He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Written by Bob RussellBobby Scott

Album This song officially appears on the He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother CD Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 2012

Related sessions

This song has been recorded during the following studio sessions


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Song facts

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was a hit for The Hollies in 1969. Paul McCartney participated to the recording of a new version of the song in 2012, as part of a charity project for the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster. His contribution can be heard at about the 3:01 mark.

From Wikipedia:

The Hillsborough disaster was a fatal human crush during a football match at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, on 15 April 1989. It occurred during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in the two standing-only central pens in the Leppings Lane stand allocated to Liverpool supporters. Shortly before kick-off, in an attempt to ease overcrowding outside the entrance turnstiles, the police match commander David Duckenfield ordered exit gate C opened, leading to an influx of even more supporters to the pens. This led to a crowding in the pens and the crush. With 96 fatalities and 766 injuries, it is the worst disaster in British sporting history. […]

From Wikipedia:

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” is a 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 a minor hit for Neil Diamond in 1970. It has been recorded by many artists in subsequent years.

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

The Hollies

The Hollies’ recording, sung by Allan Clarke and featuring Elton John on piano, was released in the UK on 1 September 1969 and on 1 December 1969 in the US. It reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 7 in the US. The song was re-released in August 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.

The Justice Collective version

In 2012, a version of the song was recorded, and was released on 17 December 2012, by musicians and celebrities going under the name The Justice Collective, for various charities associated with the Hillsborough disaster.

The song went on to take the coveted Christmas number one position for 2012 on the UK Singles Chart, 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.

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.

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 2012, 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 C, Holly Johnson, Mick Jones, Glen Campbell, 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.

From Paul McCartney’s Twitter account – Paul in studio w/ Guy Chambers working on The Justice Collective Hillsborough tribute.

Last updated on December 7, 2020

Lyrics

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…

Officially appears on


He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

CD Single • Released in 2012

4:33 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney :
Electric guitar solo, Lead vocals
Gerry Marsden :
Lead vocals
Steve Sidwell :
Strings arrangement
Holly Johnson :
Lead vocals
Robbie Williams :
Lead vocals
Rebecca Ferguson :
Lead vocals
Paloma Faith :
Lead vocals
Eliza Doolittle :
Lead vocals
Beverley Knight :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Melanie C :
Lead vocals
Andy Brown :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Mick Jones :
Electric guitar
Peter Hooton :
Lead vocals
Chris Sharrock :
Drums
Ren Harvieu :
Lead vocals
Dave McCabe :
Lead vocals
Paul Heaton :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Hollie Cook :
Backing vocals
Jon McClure :
Lead vocals
John Power :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Guy Chambers :
Piano, Producer
Andrew Davitt :
Acoustic guitar
Cyrus Reynolds :
Brass arrangement
Ian Davidson :
Choir arrangement, Choir conductor
David Catlin-Birch :
Bass guitar
Alan Hansen :
Choir
John Bishop :
Choir
Kenny Dalglish :
Choir
Neil Fitzmaurice :
Choir
Peter Reid :
Choir
Steve Rotheram :
Choir
LIPA Gospel Choir :
Choir
Vasily Petrenko :
Strings conductor
Richard Blake :
Cornet, Flugelhorn
Matthew Lewis :
Euphonium
Meredith Moore :
French horn
Will Pound :
Harmonica
Glenn Tilbrook :
Lead vocals
Shane MacGowan :
Lead vocals
Richard Flack :
Mixing engineer, Producer, Recording engineer
Oliver Som :
Recording engineer
Paul Stanborough :
Recording engineer
Liam Nolan :
Assistant recording engineer
Alec Brits :
Assistant recording engineer (choir)
Tony Draper :
Recording engineer (choir)
Jon Withnall :
Assistant recording engineer (strings)
Chris Taylor :
Recording engineer (strings)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra :
Strings
Adi Brett :
Strings
Amelia Jones :
Strings
Anthony Banks :
Strings
Catherine Marwood :
Strings
Daniel Sanxis :
Strings
David Rimbault :
Strings
David Ruby :
Strings
Fiona Stunden :
Strings
Gemma Bass :
Strings
Gethyn Jones :
Strings
Hilary Browning :
Strings
James Justin Evans :
Strings
James Pattinson :
Strings
Kathryn Cropper :
Strings
Lesley Gwyther :
Strings
Olga Muszynska :
Strings
Paula Muldoon :
Strings
Paulette Bayley :
Strings
Rachel Jones :
Strings
Rakhvinder Singh :
Strings
Rebecca Walters :
Strings
John Hebbron :
Strings
Sarah Hill :
Strings
Simon Denton :
Strings
Stephan Mayer :
Strings
Stephen Mann :
Strings
Susanna Jordan :
Strings
Thelma Handy :
Strings
William Roberts :
Tuba

Session Recording:
November 2012 ?
Studio :
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK


