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Top 10 Best Songs About Brothers

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In the majority of cases, there is an incredible bond between brothers. It isn’t always the case, of course. I know two brothers just eighteen months apart in age who dislike each other so much they haven’t even spoken for twenty years.

But, that is not the norm. Usually, the bond between them is very real. Finding the best songs about brothers, though, and I mean the best songs, is not that easy. For some people, it is hard to show that bond in words. Opening up your feelings in that way can be awkward and almost cheesy.

Let’s take a look at some of these best brotherly songs that truly express those feelings.

Daniel by Elton John

This is a song from one of Elton’s early albums, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player, released in 1973. Bernie Taupin once called this the most misunderstood lyric he’d ever written. 

It became a single on both sides of the Atlantic. It was a top-five record in both countries, as well as being successful all around the world.

Confusion

There have been confused ideas about what the song is referring to. Some have thought it was a younger brother waiting for his older brother to come home from a holiday in Spain.

However, the song is about a soldier returning from the Vietnam War to his home. He is treated as a hero, but he is haunted by the events he was involved in and what he had seen. He realizes he is no hero and just has to get away for some peace. 

Daniel is his brother who sings to him and sees his anguish saying, “your eyes have died.”

A Missing Verse

Once the song was finished, it was a little long. Radio stations have general rules about how long songs can be. To keep them happy, they chopped the last verse. That explains a little more of the story and is one thing that has led to some confusion.

An Interesting Side Issue

Record companies are all-wise and all-knowing. Well, they think they are. They decided releasing this as a single might upset and offend a few people over the pond. 

Can’t really see how. It is not saying anything that didn’t happen. It went to #2 on the American chart, so that was a storm in a teacup. Wrong again, weren’t they?

What’s Happening Brother by Marvin Gaye

As we will see as we go through this list, some of the best songs about the relationship between brothers have a recurring theme. Simply put, they are songs about brothers and the effects of war on their relationships.

As with “Daniel,” this is a track from Marvin Gaye that confronts the Vietnam War. But more directly, it confronts the issues in the aftermath. A subject and a condition that is quite often overlooked.

A Masterful Album

Marvin Gaye had lost his singing partner Tammi Terrell to cancer, and he became almost a recluse. This album was conceived in the period when he was struggling with various substances and mental torment following her death. It deals with social issues that were close to his heart.

The Aftermath

A ‘clinical’ term in many ways. But, like so many songs of this period, it tries to deal with the problem that exists in a very real way. It is a complex issue. Many of the soldiers returning from war, in this case, Vietnam, had many difficult personal battles at home to deal with.

This song was written by Marvin Gaye with James Nyx Jr. and has his brother very much in mind. His brother served several years in South East Asia. Struggling to return to a ‘normal’ civilian life after years in Vietnam was never going to be easy.

He Was My Brother by Simon and Garfunkel

Another very emotional song about brothers with quite an incredible storyline considering the ‘intelligent’ world we are supposed to be living in. 

The song was written by Paul Simon and was one of his first serious songs with a social comment. It was probably written about 1964 and included on their album, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.

Many commentators have tried to infer that this is written about an ‘actual’ brother of Paul Simon, Eddie. Whether that assumption is trying to deviate away from what Simon is saying, I don’t know.

Dark Lyrics

Paul was at college with a friend, Andrew Goodman, in New York. He, along with two fellow civil rights activists, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, were murdered by a Klu Klux Klan lynch mob in a town near Philadelphia in 1964.

The song is inspired by his friendship with Goodman but includes all three. It is typical of what was to come from the duo later with their close-knit harmonies and great guitar work. But, the dark message in the lyric is never very far away and reminds us of what the song is all about.

(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away by The Bee Gees

Here is a group of talented siblings that had their moments. They came from a relatively poor family who emigrated from the UK to Australia. 

During their lives, they have had to endure poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse. There have been divorces and personal investigations. And then illness and death. No one could say they had it easy.

A Band of Brothers…

Barry Gibb confirms they would often argue and spend months not speaking to each other. But, somehow, the ‘brothers bond’ was always there, and one of them activated a reunion. 

Through all the troubles, they were fiercely protective of each other. This was shown when they all walked off a TV chat show in the UK when one was criticized.

The Disco Period

This song was written during their “Saturday Night Fever” period. However, it was not included in the albums at that time but came out later. Younger brother, Andy, released it in 1978 with Brother Barry helping. Maurice and Robin were nowhere to be seen.

His death ten years later at the age of 30 brought the brothers all together. And when Maurice died in 2003, the two surviving brothers became very close. It remained that way until Robin left us, leaving only Barry.

Lyrically, the song almost sounds like a cry for help. A tender love song in many ways that suited Andy’s voice. And a message to all that life is too short for petty squabbling.

Oh Brother by James Taylor

This is a James Taylor track from his New Moon Shine album of 1991. It is a heartfelt plea to someone though it never identifies exactly who. He just calls him ‘brother.’ But that doesn’t have to mean literally.

Clearly, in Taylor’s writing, he wants to help, but this is where it gets a little confusing. He writes the lines:

“Don’t assume that the life you left, Is the life you have to lead.”

Indicating that someone close to him has left. He talks about when he comes home but then follows that up with:

“You forget to remember, to never die young.”

A typically heartfelt James Taylor song, beautifully written and played. Easily one of the best songs about brothers.

Brother Louie by Hot Chocolate

A very underrated band in so many ways. Not only were they pretty good live, but they also had at least one hit record every year from 1970 to 1984. There aren’t many acts that can claim that record anywhere.

This particular song reached #7 in the UK in 1973. It was produced by Mickie Most and included a cameo voice role from blues legend Alexis Korner.

