Song Lyric Sunday – Spirit in the Sky

This week Jim Adams has prompted us with Bird, Fly, Sky and Wing for the Song Lyric Sunday challenge. I have chosen Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum. Considering it was written and recorded in 1969, I think it still sounds great today. Turn the volume up high, it’s even better!

“Spirit in the Sky” makes several religious 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.” 

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’ Spoonfuland the song was included on Greenbaum’s first solo album. 

The resulting sound was an “oddly compelling” combination of gospel and hard rock music, 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. 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. “Spirit in the Sky” became a worldwide hit, and was at the time the best-selling single ever for the Reprise label. 

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’.”

Greenbaum’s version appears in a 2019 TV commercial for Budweiser.

Lyrics

Spirit in the Sky
Norman Greenbaum


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 best

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Norman Greenbaum
Spirit in the Sky lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc,
The Bicycle Music Company

  11 comments for “Song Lyric Sunday – Spirit in the Sky

  1. September 8, 2019 at 6:22 am

    After watching Porter Wagoner??? Wow! Didn’t know that. What an inspiration…and weird mental pic! 😄

    Thanks for a classic share! 😊

  2. Christine Bolton
    September 8, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Thanks Felicia. I’ve always loved hearing this song! 🙂

  3. September 8, 2019 at 10:13 am

    Ahh always love this one!

    • Christine Bolton
      September 9, 2019 at 7:28 am

      Isn’t it great?! 🙂

  4. September 8, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Hadn’t heard this one since I was “young”…and wow, about it being so often requested for funerals/memorials!

    • Christine Bolton
      September 9, 2019 at 7:27 am

      I think I’ll have it at mine 🙂👍

      • September 9, 2019 at 8:06 am

        Good for you, but that’s a long ways away 🙂

  5. September 9, 2019 at 9:04 am

    This song brings back so many memories for me as it used to be on the radio all the time when I was young. You did a fantastic write-up on this song Christine and I learned so many things about it. Thanks for joining in again.

    • Christine Bolton
      September 9, 2019 at 9:05 am

      My pleasure Jim

  6. September 9, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    A classic!

    • Christine Bolton
      September 9, 2019 at 9:55 pm

      I agree John 🙂

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