Saturday, April 18, 2009

Entry: He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

I'm probably not going to get a chance to update twice next week, and I feel like I've dropped the ball this week, so what the heck, a third post. Huzzah! Refill the flagon of chuckles*!

Also, this entry contains spoilers for the movie Once Upon a Time in the West. I know, not expected based on the title, but consider yourselves forewarned.

So I heard the old pop song "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" on the radio today, which said was done by Earth, Wind, and Fire, but which Wikipedia attributes to the Hollies. I trust Wiki, but with some hesitation, as you shall soon see.

Hearing the song made me think of the story that inspired it, where a priest sees a young boy carrying a younger boy down the street, asks him if he's tired or something along those lines, and the boy responds with the title of the song. In four part harmony. I also seemed to remember that this inspired the creation of a non-profit, but couldn't remember which. (So this is technically a Thing I Recalled via Wikipedia, but I digress.)

The organization in question is Boys Town, but that's not the part of the article that caught my eye. Apparently, there were other versions of the story, including this... um... heartwarming account:

"It is also believed to refer to a native american story, of two brothers caught by aggressors. One was stood on the other's shoulders, with a noose hung around the top brother's neck. The idea being that when the bottom brother could no longer bear the weight, he would collapse, thus hanging his brother. The story then concluded, with the bottom brother standing strong, saying: 'He ain't heavy, he's my brother!' Or maybe this was from the movie Once Upon a Time in the West."

A few things spring to mind.

1. Grammar, please.
2. Who is the bottom brother talking to? The aggressors? Or is he delirious from the stressful encounter and addressing a hallucination?
3. Yeah, maybe it's from the movie Once Upon a Time in the West. Great idea. If that was the case, the name of the song would either be "He Ain't Moving, Because Henry Fonda Killed Him (and I'm Going to Spend Decades Seeking Revenge)" or possibly "It Ain't Tedious, It's a Western."

* I've been listening to a lot of Patton Oswalt standup lately.

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