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"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. It has been covered by many artists in subsequent years. The Hollies' and Rufus Wainwright's versions of the song were featured in the film Zoolander.

Contents 1 Origin of the song 2 Origin of the title 3 Chart performance 4 Neil Diamond version 5 The Justice Collective version 5.1 Background 5.2 Personnel 5.3 Charts 5.3.1 Year-end charts 6 References 7 External links

Origin of the song[]

Scott and Russell had been introduced to each other by Johnny Mercer, at a California nightclub. Although Russell was dying of lymphoma and the pair met in person only three times, they managed to collaborate on the song.

Origin of the title[]

In 1884, James Wells, Moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland, in his book The Parables of Jesus tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy. Seeing her struggling, someone asked if she wasn't tired. With surprise she replied, "No, he's not heavy; he's my brother."[3]

In a 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.'"[4]

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", the first use of the phrase exactly as it is rendered in the song title.

In the 1940s, the words, adapted as "He ain't heavy, Father, he's my brother", were taken as a slogan for Boys Town children's home by founder Father Edward Flanagan.[5]

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 No. 3 in the UK[6] and No. 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 No. 1 spot in the UK chart for two weeks in September 1988.[7]

Neil Diamond's version of the song, recorded for his Tap Root Manuscript album, went to No. 20 on the Billboard "Hot 100 Singles" chart in late 1970.

The Osmonds covered the song on their 1970 album, Osmonds, and was a staple at their concerts.

Chart (1969–2013)



Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[8] 16 Canadian Top Singles[9] 11 Canadian Adult Singles[10] 35 Germany (Official German Charts)[11] 9 Ireland (Irish Singles Chart)[12] 2 Netherlands (Single Top 100)[13] 15 Norway (VG-lista)[14] 7 Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[15] 5 UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[16] 1 US Billboard Hot 100[17] 7

Neil Diamond version[]

The Neil Diamond version entered at #68 on the Hot 100 on 7 November 1970 [18] (UNI Records, 55264, length 4:09). The flip side was "Free Life".[19] The song appears on the Neil Diamond album Tap Root Manuscript, which was released November 1970.[18] The song was played by KGB-AM 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.

The Justice Collective version[]

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"

Single by The Justice Collective

Released 17 December 2012


CD single ·

digital download · 
7" single

Recorded October–November 2012

Sleeper Studios, Metropolis Studios, Abbey Road Studios


Parr Street Studios, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts


Genre Pop rock

Length 4:33

Label Metropolis (5065001566387)


Bob Russell ·

Bobby Scott


Guy Chambers ·

Richard Flack

In 2012, a version of the song was recorded, and was released on December 17, 2012, by musicians and celebrities going under the name The Justice Collective, including Melanie C, Robbie Williams, Paul Heaton, Paloma Faith, Paul McCartney, Gerry Marsden, Kenny Dalglish, Alan Hansen, Rebecca Ferguson, Beverley Knight, and two original members of The Hollies, Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks, for various charities associated with the Hillsborough disaster.[20]

The song went on to take the coveted Christmas number one position for 2012 on the UK Singles Chart,[21] beating The X Factor winner James Arthur, who was number one the previous week.


After the News International phone hacking scandal, members of The Farm along with Pete Wylie and Mick Jones of The Clash performed at an anti-The Sun concert at the Liverpool Olympia in September 2011. Following this they formed The Justice Tonight Band and toured the United Kingdom and Europe for the next year in order to raise awareness of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.[22]

Initially, the idea was to re-release the 2009 single "The Fields of Anfield Road" by The Liverpool Collective featuring The Kop Choir; however, this idea was rejected by Peter Hooton as only a relatively small number of people would buy it. Inspired by Everton's Hillsborough tribute on 17 September 2012, the song was played at Goodison Park prior to their match against Newcastle United. It was then decided that a re-recording of this song by various artists including The Justice Tonight Band would be released as the charity single.[22]

Keith Mullen of The Farm recruited Guy Chambers to produce the single and with Chambers offering free use of his Sleeper Studios to record the song. On 25 October, Steve Rotheram, Guy Chambers and Kenny Dalglish announced plans of the single to be recorded by various artists such as Robbie Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, Paloma Faith, Beverley Knight, Melanie Chisholm, Holly Johnson, Mick Jones, Peter Hooton, Chris Sharrock, Glenn Tilbrook, Ren Harvieu, Dave McCabe, Paul Heaton, Hollie Cook, Jon McClure, John Power, Gerry Marsden, and two original members of The Hollies, Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks.[22][23]


Vocalists[24]Andy Brown (Lawson) Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers) Paul Heaton (The Beautiful South) Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze) John Power (Cast, The La's) Robbie Williams Melanie C Rebecca Ferguson Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) Paloma Faith Beverley Knight Eliza Doolittle Dave McCabe (The Zutons) Peter Hooton (The Farm) Ren Harvieu Jon McClure (Reverend and The Makers) Paul McCartney Shane MacGowan (The Pogues) Bobby Elliott (The Hollies) Tony Hicks (The Hollies) Hollie Cook (The Slits) LIPA Gospel Choir Clay Crosse Alan Hansen Peter Reid John Bishop Kenny Dalglish Neil Fitzmaurice

