American pianist and songwriter Richard "Dick" Holler wrote this tribute to martyred icons Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy soon after the deaths of King and Robert Kennedy in April and June 1968. First recorded by pop artist Dion in August 1968, the song became a hit single, ultimately reaching #4 on the U.S. pop singles chart and reaching "gold record" status for selling more than one million copies. In Canada, it reached #1.
Although covered by a wide variety of artists, including Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Kenny Rogers and Andy Williams, the original 1968 recording by Dion remains the most recognized around the world. In 2001, the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA), in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Arts, named the Dion version one of the "Songs of the Century," in terms of historical significance, specifically #248 on their final list of 365 songs as selected by music industry executives, news media, teachers and students. Number one on this list was Judy Garland's "Over the Rainbow" (1939). - Stephen Fagin, Curator
Included in the Museum's temporary exhibit, "Rebel Spirits: Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.," about how these two men, from wildly different backgrounds, were finding common ground in their activism for the poor, for civil rights and for ending the war in Vietnam, this item will be on display on the Museum's seventh floor from June 5, 2018 to September 3, 2018. - Lindsey Richardson, Curator of Collections