He ain't heavy; he's my brother

What the hell does this song title/lyric mean?? I enjoy the tune, but this lyric annoys me so bad that I can hardly stand to listen to the song. Maybe if someone explained the meaning, I’d appreciate it more.

Two guys were walking a great distance. One guy gets too tired to trudge on, so the other guy carries him on his back. Someone asks “Isn’t he heavy?” The title is the guy’s response.

Your Quadell

I had not known that.
That was beautiful.

Thanks for enlightening me, Quadell. I’m sure I’ll find that song a lot more enjoyable from now on. I need to listen to the rest of the lyrics.

That lyric is taken from the caption on a statue at Boys Town, Nebraska. Boys Town is a home for troubled kids (and orphans) founded in 1917 by Father Edward Flannagan.

The statue of a young boy carrying his brother is based on an actual occurance in the early days of the home - Father Flannagan
encountered the youths after they had been walking some ungodly distance, and in response to his inquiry, the older child replied “He ain’t heavy, Father. He’s my brother.”

The home was the subject of a 1938 MGM movie,
“Boys Town” starring Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy as the protagonists mentioned.

Uh, guys, I think you might be taking the lyrics and the lesson a little to literally. The road traveled is a euphemism for life, and that we should all help our fellow man, for we will all be richer for it. Think about it

“the road is long,
with many a winding turn.
That leads us to who
knows where, who knows when?”

I think if they were literally walking somewhere, they’d have some idea where. also;

“It’s a long, long road,
from which there is no return.”

Ah, more allusions to the great unknown that is life. No re-do’s, y’know. Thus, it’s a microcosm of life.

Few people, on their deathbed, look back at their life and say,“I wish I’d slept more and taken less chances”.

To me, it says helping your fellow man along this road we call life shouldn’t be regarded as a burden.

Cloc, please note that there is a difference between the ORIGIN of the lyric (which is a famous quotation as cited by Nickrz) and the USAGE of the lyric in the song.

The fact is that the original quotation, although arising from a literal situation, had obvious implications at a symbolic or metaphoric level, and has been used as such ever since.

 Note that at the time this was written, 'brother' was often used in the sense of 'brother or sister', especially in religious circles indicating a generic person to whom we (should) feel a sense of familial belonging-to since we are all children of God. The same way the St. Paul writes to the whole community, "My brothers..."

 The author is saying: that as difficult or as strenuous as it may be to bear the weight of another person's problems; that we should do it anyway because of a love that goes out to all people. With this kind of love as our motivation, then we can help one another without considering a weighty burden. They aren't heavy, they're our brothers and sisters (to translate into 90's English).

I used this song as an example of what Jesus meant when I preached a beautiful, IMHO, sermon on Jesus' call,
A universal love for all people should motivate one to help others without considering it a burden (the same way we would put ourselves out for biological family members without giving it a second thought.)

But, that just may be my Christological bias coming through. :)


Well, CKDext, I do understand the difference between origin and usage, but it seems to me that the original question was, “what does it mean” and not "what does it come from’, and the information previous to my post was either not answering his question, or just plain wrong. The boys town reference, while interesting and poignant, did not answer his question.

Few people, on their deathbed, look back at their life and say,“I wish I’d slept more and taken less chances”.