“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” was originally recorded by Kelly Gordon in 1969, but became a worldwide hit for The Hollies later that year and a minor hit for Neil Diamond in 1970.
‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’ has now been re-recorded by Allan Clarke from The Hollies with Francis Haines whilst in lockdown to help support the NHS Charities Together Covid-19 Urgent Appeal.
Colm & Lucy caught up with Allan to chat about the new recording…
On April 5th, 2020 Allan turned 78 years old. Like most of the country, he and his beloved wife Jeni (‘Jennifer Eccles’) were in self-isolation lockdown. Allan watched on in admiration at the work of the NHS and key workers and wondered what he could do. There was an old song going around in his head…
Allan contacted his good friend and producer Francis Haines and asked if he could record a solo piano version of ‘He Ain’t Heavy’, which he duly did and sent over. Then, some 21 years after he had last performed it, Allan sang the song again.
The result is raw emotion. Allan himself admits that as a 27-year-old recording the song for the first time he couldn’t appreciate or perform it like he can now, even if it is a key or two lower. 78 years have given him the understanding and depth of feeling that the lyrics require. The great pandemic of 2020, and the work of our NHS have given it the relevance that it has always demanded. It is one man and a piano performing one of the most poignant songs you will ever hear.
Allan Clarke first sang ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ in 1969. The record reached No.3 in the UK, and No.7 in the US and, unbeknownst to many, featured a certain young and upcoming pianist by the name of Elton John! Some 19 years later, following its use on a TV commercial the song finally reached No.1 and 11 years after that in 1999, Allan sang the song for what he thought was the final time.
His vocal chords were shattered following close to 40 years of constant touring, and this coupled with his wife’s second fight with breast cancer, led Allan to decide to call it a day on his music career and concentrate on the things that really mattered to him – his family. He had achieved everything there was to achieve. 18 Top 10 hits, 30 Top 40 UK hits, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, millions of singles and album sales worldwide and recognition as one of the most successful and distinctive voices of all time.