Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Strange Story Behind "Spirit In The Sky"

Between late 1969 into 1970, Norman Greenbaum's, "Spirit In The Sky" became a mega-hit selling over two million copies. It also became one of the best loved 1970's electric-hippie rock anthems ever. Inspired by a religious song once sung by Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner on television, practicing Jewish singer-songwriter Greenbaum decided to write his own little"Jesus" song. The song not only appealed to the religious audience, but the heavy searing guitar sound and the cosmic "pinball game" effects done in the studio production, made this one of the coolest sounding hits on the charts in 1970 as well. Greenbaum's own "Jesus song" is considered to be one of the greatest rock songs of the 1970's by many music critics including myself.

The magic captured on "Spirit In The Sky" just never seemed to translate to other songs by Greenbaum, though. His follow-up single, "Canned Ham" fell just short of the top 40 charts. And, "California Earthquake", was another Norman Greenbaum failure to gain much chart traction as well. Surprisingly, Greenbaum once had some minor success with a novelty song, "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago", that he recorded under another the group name, Dr. West's Medicine Show And Junk Band. Well that never became a household word. But, "Spirit In The Sky" sure did.

Today, Greenbaum continues to live in Petaluma, California, promoting concerts and living off of song royalties. That's the quiet life compared to the massive "one hit wonder" fame that "Spirit In The Sky" once brought this very talented singer-songwriter.


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