"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" is a popular music ballad sung by The Justice Collective - the name taken by a group of British musicians and football personalities who released the song in aid of various charities associated with the Hillsborough disaster. Written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell it was originally recorded by Kelly Gordon in 1969, and 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 over the years.
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."
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.
This 2012 cover version of the song was recorded, and was released on December 17, 2012, by musicians and celebrities going under the name 'The Justice Collective'.
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. 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, 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.
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.
Andy Brown (Lawson)
Gerry Marsden (Gerry and the Pacemakers)
Paul Heaton (The Beautiful South)
Glenn Tilbrook (Squeeze)
John Power (Cast, The La's)
Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)
Dave McCabe (The Zutons)
Peter Hooton (The Farm)
Jon McClure (Reverend and The Makers)
Shane MacGowan (The Pogues)
Bobby Elliott (The Hollies)
Tony Hicks (The Hollies)
Hollie Cook (The Slits)
LIPA Gospel Choir
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