Norman Greenbaum and His Classic Rock Hit “Spirit in the Sky”


Introduction to Norman Greenbaum

Norman Greenbaum is an American rock singer-songwriter best known for his 1970 hit “Spirit in the Sky.”  Southern blues and folk music became an early influence and inspired him to tackle on music.  He played music in his high school and his Boston University college years (where he performed in coffeehouses).  Western movies and country singers such as Dolly Parton singing gospel songs on TV inspired Greenbaum to write “Spirit in the Sky,” which proved to be his only biggest hit, making a dent on the 1970 Billboard pop charts.  Although considered a one-hit wonder, Greenbaum also etched songs that became lower-charting singles, including a novelty song he earlier wrote, “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” which he performed with his own psychedelic group Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band.  Greenbaum is now engaging in managerial position in showbiz, as well as promoting concerts.

Short career summary on Norman Greenbaum

Best remembered with the lone smash hit “Spirit in the Sky” during the 70s music era, Norman Greenbaum was born Norman Joel Greenbaum on November 29, 1942 in Malden, Massachusetts. Greenbaum attended a Hebrew school at Congregation Beth Israel for he was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family. While he was in high school, he used to perform in several bands and eventually studied music at Boston University. There, he began performing at local coffeehouses and later decided to quit college. In 1965, Greenbaum relocated to Los Angeles to pursue his music career.

The success of “Spirit in the Sky”

Greenbaum came up with song after he watched the country singers Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner performing on TV, singing a gospel song. Apparently, he was urged to write his own gospel tune, finished within 15 minutes and the rest is history.

In 1969, Greenbaum issued “Spirit in the Sky” on Warner Bros. imprint and was included on the album of the same name. The single was a sudden success; from 1969 to 1970, it sold two million copies and climbed to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 where it enjoyed its stay for 15 weeks. In the UK, Australia and Canada, “Spirit in the Sky” was a chart-topper in 1970. It also gained #333 spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time as well. Having a lone hit, Greenbaum was listed in the myriads of the one-hit-wonders. However, he had a novelty hit back in 1966 called “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago.” The said song was recorded under the name Dr. West Medicine Show and Junk Band.

In 2015, Greebaum was critically injured from an accident when the car he was riding in made a left turn on the path of the motorcycle. The motorcyclist was killed, while the motorcycle passenger was injured. The driver of the car was unharmed, but was shaken by the accident.

Norman Greenbaum’s discography (may be impartial)

Reprise Records

(Jun 1968)

  • A: School For Sweet Talk
  • B: Children Of Paradise

(Apr 1969)

  • A: Marcy
  • B: Marcy

(Aug 1969)

  • A: Jubilee
  • B: Skyline

(Dec 1969)

  • A: Spirit In The Sky
  • B: Milk Cow

(May 1970)

  • A: Canned Ham
  • B: Junior Cadillac

(Oct 1970)

  • A: I. J. Foxx
  • B: Rhode Island Red

(Apr 1971)

  • A: California Earthquake
  • B: Rhode Island Red

(Apr 1971)

  • A: California Earthquake [Mono]
  • B: California Earthquake [Stereo]

(Dec 1972)

  • A: Dairy Queen
  • B: Petaluma


Gregar Records


Norman Greenbaum with Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band

  • A: Gondoliers, Shakespeares, Overseers, Playboys And Bums
  • B: Daddy I Know

(Apr 1971)

Norman Greenbaum (Dr. West’s Medicine Show & Junk Band)

  • A: Twentieth Century Fox
  • B: Nancy Whiskey


American Pie Records


Norman Greenbaum

  • A: Spirit In The Sky

The Routers

  • B: Let’s Go


Eric Records


  • A: Spirit In The Sky
  • B: Canned Ham


Reprise / Back to Back Hits Records

  • A: Spirit In The Sky
  • B: Canned Ham
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