Abraham, Martin and John

After the horrific assassinations in 1968, which claimed the lives of two great Americans, Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy, Dick Holler wrote one the most soft-spoken, yet powerful songs – “Abraham, Martin and John.” It was initially recorded and made famous by Dion, who was a pop icon, yet better known for songs of the genre of “Runaround Sue.” The lyrics follow:

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
You know, I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend John?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked ’round and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
Some day soon, and it’s a-gonna be one day …

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill,
With Abraham, Martin and John.

On this 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, I was reminded of this song as an ideal tribute to people who fought for those with less. Last night, I watched the most poignant of all versions of this song performed by Moms Mabley at the encouragement of Sammy Davis, Jr. on a televised show hosted by Hugh Hefner over forty years ago. In this unlikely setting, Moms had everyone around her in tears, including herself, Hefner and Davis. To see this performance, please check out “Whoopi Goldberg’s Presents Moms Mabley,” a documentary film that aired this week on HBO. The show by itself is worth it, but this song toward the end elevates Mabley even further.

Paraphrasing Mabley, we need more people using their voice to speak out for injustice. Today, we seem to have a “war on the poor” rather than a “war on poverty.” People are struggling and need to have a voice at the table. We have too many political chess games that forget the pawns. Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby knew this. Let’s do justice to the anniversary of John’s death and not only remember this, but lend our voices, hands and feet.