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One Hit Wonders: Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky”

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Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky" (from the author's collection)

Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” (from the author’s collection)

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We keep hearing this one of the TV so let’s go back to ’69 and reconsider Norman Greenbaum, who joined the class of One Hit Wonders with his song, “Spirit in the Sky.”

Once a member of the obscure Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, Norman Greenbaum went solo under the direction of producer Erik Jacobsen, who’d also worked with the Lovin’ Spoonful.

The inspiration for “Spirit in the Sky” came from watching Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing a gospel song on TV. Thinking he could easily write the same sort of song, he sat down and completed “Spirit” in 15 minutes.

Though it refers to “Jesus” throughout the song Greenbaum, who is Jewish, has said the song isn’t about any specific religion. A Fender Telecaster with a fuzz box built into the body is what he used to get the song’s unique guitar sound.


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