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Abraham, Martin and John by Dion

Album: DionReleased: 1968Charted:
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brett - Edmonton, Canada, for above 2
  • This was written by the rockabilly singer Dick Holler (who also wrote the novelty hit "Snoopy Vs. 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2
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Comments: 38

A few corrections: Dick Holler wrote the entire song a few days after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated (in all of 20 minutes).
The Phil Spector movie staring Al Pacino improperly implies a previous version existed before Bobby's assassination, and then was re-written afterwards. Per Dick Holler, Pacino's depiction of how the song was written is pure fiction; probably artistic license being exercised by the screenwriter of the Spector film.

2nd correction: Dick Holler did not write 'Double Shot of My Baby's Love.' Although the original version was recorded by Dick's group, 'Dick Holler and the Holidays, the song was written by his bass man Don Smith and Cyril Vetter. It was later covered by the Swinging Medallions, who are now known for the definitive version.
David - Zurich
On June 14th 1970, Moms Mabley performed her covered version of "Abraham, Martin, and John" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
One year earlier on June 22nd, 1969 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and on July 13th it peaked at #35 (for 2 weeks) and spent 6 weeks on the Top 100...
On the same 'Sullivan' show Tommy James & the Shondells sang "Ball of Fire", it reached #19 on the Top 100...
Moms Mabley, born Loretta Mary Aiken, passed away on May 23rd, 1975 at the age of 81...
May she R.I.P.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On June 1st 1969, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles performed "Abraham, Martin, & John" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
Four weeks later on June 29th, 1969 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #73; and on July 13th it peaked at #33 (for 2 weeks) and spent 6 weeks on the Top 100...
The 2nd week it was at #33 Moms Mabley's covered version of the same song was peaking at #35...
Also on the same 'Sullivan' show the Miracles sang "Doggone Right"; it reached #32 on July 20th, the very same week that their "Abraham, Martin, & John" was in its 2nd week at #33...
The year 1969 was a great year for the Miracles; they had a total of five records make the Top 100, the other three were "Baby, Baby Don't Cry", "Here I Go Again", and "Point It Out".
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The English band "The Bible" during the '80s released a version of "Abraham, Martin and John" in which the fourth verse is about "my old friend Steven" and not about Robert Kennedy. I think it's Steven Biko, who was also assassinated because of his fight against racism. He was South African. Steven Biko and Martin Luther King are two heroes of mankind, while Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy were two beloved politicians who did some very good things and some very bad. I wish "my old friend John" was John Lennon, then the song would be almost perfect!Alberto - Roma, Italy
esskayess, yes they did.Hugh - Wick, United Kingdom
John didn't 'free' anyone and Bobby sure as hell didn't, either.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
I remember too this song coming out in '68 but it was Abraham and John. After the MLK assassination it included Martin and then a few months later it included Bobby (RFK).Michael Scott - Punta Gorda, Fl
Two things I can't get all the way through... this song and the Vietnam Memorial in D.C.
Am I the only one who remembers this (or am I wrong?), but I remember this song being released twice. It was first released, I believe in May right after MLK was killed in April. The only verses were of Abraham, Martin and John. The song was rewritten and re-released after RFK was killed in June. The new version included the verse about Bobby.
What a different world this would be if Bobby Kennedy had become Presidentin 1968.
Jeff - Columbus, Oh
I was born in 1968 and I grew up with this song. I remember it to this day thank you songfacts for taking me back down memory lane. I did not understand what civil rights really meant back then. But its real important to me now and forever. These three men died so that all men and women can have equal rights. May they continue to RIP and JAH the most high bless their souls for all that they did for mankind......Leroy - Nyc, Ny
In a class by itself. I was 16 years old when Bobby and Martin were killed. I still tear up listening to it. And yes, anybody seriously looking at it knows that the death of these three in the sixties were related. The Warren Report was a joke.Edward - Birmingham, Al
We have lost yet another good man. R.I.P. Ted Kennedy. You will be missed... From the Brookline
Irish Mob (B.I.M.)P.S. I live in Pennsylvania now but was raised in Boston.
J.r. - Lancaster, Pa
To anyone who has the album with this on it, there's also another tune that's really great...i believe it's the last track on either side a or b, i can't remember now which. But the tune is called " The Dolphin " and it's a really great number.Frank - Granchester Meadows, Greenland
This was Dion's first big hit since The Wanderer in the early 60s. I have heard it many times over the last 40 years and it's more of a folk song, telling about three great American leaders.

I also remember Tom Clay's version, combined with What the World Needs Now is Love. The Blackberries sang on the record.
Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
Comment for Jim in Toronto
The great Mr Dimucciu has just released a new CD of Rock N Roll "guitar heros" (details via Dion's website) it includes a DVD which you would find interesting and many would find informative .I believe he is the last rocker from the 50's doing original stuff today; his 2007 CD" Son of Skip james " has him doing wonderful blues guitar work as well as vocal magnificence .
David - Inverness, United Kingdom
I give the song 5 stars, especially as a result of listening to Ray Charles' version of it on YouTube. As in his performance of "America The Beautiful," Ray takes "Abraham, Martin, & John" to the next level, and then to higher and higher levels as each verse progresses. Stunning.Cc - Nyc, Ny
My favorite of all time. Thanks Dick Holler and Dion.Conley - Austin, Tx
I can never get past the part where Dion sings "...someday soon...it's gonna be one day..." without tearing up. Such a moving song.