They were a straightforward bunch of guys, no ‘Prima Donas,’ which is something worth noting in the music business. But, what they did have was a sense of social comment. They quite often wrote songs about incidents they had either seen or read about. “Brother Louis” was one such song.

Forbidden love…

The song tells of a love affair between a black woman and a white man. The man’s parents can’t handle it and disown him. 

Singer Errol Brown who co-wrote the song with Tony Wilson, when asked, would say the song came from personal experience. But, he would never elaborate.

A Cover

The song was covered by an American band, The Stories, about six months after Hot Chocolate’s UK success. Hot Chocolate was rather unknown in mainstream America, and The Stories cover version was a big hit over the water.

The Greatest Discovery by Elton John

Let’s change tack a little now and look at the brotherly aspect in a slightly different way. This song takes us right back almost to the very beginning of Elton John’s work with Bernie Taupin. Together they came up with this great track about brothers.

A Journey

The song takes us on a wondrous journey, brilliantly told in the lyrics by Taupin. The story revolves around the excitement and joy a little boy has at the arrival of his new brother. The first meeting is when he begins to realize that they will be side by side for life.

He begins to picture a wondrous journey as they go through life together and all the love that will bring. The adventures that will grow just as they do. He also realizes how much the new member of the family means to him already.

He is yet to learn that these feelings will intensify with age. And, he is yet to appreciate just how much he will mean to him in the future. A very beautiful song dealt with in a sensitive way that makes it special.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by The Hollies

This is a song that was found by The Hollies guitarist, Tony Hicks. It was written about a boy’s home that had been set up in Nebraska. Outside of the home was a statue of a boy carrying another boy on his back. Underneath the legend, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.’

The statue referred to a real incident when a boy at the home who wore leg braces was often carried around on the backs of his friends. The home was called “Boys Town,” and writers Bob Russell and Bobby Scott used the title and the symbolism to create a great song. 

There have been other claims to being the inspiration for the title. But, Tony Hicks says quite clearly it was “Boys Town” in Nebraska that the song was about.

A Big Success

This popular song about brothers went to #3 in the UK and #7 in America and became, in many ways, The Hollies’ signature tune. A great song with a great message of treating everyone we meet as our brothers.

An interesting side issue, the piano player in the session, was paid 12 English Pounds for the job. At the time, he was known as Reggie Dwight; he later became known as Elton John.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down by Joan Baez

This is a very strange song for me. For some reason, which is quite unfathomable and illogical, I get very emotional about this song. I have no idea why. Perhaps in another life, I was there, if you believe in that sort of thing, which I don’t, but anyway.

The Band had a huge hit with it in 1969, and it was written by Robbie Robertson. But, it is the Joan Baez version I have included here.

Historically Accurate?

Just for a pleasant change, it appears to be. The song refers to Union Army raids behind Confederate lines in Southwest Virginia towards the end of the American Civil War in 1865. It talks about the hardships the people were suffering as narrated by a poor Southerner. 

“In the winter of ‘65, we were hungry, just barely alive.”

He is a non-slave holder whose brother has been killed and who has lost his livelihood. He is trying to make sense of a conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, including one of his own.

Stunning Emotion

It is a song that packs a powerful punch and is quite stunning in the emotion she produces in her voice. If it hadn’t been for my last song, this would have been my choice as one of the best songs about brothers.

Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits

Not anywhere else to finish a list that includes songs about brothers than with this masterpiece. It has had its fair share of interpretations, but it isn’t as complex as some like to pretend it is.

He wrote the song during the war in the Falkland Islands in 1982. The message was simple. War is stupid and folly, and so are those that perpetuate aggression and violence at whatever level. End of subject. Don’t need to elaborate on that.

A Common Expression

He uses the familiar ‘brothers-in-arms’ expression to paint the picture rather than allude to actual brothers. It could be any set of brothers who are fighting in a war, and there have been plenty. My own uncles included. But, even comrades refer to themselves as ‘brothers-in-arms.’

I read somewhere that the song was a ‘celebration’ of an unbreakable bond. It is hardly an apt word under any circumstances; there is nothing to be ‘celebrated’ about war. But, there is plenty to mourn.

A Bit Deeper

He goes a little deeper with his writing. On a radio program, he talked about the divisions in humanity when he says:

“We’ve got just one world, but we all live in different ones.” 

In other words, why can’t we live together? In the song, he portrays a scene where a young soldier is about to die on the battlefield. He is surrounded by his ‘brothers-in-arms’ as he slowly passes away.

One of the greatest songs about brothers from one of the greatest albums. It has worldwide sales of over 30 million copies. Not surprising, this is where we end.

Looking for More Songs About Special Things?

We can help. Take a look at our informative articles on the Best Songs About Magic, the Best Songs About Heroes, the Best Songs About Friendship, the Best Songs About Walking, the Best Songs about Fighting, and the Best Songs About the Sun and Sunshine for more great song selections.

You’ll want to hear those tunes. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Tailgate Speakers, the Best Waterproof Speakers, the Best Party Speakers, the Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers, and the Best Smart Speakers you can buy in 2023.

Best Songs About Brothers – C0nclusion

So that is my list. It would have been easy to pad this out with ‘average’ songs about brothers. But, I wanted to keep it to just the ‘very’ best. Everyone will have their own opinion, of course, and there may be some I have missed, so I apologize for that. But for me, these are the ‘very’ best.

Until next time, happy listening.

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About Corey Hoffman

Corey is a multi-instrumentalist who has played in numerous bands over the years, some good, some not so good. He has also written countless songs and recorded five albums in professional studios across America. Today he is a hobby musician but still loves the guitar after over 15 years of playing.

He considers his writing as a way to share what he has learned over the decades with younger generations ad always can't wait to get his hands on the latest gear.

He lives just outside New York with his wife Barbara and their two German Shepherds, Ziggy and Iggy.

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