The Songs he didn’t write: Bob Dylan and Clydie King sings Abraham, Martin and John

Abraham, Martin and John is a 1968 song written by Dick Holler and first recorded by Dion. It is a tribute to the memory of four assassinated Americans, all icons of social change, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. It was written in response to the assassination of King and that of Robert Kennedy in April and June 1968, respectively.

It has been covered by many artists, among them are Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan did the song live in 1980 and 1981, here is a great clip, with Clydie king, from the DVD/film, Trouble no more: A musical film:

The original version, recorded by Dion, featured a gentle folk rock production from Phil Gernhard and arrangement from John Abbott. The feeling of the song is set with a gentle oboe and violin opening then featuring harp flourishes at multiple points, including the instrumental conclusion. The song also features a flugelhorn, an electric organ, bass, and drums. Dion felt during post production that the song needed more depth and added a track featuring him playing classical guitar notably at the bridge, lead ins and the close.

Here is Dion’s version live on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour:

– Hallgeir

5 thoughts on “The Songs he didn’t write: Bob Dylan and Clydie King sings Abraham, Martin and John”

  1. Hello there, thank you for posting this information about a song performed by Bob Dylan.

    The Bob Dylan Project’s goal is to present, in an accessible way, from a database, every available piece of information related to the Music of Bob Dylan.

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    So when you are ready and if you are interested in accessing a comprehensive anthology on this topic, then you can find the links to all the relevant information plus Bob Dylan’s recorded versions and many other related versions inside Bob Dylan’s Music Box at:

    This post is designed to link the music to a broader audience…

  2. Just a small correction. My father, Dick Holler, wrote Abraham, Martin and John a few days after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles June of 1968. In the Phil Spector movie, it falsely portrayed AMJ being written after Martin Luther King’s assassination, then re-written again after Bobby’s passing. Simply not true. My father wrote the song in all of 20 minutes around June 9th or 10th, 1968. I contacted the screenplay’s writer of the Phil Spector film David Mamet; however, they claim artistic license. So be it. We just wanted to set the record straight. Bob and Clydie King’s performance is timeless. My dad, being a huge fan, cherishes Dylan’s cover of his composition as one of his finest accolades.

  3. Hallgier, as an old troubaour I must give thanks to Dick Holler for writing Abraham, Martin and John. He himself gives an impassioned performance on his youtube video of his great song. I feel a kinship with him as he and I share the same birth year,1934. His DOB is 10/16/ 34 and mine is 04/13/34. JRW JRW

  4. Meaningful post, Bobby’s duet with Ms. King is a gem as is Dion;s great song. Music is a “Bridge over Troubled Waters.” and with so many now spewing harsh words of hate and division I’d like to add another calming voice to the choir. Here’s a song written on the 50th anniversary of the dark day Martin Luther King was struck down. I re-post it every year on April 4th. JRW

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