Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Hollies: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Lyrics by: Bobby Scott & Bob Russell
Recorded: June 25–August 7, 1969: Abbey Road Studios: London
Released: September 26, 1969
Label: Parlophone (UK): Epic (USA)

Bobby Scott and Bob Russell were introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer, an American songwriter and lyricist, at a California nightclub. At the time Russell was dying of cancer of the lymph nodes, yet, despite this, Scott and Russell met three times to work out the details of this song. Bob Russell died in February 1970, not long after the song became a worldwide hit. He was fifty-six.

The Hollies: He ain't heavy, he's my brother: 45 rpm single sleeve, 1969
The song's inner meaning is about the willingness to help each other, to lift the burdens of others, with a willing heart. Its message is universal, as the entry in Wikipedia says about the origin of the phrase:
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 magazine.

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.

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