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  1. #1
    Administrator Unboxxed's Avatar
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    Mar 2014

    Abraham, Martin, and John - missing first version

    Most folks have only ever heard the revised version of singer Dion's 1968 hit, "Abraham, Martin, and John". For those who don't know, the song honors Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy, four American figures who were each assassinated.

    In fact, you'll be hard-pressed to find any mention of the first version. It did not include Bobby. The only mentions I find of the first version are anecdotal. I heard the first version on the radio when I was 12. Several times. I learned the lyrics. Abraham, Martin, and John. Just those three. That was it. It was played only a short time then Bobby was assassinated. Then, the lyrics were revised to include Bobby. The DJ played both versions back-to-back one day, explaining the difference between them. I remember at that time thinking how they kept the song name as is, only three names, thus Bobby will always look like an add-on to the song, which he was.

    Someone wrote on Songfacts regarding the 2013 movie, "Phil Spector" starring Al Pacino, and the song's writer, Dick Holler, the following comments:

    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.
    Well, I didn't see the movie to know what actually was implied, but I'm here to tell you, there were two versions, as I learned the lyrics of the first version then heard both versions back-to-back explained by the DJ, just like I said.

    If you think about it, if there really was only one version released, the one with Bobby, since we know it was released three months after his assassination with the news still a shock to the public, surely the lyricist and the record company would not be so insensitive as to leave Bobby's name off of the title released in full knowledge that he has just passed. Had we had the internet back then, there would have been a reaction to this omission, no doubt.

    But, I believe that everybody who paid attention at the time knew it was a revision to an existing song, thus the welcoming acceptance to the revision with Bobby in it, even while the song name had not changed. I paid attention and kept this piece of trivia all of these years until I found Songfacts and shared it there, then another fellow posted after me to say that he remembers the first version, too.

    Did the radio play over and over a promo copy of the first version? Whoever possesses a 45rpm recording of the first version has quite the find.
    The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. - Mark Twain

    The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
    - Henry David Thoreau

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  2. #2
    Senior Member Hoppes#9's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    The Carolinas
    just me..

    Re: Abraham, Martin, and John - missing first version

    I have heard Johnny Cash and Ray Charles versions of it.....but truth be told it was probably 30 + years ago the last time I did hear it....

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Gizzard Gulch Or.

    Re: Abraham, Martin, and John - missing first version

    I should remember this, but I guess my taste in music was pretty bad back then.

    Lou Reeds New York album had a cut about living poor in the big apple, where Lou said "We should just knock e'm in the head and get it over with. Dump e'm out on the dirty blvd. That's what the statue of bigotry says!" Now I never saw any news, but the song was pulled from the radio one summer. When it returned those lines were gone. Rather the customer CD still has them or not I couldn't say. But the meant for airplay CD's don't have them, and I've not heard the original version on the radio since. One thing sure, Lou's song makes Jackson Brown's efforts at describing the hood look pretty sugar coated.
    Every day I make the world a little bit worse.

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