Sun 22 May 2011
The statement “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” has quite a long history in American culture. From Wikipedia:
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”; variations on the phrase are attested as early as 1884…In an 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.”
In 1944, Father Edward Flanagan, founder of the former Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home (now, simply known as Boys Town) in Nebraska, came across a drawing of a picture in a magazine of a young boy carrying another with the caption, “He ain’t heavy Mister — he’s m’ brother!” and felt it was illustrative of the work done at Boys Town. Father received permission from the company that published the magazine to recreate the drawing with his own caption, which resulted in the following:
“He ain’t heavy, Father . . . he’s m’ brother,” became the motto of Boys Town. If you haven’t seen the 1938 movie about Father Flanagan and Boys Town, I suggest you do. It starred Spencer Tracy and a young Mickey Rooney, and it is one of the best inspirational movies that has ever been made. You don’t even have to be Catholic to enjoy it.
In the 60s, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” also became the title of one of the most tender, beautiful pop ballads ever written. The lyrics contain an abundantly positive message, reflecting charity, compassion, and love, and the song has become something of an anthem for those of us concerned with the brotherhood of man. It has been covered by a multitude of performers, but my favorite rendition was done by The Hollies in 1969. Enjoy!