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Spirit In The Sky by Norman Greenbaum

Album: Spirit In The SkyReleased: 1969Charted:
  • When I die and they lay me to rest
    Gonna go to the place that's the best
    When I lay me down to die
    Goin' up to the spirit in the sky
    Goin' up to the spirit in the sky
    That's where I'm gonna go when I die
    When I die and they lay me to rest
    Gonna go to the place that's the best

    Prepare yourself you know it's a must
    Gotta have a friend in Jesus
    So you know that when you die
    He's gonna recommend you
    To the spirit in the sky
    Gonna recommend you
    To the spirit in the sky
    That's where you're gonna go when you die
    When you die and they lay you to rest
    You're gonna go to the place that's the best

    Never been a sinner I never sinned
    I got a friend in Jesus
    So you know that when I die
    He's gonna set me up with
    The spirit in the sky
    Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
    That's where I'm gonna go when I die
    When I die and they lay me to rest
    I'm gonna go to the place that's the best
    Go to the place that's the bestWriter/s: NORMAN GREENBAUM
    Publisher: Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.
    Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind
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Comments: 59

To your comments about this song when I wrote this song I was 14 years old my grandma would take me in to her sanctuary every night and we would pray for an hour or hour and a half she taught me from the Bible what life should be when I saw in reality what it wasn't .all the bad going around me made me think what happens after you die my grandma told me our spirits go to heaven and bad spirits go to hell so that's how I got the insperation of the lyrics spirit in the sky because I wanted to go to heaven which was in the sky these lyrics came from a young spirit pure at heart.

To Lyn in LosAgeles - I was 14 what did you expect from a 14 year old who believes she is sinless (of course) and believes in Jesus?
Tina Sosa (ernestina Sosa) - Seguin Texas
In the song facts the part were it says the lyrics came easy I believe it of course they lyrics came easy because they came from me I was 14 years old when I sent my lyrics titled by me spirit in the sky to a publishing company whom stole my lyrics and never heard from them until I heard my lyrics on radio later that year every time I would hear it I would feel so bad and say that's my song THATS MYYYY SONG!!!! But who's to believe a 14 year old Hispanic kid oh well now I am a 61 year old hispanic woman still rebelling out. Life stinks when authority strikes.Tina Sosa (ernestina Sosa) - Seguin Texas
Doc and the medics, I had their version and it sounded BETTER. I never liked Norman's voice, and the chorus gotta go, but Norman's intro riff sounds great!Jorge - Bronx,ny
This song was the very best song to have on the radio when you were pulling up to the line when you were drag racing at the strip or street racing from the lights in the middle of the night. You felt invincible. The song and the throb of the engine that escalated to whine as you brought the revs up and dumped the clutch were mind blowing if you had the good fortune to time it just right.John Newell - Pickering, On
On April 18th 1970, Norman Greenbaum performed "Spirit in the Sky" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Two month earlier on February 28th, 1970 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #64; and on April 12th it peaked at #3 (for 3 weeks) and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 8 of those 15 weeks it was on the Top 10)...
He had two other Top 100 hits; "Canned Ham" (#46 in 1970) and "California Earthquake" (#93 in 1971)...
As stated above, in 1966 he formed Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band; the group had one Top 100 hit, "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago", it peaked at #52 and stayed on the Top 100 for 7 weeks...
Mr. Greenbaum will celebrate his 72nd birthday this coming November 20th and Dick Clark passed away on this day in 2012 at the age of 82.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
As a Christian I find this song meaningful but must admit I have had difficulty with the lyrics "I don't sin". Personally I think the self righteous do the Christian community a disservice.
I have interpreted the words of "I don't sin" as an indication that my sins will not be seen when I die.
I have asked my children to play this song at the end of my wake. Hopefully it will give them a feeling that I am in a better place.
Neil - Sunshine Coast, Australia
The intro to this song was used to magnificent effect at the end of the "Apprentice" story arc on House M.D., when House was winnowing candidates for the next generation of Fellowship interns. Cuddy realizes House has once again played her and gotten what he wanted. She makes a remark that at least now the "games are over". House, with an evil glint in his eye, says "You've known me HOW long?". The guitar intro fires up as she leaves in exasperation... Fabulous...Randy - Rio De Janeiro, -
I have loved this song since I heard it the first time, and Norman's version is the only one I have ever herd of. You just gotta crank this baby up and dance all over like nobody's watching. Glad to see I'm not the only one who still love this song. Of course, it has stood the test of time, the world needs it's message. Gonna guess it will stand alot more time too. I think I'm glad I found this site. never thought I'd find a place I could get this much info on a song.Chel - Belle Plaine&allen, Burkina Faso
Doctor & the medics singer Clive Jackson remarked that every artist / group that covered this never had another big hit he said the song is cursed in some way.Mark - Maesteg, United Kingdom
A great song !!! I get amazed at the instrumentation and the vocalization.

