He Was My Brother

Album: Wednesday Morning, 3 AM (1964)
  • He was my brother
    Five years older than I
    He was my brother
    Twenty-three years old the day he died

    Freedom writer
    They cursed my brother to his face
    "Go home, outsider
    This town's gonna be your buryin' place"

    He was singin' on his knees
    An angry mob trailed along
    They shot my brother dead
    Because he hated what was wrong

    He was my brother
    Tears can't bring him back to me
    He, he was my brother
    And he died so his brothers could be free
    He died so his brothers could be free Writer/s: Paul Simon
    Publisher: CARLIN AMERICA INC
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

Comments: 8

  • Paul AbleWhere was Paul hiding when they were marching ?
  • Fred from Laurel, MdRe-thinking my remarks, replacing "this town" with "Mississippi" in the lyrics had to have happened AFTER the Jun 21 murders, i.e., after BOTH tracks were recorded. Pascal's S&G songbook probably reflects a change made by the duo in their live performances of the song after the murders in Miss., which is reflected in the YouTube vid on this page. The alt. track probably DOESN'T have the "Mississippi" wording. 2009 Jun 06, later.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdAgain, the song was NOT originally written as a tribute or memorial to the 3 Freedom Riders murdered in Mississippi, because it was written BEFORE that incident. Nor was this any sort of premonition on Paul's part, because when he was writing the song, there had already been plenty of violence directed at Freedom Riders, and it was no stretch to see such an incident turning into a killing, many of which had already occurred before the Freedom Riders were formed. *** The object of the rededication of this song, after the Mississippi incident, was indeed Goodman, not Schwerner, according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_&_Garfunkel : --- "Simon showed Garfunkel a few songs that he had written in the folk style: 'Sparrow', 'Bleecker Street', and 'He Was My Brother', which was later dedicated to Andrew Goodman, a friend of both Simon and Garfunkel, and a classmate of Simon's at Queens College, who was one of three civil rights workers murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, on June 21, 1964." --- But in a larger sense, I do think the song was rededicated to all three. *** Pascal/Dijon, FR -- What is the publication date on that songbook? Because on the LP, "Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.," released 1964 Oct 19, on which this song appears, they definitely sing, "This town's gonna be your buryin' place." However, I see in the wiki article about S&G's discography, that there was a re-release of the album in 2001 that included an alternate take of this song, recorded the same date as the original track--1964 Mar 17. I haven't heard this track, and it might indeed have the wording you find in your songbook. This also makes clear that the recording of the song occurred before the Miss. murders, so that the rededication of the song had to be AFTER it was recorded. Interesting. 2009 Jun 06
  • Ben from Brisbane, AustraliaLance,
    I don't know the song, but I just read the lyrics and it looks pretty clear that the song is about those killed in Mississippi. Do you mean that he came up with the idea for the song and then rethought and rewrote it after the killings? Not criticising, just curious.
  • Harold from Germantown, TnThis was written not in memory of Andrew Goodman, but instead as a memorial to Michael "Mickey" Schwerner. As a college student, Schwerner had been a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Both Simon and Garfunkel were also members of AEPi. Of course, in the larger sense, the song is a tribute to the memories of all three of the slain civil rights workers.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdDefinitely 'Freedom Rider'
    * * *
    The murder of Andrew Goodman, Mickey Schwerner and James Chaney the night of June 21, 1964 was the subject of the made-for-TV movie, "Murder in Mississippi" and the feature film, "Mississippi Burning." See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Goodman and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_&_Garfunkel
    * * *
    This song was indeed written before that incident, but was dedicated to Goodman's memory after it.
  • Pascal from Dijon, France'freedom writer': are you sure it's not rather 'freedom rider'?
    paul simon changed some words compared to the original version that is on the paul simon songbook: 'this town's gonna be...' was originally 'mississippi's gonna be your buryin' place'
  • Lance from Spring Hill, FlThis song was NOT written in memory of Andrew Goodman. It was actually written before the incident when Paul Simon was in England. It was after Andrew was sadly killed that Paul Simon released the song.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Frankie Valli

Frankie ValliSong Writing

An interview with Frankie Valli, who talks about why his songs - both solo and with The Four Seasons - have endured, and reflects on his time as Rusty Millio on The Sopranos.

Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go's

Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go'sSongwriter Interviews

Charlotte was established in the LA punk scene when a freaky girl named Belinda approached her wearing a garbage bag.

Strange Magnetics

Strange MagneticsSong Writing

How Bing Crosby, Les Paul, a US Army Signal Corps Officer, and the Nazis helped shape rock and Roll.

U2

U2Fact or Fiction

How did The Edge get his name? Did they name a song after a Tolkien book? And who is "Angel of Harlem" about?

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About Transgenderism

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About TransgenderismSong Writing

A history of songs dealing with transgender issues, featuring Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Morrissey and Green Day.

Art Alexakis of Everclear

Art Alexakis of EverclearSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer of Everclear, Art is also their primary songwriter.