This song is a tribute to those involved in the battle for civil rights. The title refers to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last verse in the song refers to "Bobby" - JFK's brother, Robert Kennedy. Everyone mentioned in the song has died ("has anybody here seen my old friend...") and this is symbolized by their progression over a hill.
This has been covered by the Brothers Four, Ray Charles, Kenny Rogers, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Mahalia Jackson, and Moms Mabley. (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2)
This was written by Rockabilly singer Dick Holler (who also wrote the novelty hit "Snoopy Versus The Red Baron"). Dion had just recovered from heroin addiction and was offered this as a possible comeback song. It made it to #4 on the Hot 100 and reestablished Dion in the music business.
Bob Dylan performed this on his 1980-81 tour. (thanks, Marti - Lynnwood, WA, for above 2)
Whitney Houston covered this song at her 1997 Washington DC concert, "Classic Whitney." It was filmed and turned into an HBO special. (thanks, David - NYC, NY)
Initially, Dion detested the song, but he has since come to understand its legacy, telling one interviewer, "I realized that what these four guys had in common was a dream... It was like they had the courage to believe that a state of love really can exist."
Dion claimed to have received over 4,000 letters thanking him for recording this song. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2)