Whatever ones beliefs are, Jesus had some awesome stories about human nature and our inability to get along as humans.

I have made arrangements upon my eventual death to have this song played at my wake.

LOL ... whenver this song gets played I jam to it. My wife doesn't believe I can jam and dance.
Dalan - Notacityyet, Mt
Christians as a whole do portray a self righteous attitude of being cleaned up, tryingto be good and at least being prayed up when they do sin. This leads them to believe that they are sinless. I've heard a pastor say that he thinks that if you die with unconfessed sin you are going to hell. This is common among Christian types and the religious in general. The truth about Jesus is much better, but I think this song sounds like it's mocking the goody two shoes mentality of Christians and if so, it does so very correctly.Paul - San Angelo, Tx
If you really want to know what went on when "Spirit in the Sky" was first on the national radio in the USA, I'll fill you in. The "Jesus Freaks" were just identified as such and started.......Hair the musical was out and a new production called Godspell was up and coming. Norman's song was right in step and rocketed thru the charts. Whether this had anything to do with this or not remains a mystery. The song is good, the Jewish author penned, (I believe), in sincerity and not sarcasm. The sinner line can be interpreted as forgiveness. If you get inspired from it, I think that it is okay for anyone, even fundamentalist Christians to enjoy this song. Ray from NYRay - Ny, Ny
I remember my oldest brother bought this 45....when I was only 12.....the B-side was called"Milk Cow"....Rick - Belfast, Me
scott, I'm guessing your friend wouldn't have liked Christian rock groups like Petra or White Heart very much. No works of the devil, they.Esskayess - Dallas, Tx
This song is on Rock Band 2.Ryan - Anahola, Hi
I love this song. Loved it when it first came out. I just wish those famous lyrics hadn't said, Never been a sinner, never sinned. I used to sing it all the time when it played on the radio. That stuff gets into your subconscious mind. I might have gotten saved at some point EARLIER if I hadn't been telling God all along, I'm never sinned. It is a repentant heart that leads one to God, AND GOD to YOU! How about these lyrics, If ya ever been a sinner, if ya ever sinned. Christians aren't stupid, folks, they are the smart ones. We aren't choosing hell and denying our creator. Just seek Him!!!!! There are forces at work trying to stop you. SEEK HIM!Lynn - Los Angeles, Or
I distinctly remember it in the trailer for the movie "Michael" with John Travolta (in the bar scene when he was dancing with the girls). However, I was very disappointed that it had been replaced in the theatrical release. Interestingly, it's included on the movie soundtrack.Rich - North Grafton, Ma
I use to work with this so called "born again christian". When I told him about it, that it was a rock cristian song, he said it wasn't a christian song. That it was from the devil. that he to is a spirit in the sky. I told him just listen to it. He refused. What a loser he is. I fell in love with the song the first time I heard it. I understook the meaning. Thanks Norman.Scott - Hubbard, Tx
At the funeral for a twenty-nine year old friend of my kids, we were all so sad, when the song Spirit in the Sky started to play, everyone started to tap their feet and the whole attmospere of the place changed. This was Bobbi's favorite so and so like her to want it played at her funeral. I miss her still and always feel close when I hear this song. She called me her"Other Mother" Mammy DGeorgia - Belmont, Oh
The greatest song ever and the most wonderful person I call can call a personal friend. I first heard the song on the first day I ever tried surfing in the town of Dana Point, CA and it was the happiest days of my life, well that was all before my family came along. Norman is a great man and his song will be remembered for years to come.