He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

7" Single • Released in 2012

4:33 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney :
Electric guitar solo, Lead vocals
Gerry Marsden :
Lead vocals
Steve Sidwell :
Strings arrangement
Holly Johnson :
Lead vocals
Robbie Williams :
Lead vocals
Rebecca Ferguson :
Lead vocals
Paloma Faith :
Lead vocals
Eliza Doolittle :
Lead vocals
Beverley Knight :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Melanie C :
Lead vocals
Andy Brown :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Mick Jones :
Electric guitar
Peter Hooton :
Lead vocals
Chris Sharrock :
Drums
Ren Harvieu :
Lead vocals
Dave McCabe :
Lead vocals
Paul Heaton :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Hollie Cook :
Backing vocals
Jon McClure :
Lead vocals
John Power :
Backing vocals, Lead vocals
Guy Chambers :
Piano, Producer
Andrew Davitt :
Acoustic guitar
Cyrus Reynolds :
Brass arrangement
Ian Davidson :
Choir arrangement, Choir conductor
David Catlin-Birch :
Bass guitar
Alan Hansen :
Choir
John Bishop :
Choir
Kenny Dalglish :
Choir
Neil Fitzmaurice :
Choir
Peter Reid :
Choir
Steve Rotheram :
Choir
LIPA Gospel Choir :
Choir
Vasily Petrenko :
Strings conductor
Richard Blake :
Cornet, Flugelhorn
Matthew Lewis :
Euphonium
Meredith Moore :
French horn
Will Pound :
Harmonica
Glenn Tilbrook :
Lead vocals
Shane MacGowan :
Lead vocals
Richard Flack :
Mixing engineer, Producer, Recording engineer
Oliver Som :
Recording engineer
Paul Stanborough :
Recording engineer
Liam Nolan :
Assistant recording engineer
Alec Brits :
Assistant recording engineer (choir)
Tony Draper :
Recording engineer (choir)
Jon Withnall :
Assistant recording engineer (strings)
Chris Taylor :
Recording engineer (strings)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra :
Strings
Adi Brett :
Strings
Amelia Jones :
Strings
Anthony Banks :
Strings
Catherine Marwood :
Strings
Daniel Sanxis :
Strings
David Rimbault :
Strings
David Ruby :
Strings
Fiona Stunden :
Strings
Gemma Bass :
Strings
Gethyn Jones :
Strings
Hilary Browning :
Strings
James Justin Evans :
Strings
James Pattinson :
Strings
Kathryn Cropper :
Strings
Lesley Gwyther :
Strings
Olga Muszynska :
Strings
Paula Muldoon :
Strings
Paulette Bayley :
Strings
Rachel Jones :
Strings
Rakhvinder Singh :
Strings
Rebecca Walters :
Strings
John Hebbron :
Strings
Sarah Hill :
Strings
Simon Denton :
Strings
Stephan Mayer :
Strings
Stephen Mann :
Strings
Susanna Jordan :
Strings
Thelma Handy :
Strings
William Roberts :
Tuba

Session Recording:
November 2012 ?
Studio :
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK


He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

7" Single • Released in 2012

4:33 • Studio versionA1 • Instrumental version

Paul McCartney :
Electric guitar solo
Steve Sidwell :
Strings arrangement
Mick Jones :
Electric guitar
Chris Sharrock :
Drums
Guy Chambers :
Piano, Producer
Andrew Davitt :
Acoustic guitar
Cyrus Reynolds :
Brass arrangement
David Catlin-Birch :
Bass guitar
Vasily Petrenko :
Strings conductor
Richard Blake :
Cornet, Flugelhorn
Matthew Lewis :
Euphonium
Meredith Moore :
French horn
Will Pound :
Harmonica
Richard Flack :
Mixing engineer, Producer, Recording engineer
Oliver Som :
Recording engineer
Paul Stanborough :
Recording engineer
Liam Nolan :
Assistant recording engineer
Jon Withnall :
Assistant recording engineer (strings)
Chris Taylor :
Recording engineer (strings)
Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra :
Strings
Adi Brett :
Strings
Amelia Jones :
Strings
Anthony Banks :
Strings
Catherine Marwood :
Strings
Daniel Sanxis :
Strings
David Rimbault :
Strings
David Ruby :
Strings
Fiona Stunden :
Strings
Gemma Bass :
Strings
Gethyn Jones :
Strings
Hilary Browning :
Strings
James Justin Evans :
Strings
James Pattinson :
Strings
Kathryn Cropper :
Strings
Lesley Gwyther :
Strings
Olga Muszynska :
Strings
Paula Muldoon :
Strings
Paulette Bayley :
Strings
Rachel Jones :
Strings
Rakhvinder Singh :
Strings
Rebecca Walters :
Strings
John Hebbron :
Strings
Sarah Hill :
Strings
Simon Denton :
Strings
Stephan Mayer :
Strings
Stephen Mann :
Strings
Susanna Jordan :
Strings
Thelma Handy :
Strings
William Roberts :
Tuba

Session Recording:
November 2012 ?
Studio :
Hog Hill Studio, Rye, UK

Films


He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

2012 • For The Justice Collective • Directed by Simon Hanning

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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