the "'Red Dwarf" episode "Beyond a Joke", Kryten picks up his brother's dead body (they are both 4000 series mechanoids, and they both have the same motherboard, which makes them brothers), called Able and responds to an offer of help with the line "He ain't heavy sir, he's my brother...".

*In the "Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law" episode "High Speed Buggy Chase", part of the song is played as Avenger leaves Harvey's office at the end of his last day working with him.

*In the sitcom "Scrubs", after a night of drinking, Turk's brother carries a drunk Turk into his apartment. Turk's brother is singing "He ain't heavy, he's my brother..."

*In one episode of "Law and Order", titled "The Serpent's Tooth", Detective Greevey used the phrase "He ain't heavy, he's my brother" as a reference to two brothers helping each other conceal the murder of their parents.

*One episode of "Only Fools and Horses" was called "He Ain't Heavy...He's My Uncle", which is a reference to the song's title.

*One episode of "Home Improvement"" was called "He ain't heavy...He's just irresponsible", which was a mention of the song's title.

*In the Broadway musical "The Full Monty", the song "Big Ass Rock" ends with the lyric "It ain't heavy, he's my friend," a reference to the song.

*In the "Judge Dredd" comic series, Joe Dredd is forced to kill his brother Rico in self-defense. In spite of Rico's status as a criminal, a wounded Dredd chooses to carry him out of the apartment where Rico has died, stating "He ain't heavy, he's my brother."

*The song is used in a Canadian public service announcement by Concerned Children's Advertisers addressing drug awareness. The vignette depicts a story of two childhood friends who have grown apart because of drug abuse.

*The song is referenced in "Miami Ink" when a kid gets a tattoo which reads "He Ain't Heavy" which refers to his brother who is a paraplegic. The tattoo is his way of remembering his brother when he goes to college.


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