Thanks Norman!
Dave - Monument, Co
The first time i heard this song i was amazed at the words and music. Since then it has always had a special place in my heart. This song will be played at my funeral. Mike Burkhardt, CanadaMike - Oshawa, On
Michigan School For The Deaf performed this song one year,I like Norman Greenbaum and Doctor and The Medics version,too.Jennifer Harris - Grand Blanc, Mi
Russ Gary was the producer , he produced all the early Creedence Clearwater Revival recordings, you can hear it "Spirit in the Sky"... specifically the snare drum and the ovr all 50's sound .Rick - S.f. Bay Area, Ca
If you could only have one hit - this would be all you need. The iconic riff wasn't original (standard blues)... but the pop sensibilities and gospel backup bring it all home... great!Edwin - Vancouver, Bc
A nice song. The beauty of art is it's open to your own interpretation, so I'll add mine for the lyrics we all talk about. "I'm not a sinner, I never sinned, I got a friend in Jesus. And I know that when I die, they're gonna recommend me to the spirit in the sky." I think it's about forgiveness. Of course, I'm a sinner and have sinned many times. But my belief is - if I accept that Jesus is the Son of God and my Savior and "try" to live like Him from now on, I will be forgiven. Jesus died for all our sins so that we might have eternal life in Heaven with the Father. So, if I believe this, when I die and stand before God for my performance review. Jesus will say "I know this guy, he's okay. Come on in." So, even though I'm a sinner and have sinned, thanks to His sacrifice and my belief in that sacrifice and my repentance, Jesus will let me say "I'm not a sinner, I never sinned" in a metaphorical way.Jim - Colesville, Nj
A nice song. The beauty of art is it's open to your own interpretation, so I'll add mine for the lyrics we all talk about. "I'm not a sinner, I never sinned, I got a friend in Jesus. And I know that when I die, they're gonna recommend me to the spirit in the sky." I think it's about forgiveness. Of course, I'm a sinner and have sinned many times. But my belief is - if I accept that Jesus is the Son of God and my Savior and "try" to live like Him from now on, I will be forgiven. Jesus died for all our sins so that we might have eternal life in Heaven with the Father. So, if I believe this, when I die and stand before God for my performance review. Jesus will say "I know this guy, he's okay. Come on in." So, even though I'm a sinner and have sinned, thanks to His sacrifice and my belief in that sacrifice and my repentance, Jesus will let me say "I'm not a sinner, I never sinned" in a metaphorical way.Jim - Colesville, Nj
The Kentucky Headhunters did a killer cover of this.
And to those of you who thought Norman Greenbaum was being sarcastic, get a grip, please.
Do not allow all your stereotypes of so-called bible thumpers and fundamentalists to overly affect your sense of the obvious.
Norman's line about "I'm not a sinner/I never sinned" is a deliberate misdirection about the paradox of being human is that all too often, our very imperfections often prevent us from recognizing our own wrongdoing.
And, no, Christians do NOT think of themselves as spotless.
I have no idea where that guy came up with that.
Christianity is premised on the fact that we ALL sin, and that we must atone for that in some way to our maker.
Oldpink - New Castle, In
Truly one of the great classic solid rock songs.
Love that ominous distorted guitar, which certainly predates most metal songs by several years.
Fantastic lyrics, Norman's vocals are very nice, and the female gospel singers are superb.
This song has it all, and it has something positive thrown in to boot.
Oldpink - New Castle, In
Years ago, I read in some magazine that Norman ran a chicken farm in Petaluma, Ca. So, I wrote a letter addressed to "Norman Greenbaums' Chicken Farm, Petaluma, Ca."(plus the zip code, of course!) It never was returned, but I don't know if he ever received it! I'd really like to know whether he got it. If not, I'll send another letter. "Spirit in the Sky" is one song that still keeps me going today! I'm gonna be 100years old on my birthday! YAHOO! You rock, Norman! ->scot. jumanjiville, nh, 03431Scot - Jumanjiville, Nh
I would like to know who the backup singers are? They sound like angels. Strong, clear, melodic --heavenly. They give me the chills! I would be intersted in hearing other works by them.

