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Has Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend, Martin?

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the United States, a national holiday. I talked about the great civil rights leader on English Cafe #5. We now sometimes refer to this holiday as “MLK Day.” As on all national holidays, all government offices, schools, and many private businesses are closed.

I was only five years old when Martin Luther King was assassinated (to kill a famous or important person), but soon after the death of King and the assassination that same year (1968) of Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President John F. Kennedy, there was a song released about the killings of these three American leaders (King, Bobby Kennedy, and John Kennedy) and President Abraham Lincoln. The song became very famous, and I remember my parents had a copy of the record (what we used to listen to before CDs!). The song begins with a reference (a mention of) to Abraham Lincoln, who was the president who ended slavery (the treatment of people as property) in the U.S. in the mid-1800s, and who was also assassinated. It connects these four leaders as people who helped others. The song, sung by pop singer Dion, became very popular in the U.S. in the late 1960s.

It is an emotional song, a reminder of the great men who were lost due to violence and hatred. The song became the fourth most popular song of its day, and sold more than a million copies. Several other singers later recorded the song, including Ray Charles. Many people who listen to the song today and who remember those sad days of American history still get tears in their eyes, even 40 years later. I do.

I found this recording on YouTube. The pictures in the video, of course, were added by someone else much later, but you can hear the song and read the lyrics below. This video begins with some traditional patriotic (to be proud of one’s country) symbols of the United States, and then shows photographs of the four assassinated men.
Abraham, Martin, and John
Has anybody here seen my old friend Abraham?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed (gave freedom to) a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.*
You know, I just looked around (searched for him) 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 (poetic form of “around”) and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for (believed in, represented)?
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 (it’s going to) be one day …

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

*the good they die young - this is a common expression and belief, that good, moral, ethical people often die as young men and women


5 Responses to “Has Anybody Here Seen My Old Friend, Martin?”

  1. Oleg Says:

    Great song! Thanks a lot, Jeff!

  2. emiliano Says:

    It seems to me that I’m very old because I remember quite good all these sad events, and how much impressed me the lost of those three unique persons as they do so much
    about civil rights for people over there at your country.
    Each of them, the assassinations, were a shock for people who read or listen the news, and they were also incredible for me and my surrounding. Here in Spain we have a sentence that says:
    “Everybody remember what he or her was doing when first listened that pressident Kennedy was assassinated”, and it is true. I remembered just in time what was I doing, I was in the bus going to engineer school here in Madrid, and I listened it on the radio, afterward all people were talking about it as unbelievable.

    And not only Old Friend Martin Luther King was assassinated as the big peace fighter against discrimination, also a lot o people were assassinated before and after him because they also were peace fishters against civil rights dicriminations.
    I was on my twenties and remember all very clearly, some churches were exploded with people inside, young people were killed, and so on.
    There are some films abouth this sad history of U.S. (like in other nations as all has its sad histories), also books, but at the end the sacrifice of these generous people who give their lifes defending civir rights weren’t sterile.
    Now there is an afro-american candidate to be the first not-white president and it is a good sign to measure how long civil rights are now in U.S.
    President Kennedy was also the firts catholic president in U.S. history.

  3. Rafael Says:

    Hi Jeff

    I didnĀ“t know that there is a holiday in memory of Martin Luther King. I like his speechs and thoughts, surely he is a excellent speecher.

    Oh, by the way, congratulations for your podcasts, they are fantastic for English students!

    Best regards

  4. Elly Says:

    my feeling is sort of sad, heavy while i am listening to this song, but whilst, i am so encouraged to go ahead and carry on our dreams and freedom as well.
    thanks !!!

  5. Jamshid Says:

    Hi Jeff
    29.01.2008 Berlin
    in every country you find the people who want to help nation but are some people who they don’t like it .
    think an our world , every thing had opposite. black & white , good & bad , day & night ,&… even in our language we have positive and negative sentence.
    these people are not dead, they are living in our heart.
    I try to translate a verse from my language (farsi) it’s very hard but I try it.
    it is no mater that you are good or bad ,it’s come a day that you are dead. It is better a good memory from you…
    Best thanks for our Jeff ,Lucy ,and podcast team
    you are the BEST

    Jamshid from Berlin Germany