Norman Greenbaum

Norman Greenbaum

Norman Greenbaum (born November 20, 1942, Malden, Massachusetts, United States) is an American singer-songwriter. He was raised in a traditional Jewish household and attended Hebrew school. His initial interest in music was sparked by southern blues music and the folk music that was hugely popular in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He performed with various bands in high school and studied music at Boston University for two years. In college he performed at local coffeehouses but eventually dropped out and moved to Los Angeles in 1965.

Greenbaum is best known for his song “Spirit in the Sky”. It sold two million copies across 1969 and 1970. Sales for this song reached over one million by May 1970 alone, and received a gold disc awarded by the R.I.A.A.. The song, with its combination of ‘heavy’ guitar, hand-clapping, and spiritual lyrics, has been used in many films, advertisements, and television shows. Warner Bros. Records released “Spirit in the Sky” to tremendous response in 1970; a December 1970 survey of the top 100 songs of the decade, hosted by radio personality Robert W. Morgan, listed “Spirit in the Sky” at #7.

Although “Spirit in the Sky” has a clear Christian theme, Greenbaum was, and still is, a practicing Jew. He was inspired to write the song after watching country singers Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing a religious song on television.

In a 12/06/2011 interview with classic-rock music journalist Ray Shasho of The Examiner, Greenbaum stated that western movies were the real inspiration for “Spirit In The Sky”:

Norman Greenbaum: If you ask me what I based “Spirit In The Sky” on… What did we grow up watching? …Westerns! These mean and nasty varmints get shot and they wanted to die with their boots on. So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on.

Ray Shasho: So that was the trigger that got you to write the song?

Norman Greenbaum: Yes. The song itself was simple, when you’re writing a song you keep it simple of course. It wasn’t like a Christian song of praise it was just a simple song. I had to use Christianity because I had to use something. But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky. Funny enough… I wanted to die with my boots on.

Though Greenbaum is generally regarded as a one-hit wonder; several of his records placed prominently in the charts. In 1968, under the name Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, he recorded the novelty hit “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago”.

~ from Wikipedia

Feel free to use our Facebook page to discuss & ask any questions you have about this artist, a fellow PsycheHead is sure to have the answer.

Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1970 album Spirit In The Sky
spirit in the sky

  • Junior Cadillac
  • Spirit In The Sky
  • Jubilee
  • Tars Of India
  • Marcy

From the 1971 single “California Earthquake”
California Earthquake

  • California Earthquake