ps I don't even believe!
Stephen - Philadelphia, Pa
Cultural impact
During John Lennon's famously scathing 1970 Rolling Stone "Beatles break-up" interview (Jann S. Wenner), while highly critical of the recent work of many of his peers, including Bob Dylan and ex-bandmate Paul McCartney, Lennon professed to liking the then-current radio single, "Spirit in the Sky," stating that he "always liked simple rock and nothing else."
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_in_the_Sky
Jp - Casa Grande, Az
Norman just issued a press release - check it out!!!

For Immediate Release

Music Legend Norman Greenbaum Relaunches Official Website - Spirit In The Sky

11/17/07 - Santa Rosa, CA - "I'm going up to the Spirit in the Sky - That's where I want to go when I die...", the words and music hum through the minds of anyone who has listened to top-40 radio in the past four decades. Music legend Norman Greenbaum penned and recorded the hit song "Spirit In The Sky" in late 1969, which rocketed to #1 in the U.S. and Great Britain. Named song of the year by Cashbox magazine in 1970, the single would go on to sell over two million copies.

" 'Spirit In The Sky' is, without a doubt, one of the greatest recordings of the 20th century. We're talking about, perhaps, the greatest, most definitive four minutes in the storied, glorious history of rock...", writes Steve Roeser in Note 4 Note.

Recently, much to the elation of his fans, Norman Greenbaum has relaunched his official website - www.spiritinthesky.com and has made available his much sought after CDs from the '60s and '70s, along with T-shirts, hats, mouse pads, signed photos and other memorabilia. Although Norman hasn't recorded in recent years, he is very active with his new website, posting messages to his fans and making available rare photos for viewing.

"There can be no greater joy in life than being what they call, 'a one hit wonder'. And when you've created an international chart smash that just about everyone remembers, then you can hold your head up with pride!" said writer Chris Welsh about Norman and "Spirit In The Sky". In actuality, Norman Greenbaum had the rare distinction of having two 'one hit wonders', the first being the novelty hit "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago", which he recorded in 1965 under the guise of Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band.

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. The intro to "Spirit In The Sky " is one of the most memorable guitar intros in rock music history! "I played a Fender Telecaster through a Fender tube amp", explains Norman. "A friend custom built the fuzz box, just a small something or other, into the body of the guitar with a switch. I didn't slit the speakers. I fingerpicked and used lots of reverb. There really wasn't much else done in the mix."

Norman Greenbaum recorded several subsequent LPs and singles through the '70s. Although critically acclaimed, none of them reached the height of success that "Spirit In The Sky" had. By the mid 80's Norman had retired from music, yet the song would not die! In 1986 the band Doctor and the Medics recorded a cover version of the song which reached number one in Great Britain. Then, in 2003, the British television series The Kumars also scored a number one in the UK when they recorded "Spirit" with Gareth Gates, marking the 3rd number one for "Spirit In The Sky". Besides being a massive hit on both sides of the Atlantic back in the early '70s, "Spirit In The Sky " has endured the test of time and is as innovative and exciting today as it was when first released, and continues to inspire young musicians everywhere. Eventually, the track would find its way into over 40 movies (such as Miami Blues, Contact, Apollo 13 and Wayne's World 2) as well as a dozen TV commercials. Norman has been told by funeral directors across the country that "Spirit in the Sky" is one of their top requested songs to be played at memorial services, indeed an honor. Norman adds that there will soon be a ringtone available for all fans who do not want to get the riff out of their heads.

Now with the relaunching of Norman Greenbaum's official website we can all once again go to the Spirit In The Sky.

