Spirit in the Sky

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"Spirit in the Sky"
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky.jpg
Single by Norman Greenbaum
from the album Spirit in the Sky
B-side"Milk Cow"
Released
  • December 1969 (UK)
  • January 1970 (US)
Format7" single
Recorded1969
GenrePsychedelic rock,[1] hard rock,[2] gospel[3][2]
Length3:57
LabelReprise 0885
Reprise RS20885 (UK)
Songwriter(s)Norman Greenbaum
Producer(s)Erik Jacobsen
Audio sample
"Spirit in the Sky"

"Spirit in the Sky" is a song written and originally recorded[2] by Norman Greenbaum and released in late 1969. The single became a gold record, selling two million copies from 1969 to 1970 and reached number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart (April 18, 1970), where it lasted for 15 weeks in the Top 100. Billboard ranked the record the No. 22 song of 1970.[4] It also climbed to number one on the UK, Australian and Canadian charts in 1970. Rolling Stone ranked "Spirit in the Sky" No. 333 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was featured on the 1969 album of the same name. Cover versions by Doctor and the Medics and Gareth Gates have also made the number 1 spot in the UK.

Original version by Norman Greenbaum[edit]

"Spirit in the Sky" makes several references to Jesus, although Greenbaum is Jewish. In a 2006 interview with the New York Times, Greenbaum told a reporter he was inspired to write the song after watching Porter Wagoner singing a gospel song on TV. Greenbaum said: "I thought, 'Yeah, I could do that,' knowing nothing about gospel music, so I sat down and wrote my own gospel song. It came easy. I wrote the words in 15 minutes."[2]

Greenbaum had previously been a member of psychedelic jug band Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. When they split up he won a solo contract with producer Erik Jacobsen for Reprise Records. Jacobsen had previously worked with The Lovin' Spoonful and the song was included on Greenbaum's first solo album. The song's arrangement came together in the studio in San Francisco where lead guitarist Russell DaShiell, bass player Doug Killmer from the band Crowfoot and drummer Norman Mayell from the band Sopwith Camel[5] worked with Greenbaum. According to the New York Times article, Greenbaum used a Fender Telecaster guitar with a fuzz box built into the body to generate the song's characteristic guitar sound.[2]

The resulting sound was an "oddly compelling" combination of gospel and hard rock music,[2] with loud drums, distorted electric guitar, clapping hands, and tambourines. The production team brought in the Stovall Sisters, an Oakland-based gospel trio, to sing backing vocals.[2] Because of the song's length and lyrics, the record company was initially reluctant to issue it, but was finally released as a single after two other singles from the album had poor sales.[2] "Spirit in the Sky" became a worldwide hit, and was at the time the best-selling single ever for the Reprise label.[2]

There is a music video with Greenbaum singing the song.[6]

About the song, Greenbaum has been quoted as saying, "It sounds as fresh today as when it was recorded. I’ve gotten letters from funeral directors telling me that it's their second-most-requested song to play at memorial services, next to 'Danny Boy'."[7]

Chart performance[edit]

Cover versions and samples[edit]

"Spirit in the Sky"
Doctor and the Medics - Spirit in the Sky.jpg
Single by Doctor and the Medics
from the album Laughing at the Pieces
B-side"Laughing at the Pieces"
Released1986
Format7 in
Recorded1986
GenreNeo-psychedelia,[25] new wave[26]
Length3:28
Songwriter(s)Norman Greenbaum
Doctor and the Medics singles chronology
"Spirit in the Sky"
(1986)
"Burn"
(1986)

Elton John covered "Spirit in the Sky" in 1969.[27]

A version by Dorothy Combs Morrison reached #47 in Canada in November 1970.[28]

Bauhaus covered "Spirit in the Sky" on their 1983 single "Sanity Assassin".[29] In 1986 the group Doctor and the Medics reached No. 1 in the UK singles chart with their version of the song, while the same year punk band Fuzzbox released their own less successful version.

Nina Hagen covered "Spirit in the Sky" on her àlbum Nina Hagen in Ekstasy.

In 1991, The Kentucky Headhunters covered "Spirit in the Sky" on their album, Electric Barnyard.[30] The song was covered by DC Talk for Jesus: Music from & Inspired by the Epic Mini Series soundtrack and was released as a B side with LeAnn Rimes' song "I Need You".[31][32]

Howard Stern and his in-studio band The Losers performed the song in 2002 as part of a Battle of the Bands with actor Corey Feldman's band Truth Movement. A humorous version of the song recorded to raise money for the charity Comic Relief by The Kumars with Gareth Gates also reached No. 1 in 2003 becoming the third version of this song to top the UK singles chart. Christian band Stellar Kart covered the song on their 2010 album, Everything Is Different Now.[33]

Goldfrapp sampled the song for their single "Ooh La La".[34]

Doctor & the Medics version[edit]

Chart (1986) Peak
position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[35] 3
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[36] 1
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[37] 29
Canadian RPM Top Singles[38] 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[39] 9
Ireland (IRMA)[40] 1
Italy (FIMI)[41] 6
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[42] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[43] 16
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[44] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[45] 69
US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play[45] 27

Gareth Gates (with the Kumars) version[edit]

"Spirit in the Sky"
Gareth Gates - Spirit in the Sky.jpg
Single by Gareth Gates with The Kumars
from the album Go Your Own Way
B-side
ReleasedMarch 14, 2003
FormatCD single
Recorded2003
GenrePop rock
Length3:29
LabelSony BMG, RCA
Songwriter(s)Norman Greenbaum
Producer(s)Steve Mac
Gareth Gates with The Kumars singles chronology
"What My Heart Wants to Say"
(2002)
"Spirit in the Sky"
(2003)
"Sunshine"
(2003)

"Spirit in the Sky" served as the first single from Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates' second studio album, Go Your Own Way. The single was released on March 14, 2003, and was the official Comic Relief charity single for 2003. The song features guest vocals from The Kumars. The song peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming Gates' fourth number one single.

