In the third week of March 1970, the song topping many charts was one about faith, one with heavy, freaky, fuzzy guitars. You know the one.
“Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum was just about all the church I wanted at the time. Going on a forced march through confirmation was a drag. Skepticism about organized religion may simply come with being in your teens, a time when you start thinking for yourself.
That said, “Spirit in the Sky” may have helped me start thinking independently about religion. It was that tune, and the wave of pop-rock singles that followed in its wake in the early ’70s — among them Ocean’s “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and anything from “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
I’m pretty sure we had the Norman Greenbaum single as kids. After all, you could be sure it came with parental approval once you explained what it was about. I no longer have that 45, but I do have that tune.
In 1997, the folks at Rhino Special Products put it on a greatest-hits promo CD for Kahlua liqueur. “Spirit in the Sky” apparently qualifies as “’70s Party Music,” next to tunes from Foreigner, Brownsville Station, Foghat, Deep Purple, Joe Walsh, BTO and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Our 15-year-old son recently found that CD and is digging it. “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” was blasting from the stereo in the basement when I went to chase him into bed the other night.
Evan might need an introduction to “Spirit in the Sky,” but you don’t. So here’s a cool cover. I can’t remember where I came across this moody, crunchy version, but thanks to whoever put it out there.
“Spirit in the Sky,” The Upsidedown, from “Trust Electricity,” 2004. It’s the last cut on the debut record from these psych-rockers from Portland, Oregon.