Press Inquiries:
Glass Onyon PR
PH: 828-350-8158
William - Asheville, Nc
N.I. from Baltimore, about your answer to my answer to your post (see just below): What I meant was that all things (certainly song lyrics) can be interpreted in many different ways by as many different people. I consider the lyrics to this song in a perspective that means something to me and that is good for me. I don't want to share that view in too much detail because I know only that my interpretation is good for me but maybe not for everybody. If you love and respect yourself and respect others, then no matter what, life is good. Live it. John Martin, 46, TXJohn - Fort Worth, Tx
Love this song. Such an amazing riff, such a cool, cool sound. Couldn't give a colonial about the lyrics personally, the tune is so way cool that it's hard to imagine anyone staying sat down once that distorted guitar hits you from the first note.Guy - Wellington, New Zealand
He says he doesn't know how the recordists got the distorted guitar sound. What my guitarist, Robby Rocker Stokes KNOWS about that 'guitar sound' is that he himself was one of about ten different guitarists recorded on "Spirit in the Sky".
Read about Robbie: http://robcoaudio.com/aboutus.aspx
Kevin Cox - Springfield, Il
To this day, Greenbaum does not know how the engineer got the amazing distortion sound of the guitar.Craig - Melbourne, Australia
Even without the knowledge of who wrote the song, since I first enjoyed it in the 80's, I always had the distinct impression that it was pointing out the simplistic truth embraced by many Christian fundamentalist sects. If that makes some uncomfortable, that's too bad, but that's frequently what these stated beliefs sound like to outsiders of Christianity; that they can do and think whatever they like, because their faith has a built-in "get out of hell free" card.Leah - Brooklyn, Ny
John, I don't understand how saying "Never been a sinner / I never sinned" equates to "We are all human." I would think that it suggests precisely the opposite. That's presumably why DC Talk changed the line to "We are all sinners / We all sin." It is the original line that leads some people to think Greenbaum was actually mocking Christianity. Personally, I think the tone of the song is respectful of its subject matter, but a bit ignorant.N.i. - Baltimore, Md
N.I. from Baltimore,
I'm an old man of almost 46 years of age. I believe that the lyrics, /Never been a sinner/ /I never sinned.../ mean only that we are all human. After all, we are only human, aren't we? I believe that everybody will have a place in "the world to come." Live well and respect others, that is the key. Peace To You, John Martin, TX
John - Fort Worth, Tx
I find the following theory the most unlikely: "Greenbaum set out to write a religious rock song. He is Jewish, but instead of using a Jewish word for God, he used 'Jesus' because he thought it would be more marketable." Even if you removed word "Jesus" from the song, replacing it with "God" or some such alternative, the song would still sound Christian, and Protestant at that. I also don't think Greenbaum intended this as a sarcastic back-handed attack on Christianity (I am open to being proven wrong on this point). I think he just wanted to do a rock song in the style of gospel music. If some of the lyrics sound a little ridiculous ("Never been a sinner, I never sinned"), that probably reflects his simplistic understanding of the subject matter rather than a deliberate attempt at mockery. Bottom line is I think this was more a "feeling" type of song, meant to evoke a certain style, than a logical explication of ideas.N.i. - Baltimore, Md
I'm 45 and I've liked the musical arrangement of this song though I've only lately begun to pay attention to the all the lyrics. I think it's a good song. I came here to learn more things about the creation of this song and I'm gratified that I seem to have a good impression of this song's creation now that I'm in my middle years. It's very profound. From now on, in addition to being moved by the musical arrangement, I will sing along.John - Fort Worth, Tx
great riff as mentioned. I think this song like all songs can be interpreted in different ways depending on where you are in your spiritual life. That's the mark of all great lyrics anyway right? So if you think it's sarcastic you're right. If you think it's righteous you're right. If you're a Muslim and think it's the epitome of Christian arrogance, you're right again :)Mark - Worcester, Mi
This tune was also used in the movie "The Sandlot 2" (thematic during the space shuttle
segment), and in an episode of "Seventh Heaven", where Eric Camden played it on his guitar with a band at a special event at church.