Track listing[edit]

UK CD1
  1. "Spirit in the Sky" – 3:29
  2. "Dance Again" – 4:06
  3. "Spirit in the Sky" (Gareth Only Version) – 3:25
  4. "Spirit in the Sky" (Video) – 4:00
UK CD2
  1. "Spirit in the Sky" – 3:29
  2. "Will You Wait for Me?" – 4:13
  3. "Interview With Gareth" – 5:00
UK DVD
  1. "Spirit in the Sky" (Video) – 4:00
  2. "Dance Again" (Video) – 4:06
  3. "Spirit in the Sky" (Making of the Video) – 3:25

Charts[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
position
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[46] 10
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[47] 1
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[48] 9
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[49] 33
Germany (Official German Charts)[50] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[51] 2
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[52] 14
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[53] 11
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[54] 1
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[55] 30
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[56] 1

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jermy Leeuwis. "Jason Mraz – Spirit In The Sky". MusicRemedy. Retrieved 24 June 2013. "Jason Mraz's new song is a bluesy, gospel-influenced version of Norman Greenbaum's 1970 psychedelic rock anthem 'Spirit in the Sky.'"
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i McNichol, Tom (December 24, 2006). "A 'Spirit' From the '60s That Won't Die". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Spirit in the Sky on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 24, 2013. "The handclaps and riffs ... simmered down a little to allow Greenbaum to sing a tune which really did sound like a genuine gospel song ..."
  4. ^ Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1970
  5. ^ Michael Goldberg, Sopwith Camel: Where Are They Now?. Rolling Stone, September 10, 1987. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  6. ^ Video on YouTube
  7. ^ "Christian Order - Read - Editorials - February 2011". Christianorder.com. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  8. ^ "Australia n°1 Hits - 70's". Worldcharts.co.uk. Archived from the original on April 24, 2014. Retrieved June 10, 2013.
  9. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  10. ^ "Ultratop.be – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  11. ^ "Spirit in the sky in Canadian Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  12. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  13. ^ "Spirit in the sky in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved June 1, 2013. Only one result when searching "Norman Greenbaum"
  14. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Norman Greenbaum" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  15. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  16. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky". VG-lista.
  17. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Norman Greenbaum – Spirit In The Sky". Swiss Singles Chart.
  18. ^ "1970 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive - 2nd May 1970". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  19. ^ "Spirit in the Sky awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  20. ^ Cash Box Top 100 Singles, May 9, 1970
  21. ^ David Kent's "Australian Chart Book 1970-1992" Archived March 5, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". collectionscanada.gc.ca.
  23. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1970/Top 100 Songs of 1970". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  24. ^ Cash Box Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles, December 26, 1970
  25. ^ Mills, Ted. "Laughing at the Pieces review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  26. ^ Sutton, Michael. "Doctor & the Medics biography on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved June 24, 2013. "new wave remake of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky""
  27. ^ "Elton John – Legendary Covers '69/'70". Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  28. ^ title RPM Magazine
  29. ^ "Bauhaus's Spirit in the Sky cover of Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  30. ^ Mansfield, Brian. "Electric Barnyard review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  31. ^ "Jesus: Music From & Inspired by the Epic Mini Series: Patrick Williams, Various Artists: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  32. ^ "I Need You / Spirit in the Sky: Leann Rimes, Dc Talk: Music". Amazon.com. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  33. ^ Johnson, Jared. "Everything Is Different Now review on Allmusic". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  34. ^ "Goldfrapp's Ooh La La sample of Norman Greenbaum's Spirit in the Sky". WhoSampled.com. Retrieved July 18, 2013.
  35. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  36. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  37. ^ "Ultratop.be – Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  38. ^ "Spirit in the sky in Canadian Singles Chart". Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  39. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  40. ^ "Spirit in the sky in Irish Chart". IRMA. Retrieved June 1, 2013. 2nd result when searching "Doctor and the Medics"
  41. ^ "The best-selling singles of 1986 in Italy". HitParadeItalia (it). Retrieved June 1, 2013.
    48. Spirit in the sky - Doctor and the Medics [No. 6]
  42. ^ "Charts.nz – Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky". Top 40 Singles.
  43. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Doctor & The Medics – Spirit In The Sky". Singles Top 100.
  44. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  45. ^ a b "Doctor & the Medics awards on Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  46. ^ "Austriancharts.at – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit In The Sky" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  47. ^ "Ultratop.be – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit In The Sky" (in Dutch). Ultratip.
  48. ^ "Ultratop.be – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit In The Sky" (in French). Ultratip.
  49. ^ "Ultratop.be – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit In The Sky" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  50. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit in the Sky". GfK Entertainment Charts.
  51. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Spirit In The Sky". Irish Singles Chart.
  52. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 43, 2003" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40
  53. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit In The Sky" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  54. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  55. ^ "Swisscharts.com – Gareth Gates with the Kumars – Spirit In The Sky". Swiss Singles Chart.
  56. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.

External links[edit]