Musicians[24]Chris Sharrock (Beady Eye) – drums

David Catlin-Birch (World Party) – bass Paul McCartney – lead guitar Mick Jones (The Clash) – electric guitar Andrew "Davo" Davitt – acoustic guitar Guy Chambers – piano Will Pound – harmonica Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – strings Richard Blake – trumpet/flugelhorn Matthew Lewis – trombone/euphonium Meredith Moore – French horn Will Roberts – tuba Production[24]Guy Chambers – producer Richard Flack – producer, engineer Oliver Som – engineer Liam Nolan – engineer Chris Taylor – engineer Jon Withnall – engineer Tony Draper – engineer Alec Brits – engineer


Chart (2012)



Ireland (IRMA)[25] 4 Norway (VG-lista)[26] 17 Scotland (Official Charts Company)[27] 2 Spain (Airplay Chart)[28] 33 UK Indie (Official Charts Company)[29] 1 UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[30] 1

Year-end charts

Chart (2012)



UK Singles Chart[31] 49


1.^ Jump up to: a b The Hollies—Epic Anthology: From the Original Master Tapes Epic Records EGK 46161 liner notes 2.Jump up ^ Epic Records 5-10532 45 RPM 3.Jump up ^ The parables of Jesus. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 4.Jump up ^ Trine, Ralph Waldo (1918). The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit. Project Gutenberg. 5.Jump up ^ "ZipUSA: Boystown, Nebraska @ National Geographic Magazine". Retrieved 2014-03-30. 6.Jump up ^ "UK Top 40 Chart Archive, British Singles and Album Charts". 16 March 2000. Retrieved 2012-01-18. 7.Jump up ^ 8.Jump up ^ " – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy - He's My Brother" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. 9.Jump up ^ "RPM 100" (PHP). RPM. 13 (5). 21 March 1970. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 10.Jump up ^ "RPM Adult" (PHP). RPM. 12 (26). 14 February 1970. Retrieved 24 May 2011. 11.Jump up ^ " – Hollies, The Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. 12.Jump up ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 12 April 2016. 13.Jump up ^ " – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. 14.Jump up ^ " – The Hollies – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". VG-lista. 15.Jump up ^ " – Hollies, The – He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother". Swiss Singles Chart. 16.Jump up ^ "Archive Chart: 1969-10-04" UK Singles Chart. 17.Jump up ^ "The Hollies – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for The Hollies. 18.^ Jump up to: a b "I Am...I Said, A Fan of Neil Diamond". Retrieved 2012-01-18. 19.Jump up ^ "Neil Diamond – He Ain't Heavy ... He's My Brother (Vinyl) at Discogs". Retrieved 2012-01-18. 20.Jump up ^ Michaels, Sean (23 November 2012). "Paul McCartney guests on Hillsborough charity single with Robbie Williams". Guardian UK. London. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 21.Jump up ^ "Hillsborough single is Christmas number one". Daily Telegraph UK. 23 November 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2013. 22.^ Jump up to: a b c "Interview With Keith Mullin | Players | Interviews". Blue Kipper. 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 23.Jump up ^ Gritt, Emma (2012-12-24). "The Justice Collective secure Christmas number one slot, outselling X Factor winner James Arthur by 45,000 copies | Mail Online". London: Retrieved 2014-03-30. 24.^ Jump up to: a b c "Listen To ….. & Order 'He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother' By The Justice Collective | great red north (". 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2013-03-12. 25.Jump up ^ "Chart Track: Week 51, 2012". Irish Singles Chart. 26.Jump up ^ " – The Justice Collective – He Aint Heavy, He's My Brother". VG-lista. 27.Jump up ^ "Archive Chart: 2012-12-29". Scottish Singles Top 40. 28.Jump up ^ "Promusicae (Week: December 26, 2012)" (PDF). Retrieved December 26, 2011. 29.Jump up ^ "Archive Chart: 2012-12-29" UK Indie Chart. 30.Jump up ^ "Archive Chart: 2012-12-29" UK Singles Chart. 31.Jump up ^ "Top 100 Singles of 2012". BBC Radio 1. BBC Online. 31 December 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2013.

External links[]

Preceded by "A Groovy Kind of Love" by Phil Collins UK Singles Chart number-one single

(The Hollies version)
September 18, 1988 – September 24, 1988 Succeeded by

"Desire" by U2 Preceded by "Impossible" by James Arthur UK Singles Chart number-one single

(The Justice Collective version)
December 23, 2012 – December 29, 2012 Succeeded by

"Impossible" by James Arthur