When the intro is played over and over, with that
great guitar, it's the coolest. Even without the lyrics, it is celestial.
Patrick - Wichita, Ks
I, personally, refuse to completely believe that this is a pro-religion song. Not that I would mind it if it was, but the way he sings and the lyrics he uses seem to be full of sarcasm. For example, the line, "I'm not a sinner, I never sinned, I got a friend in Jesus. And I know that when I die, they're gonna recommend me to the spirit in the sky." To me, that line seems like he's mocking sanctimonious Christians who are "holier and thou" and believe that they have a spotless soul and are overconfident that they will be given admission to heaven. I mean, nobody can seriously say they've never sinned. If uttered in seriousness, that line would have to go down in history as perhaps the most ridiculous rock lyric ever. Also, supporting my theory that this song seems to be more of a criticism, is the singer's vocal delivery. Seriously, intentionally or unintentionally, Norman Greenbaum has to have the most sarcastic-sounding singing voice ever. The very first time I heard this song, all these factors added up for me to just assume that this was a sarcastic attack.Paul - Cincinnati, Oh
When I found out that it is unquestioningly seen as a simple religious song, I was quite surprised. I really can't believe that I'm the first one I've seen bring up this point. Actually, come to think of it, pretty much all of the lines in this song support my theory. The other one that immediately comes to mind is, "When I die and I lay me to rest I wanna go to the place that's the best." That too seems to me to be another example of mockery. Also, the repeated use of the word "die" seems rather morbid, and again seems to me to be another criticism. This time, I see it as being a criticism of very religious Christians who, because of their assuredness about going to heaven, are actually anxious to die and revel in thoughts about "escaping the contemptuous heathen Earth" or something like that. Actually from what Greenbaum said he appears to have been serious, which is utterly shocking and mind-boggling to me based on all the factors I just mentioned. If anybody else has noticed that about this song, please make a post to that effect, I'd be interested to know what you think.Paul - Cincinnati, Oh
I've long wondered: are the descending repeated notes that follow a ringing sound (a triangle?) all played manually or are they the result of one or more effects (some sort of phased or modulated echo?) used on a single played note? It's by far the best part of the song and unlike anything else I've ever heard.Fyodor - Denver, Co
An unbelievably great song. Has anyone ever NOT turned this up when it came on?Pete - Ny, Ny
Wow, I've learned so much here! Norman Greenbaum was Jewish? He raised a GOAT FARM! I have owned the Remember The Titans soundtrack and the movie for a very long time, and I agree with Mike both are very good. I wouldn't have expected it to be 333 in the rolling stone list though.Johnny - Los Angeles, Ca
The guitar riff in here is awsome and is one of my favourites.Mike - Winnipeg, Canada
The most unlucky song you can get. Norman Greenbaum wrote it and became a one hit wonder, Doctor & al did a version & they faded into obscurity and Gareth Gates hasn't really been since his version got to no.1. The moral here is: Although Spirit in the Sky may get you a number 1, it doesn't guarantee future success. Class song though.Chris - Belfast, Ireland
The main lick is almost identical to "Fried Hockey Boogie" by Canned Heat, which was, in turn, based on "Boogie Chillen" by John Lee Hooker.Robert - Santa Barbara, Ca
Spirit In The Sky by Norman Greenbaum originally released on the album Spirit in the Sky - REPRISE (1969)Jay - Tasmania, Australia
This is #333 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
Norman Greenbaum rocks! His website is really funny. I sent him an e-mail and he responded like 2 hours later. He says he makes more money from this song being used in movies and T.V. ads then when it was on the charts.Jordan - Wv
This is a really cool song and I kinda think it sounds like its from the 50'sShana - Pembroke, Canada
the kentucky headhunters also did a cover of this.Reed - Hagerstown, In
This song was also a UK No.1 for Doctor and the Medics in 1986, and for Gareth Gates in 2003.Dave - Cardiff, Wales
Also used in the film "Remember the Titans" as they arrive at football camp. An excellent movie with a superb soundtrack.Mike - Mountlake Terrace, Washington - Usa
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