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24 July 2014, 00:00
He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother - one of the most covered songs of all-time. But which version is best: The Hollies or Neil Diamond?
'He Ain't Heavy, He’s My Brother' must surely be one of the most covered songs of all-time? Singers including (deep breath) The Ruffin Brothers, Glen Campbell, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Olivia Newton John, Al Green and Barry Manilow have all recorded a version of it. But in this section of ‘Which Version is Best?’, we’re comparing The Hollies’ version from 1969 with Neil Diamond’s version from 1970.
While Kelly Gordon originally recorded this song in 1969, it only became a worldwide hit when The Hollies released their version later that year.
From the opening lyric of, “The road is long, with many a winding turns…” The Hollies’ version has always seemed more haunting than subsequent covers. Their version also features Elton John on piano, which is a bonus for any act!
Their version reached number 3 in the UK and number 7 the US. It was re-released in late 1988 in the UK and reached the number one spot for two weeks.
When comparing different versions of this song, there's no escaping the fact that The Hollies benefit from being a group; other versions see solo artists taking on this great song.
Neil Diamond's version of the song was a hit in America, reaching number 20 on the Billboard ‘Hot 100 Singles’ chart in late 1970, but it didn’t make any chart impact in the UK. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a listen though (don’t forget, Diamond’s 'Song Sung Blue' only reached number 14 in the UK and that’s a classic).
Diamond's version, whilst certainly a strong effort that showcases his vocal ability, doesn’t have the immediate impact compared with The Hollies.
What’s your favourite version of 'He Ain't Heavy He’s My Brother'? Let us know via the comment box below.