By the way, I'm going to assume that the guy who thinks that 9/11 was an inside job and the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile, and now there is a missing plane at the bottom of the ocean, was kidding.

The problem, when people start believing in conspiracies, is that they start to think that everything is a conspiracy.

I certainly buy into the JFK assassination as a conspiracy, but that is because there is ample evidence to back it up, unlike 9/11.
Matt - Boston, Ma
the man who wrote this, Dick Holler, also wrote Double Shot (of my Baby's Love) later recorded by the Swingin' Medallions and co-wrote Snoopy vs. the Red Baron for the Royal Guardsmen.Mark - Niagara Falls, Ny
This song continues to get to me after all these years. IMO, no one does it better than Dion.Tom - Dozier, Al
This is to Kelli of Cedar Rapids...One man's cheese is another man's meatJimmy - Saginaw, Mi
Dion performed this song on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 60's I believe. At the time, there was a musicians strike and as a result, variety shows, such as the Smothers Brothers, were without studio orchestras or unionized back-up musicians.

Dion came on stage with just an acoustic guitar and proceeded to accompany himself as he sang Abraham, Martin and John. His guitar work was the most surprising thing about the performance. I doubt that anyone, up until that point, even knew Dion could play an instrument, never mind with such apparent skill.

It was an eye opener to be sure.
Jim - Toronto, On
Message for Lisa, Eugene. I think the song you are thinking of is by Tom Clay released in 1971. It also uses the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song 'What The World Needs Know is love'.Graham - Shropshire,, England
I love this song and it chokes me up every time. The only problem I have with the sung lyric is the line, "But it seems the good, they die young" sounds like, "but it seems good they died young". I couldn't understand why they would say this about these great people who were taken from us too early.
Other than that, I dig the song. Dion rocks and kudos to Mr. Holler for writing it!
Ian - Chicago, Il
I'm not the same Darrell as in the other "Darrell" comment, which can easily be found out from the fact that his opinion is the polar opposite of mine.Darrell - Eugene
Unlike a lot of you, I was around when JFK,Bobby Kennedy (RFK) and Martin Luther King, Jr. were murdered, and I was so despondent on each occasion that I drank a half case of Old Milwaukee to drown my depression, and I did it again on 9/11, but with Mike's Hard Lemonade instead of beer. By the way, I believe that Oswald and Sirhan were contracted by the CIA to kill JFK and RFK and that 9/11 was an inside job caused in part by explosives in the WTC basemant and a cruise missile taking the place of the jet which allegedly hit the pentagon and (in my opinion) is at the bottom of the Atlantic, perhaps off of New Jersey, Marylans or Long Island.Darrell - Eugene
There was a version of this song where in the background a little girl asked her father what segergation. A little later in the sang she asked what racisim was. I always like this version the best.Lisa - Eugene, Or
About the JFK assassination: Lee Harvey Oswald REALLY killed JFK. If you still don't believe me, you should read "Kennedy and Lincoln: Medical and Ballistic Comparisons of their Assassinations" by Dr. John K. Lattimer. And about LBJ- One president from Texas is more than enough. LBJ was almost as bad as George W. Bush, what with his unending support of the Vietnam War and all.Darrell - Eugene, United States
Dion is awesome! Mom thought the people mentioned in the song were from the Bible!
I knew the Abe and Martian ones.
Only the good die young...
The bad die younger...
Krista - Elyria, Oh
If you want to hear a great version of this song, look for Emmy Lou Harris' version on her album, "Live at the Ryman." She does it as medly with another song called "Hard Times" which I believe is a Steven Foster song.Ben - Prince George, Canada
The flip side was "Daddy Rollin' (In Your Arms)" about the singer's heroin days. Scary song; nothing like the A side. He made some great albums after this before he got God. Check out "Sit Down Old Friend" and "In Your Own Back Yard".Dave - Scottsdale, Az
The No. 1 best selling PROTEST song of the '60's was Abraham, Martin and John.Dan - Oklahoma City, Ok
The No. 1 best selling song of the '60's was Abraham, Martin and John.Dan - Oklahoma City, Ok
Dion is force to be reckoned with...his music jumps from the doo-wop everybody loves to soulful blues. The man is one of the most important voices of the Rock era.Ross - St. Leo, Mn
This song is pretty cheesy...Kelli - Cedar Rapids, Ia
Also, it was covered by Leonard Nimoy...Adam - Sussex, England
Besides the Beatles, Dion and Dylan were the only musicians used on the cover of the Beatles, Sargeant Peppers album.Christine - Chicago, Il
My favorite cover of this song is by Harry Belefonte.Larry - Shorashim, Israel
The song was a hit in 1968 after the King and Kennedy assasinations.Charles - Charlotte, Nc
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