The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother)

This song was released in 1969 and was written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell. A young Elton John played piano on the song. It peaked at #7 in the Billboard 100 and #3 in the UK charts. It was used in a commercial in 1988 and in that year went to number 1 in the UK charts. I always thought the song had a spiritual sound to it.

From Songfacts.

The title came from the motto for Boys Town, a community formed in 1917 by a Catholic priest named Father Edward Flanagan. Located in Omaha, Nebraska, it was a place where troubled or homeless boys could come for help. In 1941, Father Flanagan was looking at a magazine called The Messenger when he came across a drawing of a boy carrying a younger boy on his back, with the caption, “He ain’t heavy Mr., he’s my brother.” Father Flanagan thought the image and phrase captured the spirit of Boys Town, so he got permission and commissioned a statue of the drawing with the inscription, “He ain’t heavy Father, he’s my brother.” The statue and phrase became the logo for Boys Town. In 1979, girls were allowed and the name was eventually changed to Girls And Boys Town. The logo was updated with a drawing of a girl carrying a younger girl added.

In the Guardian newspaper of February 24, 2006, Hollies guitarist Tony Hicks said: “In the 1960s when we were short of songs I used to root around publishers in Denmark Street. One afternoon, I’d been there ages and wanted to get going but this bloke said: ‘Well there’s one more song. It’s probably not for you.’ He played me the demo by the writers [Bobby Scott and Bob Russell]. It sounded like a 45rpm record played at 33rpm, the singer was slurring, like he was drunk. But it had something about it. There were frowns when I took it to the band but we speeded it up and added an orchestra. The only things left recognizable were the lyrics. There’d been this old film called Boys Town about a children’s home in America, and the statue outside showed a child being carried aloft and the motto He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. Bob Russell had been dying of cancer while writing. We never got, or asked for, royalties. Elton John – who was still called Reg – played piano on it and got paid 12 pounds. It was a worldwide hit twice.”

He Ain’t Heavy(He’s My Brother)

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there
For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother
If I’m laden at all
I’m laden with sadness
That everyone’s heart
Isn’t filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy he’s my brother
He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother, he ain’t heavy

 

 

 

 

Author: badfinger20

Guitar, Bass, song writer,

3 thoughts on “The Hollies – He Ain’t Heavy (He’s My Brother)”

  1. I didn’t know Elton played on this. Cool backstory. It also never occured to me that “heavy” was meant in the literal sense, not necessarily the hip parlance of the day. Or maybe they meant it as a double entendre?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve always wanted to know the back story to this also. I think it meant both when they wrote the song…
      I always thought it was about Vietnam…I was wrong.

      Like

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