He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (4:19)

Cover of The Hollies' Greatest Hits

From The Hollies' Greatest Hits and 157 other releases

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

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.’ “

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.


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