The Story of “Abraham, Martin and John”
On September 3rd, 1969, Dion released a song that would go on to become an anthem for a generation. “Abraham, Martin and John” is a poignant tribute to three American icons who were assassinated during the turbulent 1960s: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy. It remains a timeless reminder of the power of music to heal and unite us, and of the enduring legacy of those who fought for justice and equality.
The Making of the Song
“Abraham, Martin and John” was written by Dick Holler, a songwriter from Little Rock, Arkansas. Holler was inspired to write the song after King’s assassination in April 1968, and he turned to his own memories of Lincoln and Kennedy for additional inspiration.
Dion, who was already a successful pop singer with hits like “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer,” was looking to branch out and explore new musical styles. He was drawn to the message of “Abraham, Martin and John” and decided to record the song for his upcoming album, “Dion.”
The recording took place in New York City’s Columbia Studio B, with producer Phil Gernhard at the helm. Dion’s vocals were backed by a choir and a string section, giving the song a rich and resonant sound.
The lyrics of “Abraham, Martin and John” are deceptively simple, yet deeply moving. The song begins with the line, “Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?” before delving into each of the three men’s legacies.
Verse one pays tribute to Lincoln, with the lines “He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good die young. I just looked around and he’s gone.” Verse two focuses on King, with the words “He saw the mountain tops, but he never saw the plains. I just looked around and he’s gone.”
Finally, verse three commemorates Kennedy, with the lines “Didn’t you love the things that he stood for? Didn’t he try to find some good for you and me? And we’ll be free.”
The chorus ties all three men together, with the words “Anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he’s gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good die young. I just looked around and he’s gone.”
“Abraham, Martin, and John” was a commercial and critical success, reaching number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and receiving positive reviews from music critics. But more than that, the song became an anthem for a generation that was grappling with social upheaval and political turmoil.
The song’s message of hope and unity resonated with listeners all over the world, and it continues to inspire new generations of activists and artists. In 2001, following the September 11th terrorist attacks, Dion performed “Abraham, Martin, and John” at a benefit concert in New York City to a crowd of first responders and their families.
“It was a comfort to see these people and to give them some comfort and hope,” Dion said in an interview with Billboard. “The song has always been a prayer for me.”
The legacies of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy are enduring and inspiring. They fought for justice, equality, and human dignity, even in the face of extreme adversity.
“Abraham, Martin, and John” serves as a reminder of their sacrifices and their contributions to our nation. As Dion sings in the chorus, “Anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he’s gone? He freed a lot of people, but it seems the good die young.”
The song reminds us that even though these great men are gone, they will never be forgotten. As long as we keep their memories and legacies alive, they will continue to inspire us to work towards a better world.