Singled Out Classic: Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky

01/27/2012
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Today Norman Greenbaum tells us about his classic rock hit from 1970 "Spirit In The Sky" which has sold two million copies has been featured in 47 movies and dozens of commercial ads and TV series during the past four decades. Here is the story:

When asked why does 'Spirit In The Sky' still resonate with the music listener today? Norman explains, "A few reasons: It's just a great song, with a terrific production that has stood the test of time, still sounding as vibrant today as 40 years ago. It also sounds great in the car, yep, car radio. When we mixed it, we made sure it sounded as great on car stereos as it did on home systems. It has an unforgettable opening musical riff, at times referred to as 'the heavy duty industrial fuzz tone'. It gives people chills listening to it. Plus, when it was included on Rock Band 2 it brought a new generation into the mix. Now that the song is aging in years, but not excellence, many fans have aged with it and now recognize it not only as a great song that reminds them of their life back then, such as taking their first date to my concert, 'Spirit' being the first album they ever bought, their parents screaming to turn the volume down, love making in the back seat to it and my favorite, naming their car 'the green-bomb', and as a song to take with them as we near the time to go up to the Spirit In The Sky. Because I answer my own e-mail, many people relate to me the circumstances of a loved one passing and how my song has brought them solace and each time they hear my song, either on the radio, in a movie or on TV, they are reminded that their loved ones are OK and looking down on them."

The story behind the song "Spirit In The Sky" is an interesting one. The original idea for the song came from Norman watching a performance on TV one night by country legend Porter Wagoner, who was singing about a preacher. This inspired Greenbaum to write a religious rock song. Although many have believed through the years that Norman, born of Jewish heritage, was a 'born again Christian', in truth, this is not the case. He made the decision to challenge himself to writing a gospel lyric, hoping he wouldn't flub it and meticulously crafted music that went on to surpass everyone's expectations. The guitar riff to 'Spirit In The Sky' undoubtedly is just as important to the song's success as the words and music. "My riff is a take on old blues riffs, common in the '20s and '30s," Norman explains. "Although a few other songs have similar riffs, my riff really stands out, as I infused a few original notes and changes the others do not have. Plus, the fuzz just ripples your mind. It is a sound that has never been reproduced, another reason the song stands so well."

Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, check out Norman's new website and find out about a rare live appearance he is making next month right here!

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