Run Free - Rebecca Ferguson

from the album Heaven (2012)

Over the holidays, I enjoyed listening to the remake of The Hollies classic He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother by The Justice Collective. I love the story of how this song was written.  Songwriters Bobby Scott and Bob Russell were introduced to each other in a California nightclub by the great songwriter, Johnny Mercer.  Bob Russell was dying of lymphatic cancer.  In the short time he had left, he and Bobby Scott got together a handful of times and wrote a few songs, including He Ain't Heavy.  To me it stands as a reminder that it does not matter how much time you have, it is what you make of that time.

The Justice Collective version is a tribute to the victims of the 1989 Hillsborough football tragedy in England, where 96 people were crushed to death as the result of poor crowd control.  The group is looking for justice for the families of the disaster and put together an all-star music line-up to remake He Ain't Heavy to promote the cause.  With the help of a social media campaign, it is currently Number One on the British charts.

The song is sung in a Do They Know Its Christmas / We Are The World style, with artists each contributing a line or two.  I enjoy these songs, listening to the different vocal tones, and trying to pick out my favorite singers.  This song includes some of my favorites: Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Paul Heaton of The Housemartins and The Beautiful South, and Shane MacGowen of The Pouges.  There are also lots of voices I was unfamiliar with.  One voice was that of a woman who sang line line "He's My Brother" in a way that reminded me of Aretha Franklin.  I did a bit of research, and her name is Rebecca Ferguson.

Rebecca Ferguson is a British R&B/Soul singer.  Of the songs from her most recent album, I gravitate towards Run Free the most.  It is standard R&B fare with a great band, awesome backing vocals, and slick production built on a foundation of strong songwriting.  But the song is really all about the lead vocal.  There is something in the tone of her voice that makes her special.  I am not sure what it is, but I know I dig it.  Check it out.

Click Here to watch her perform the song live in Belfast.

Click Here to watch The Justice Collective in the studio recording He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.  Check out Sir Paul playing his Les Paul.