My song today is ‘Spirit in The Sky’. This song was written and originally recorded by Norman Greenbaum. It was released in late 1969. The single became a gold record, selling two million copies from 1969 to 1970, and reached Number 3 on the US ‘Billboard Hot 100’ chart (April 18, 1970), where it lasted for 15 weeks in the Top 100. It also was Number 1 on WCFL on March 16, 1970, and on WLS on March 23, 1970 (just before Easter). Billboard ranked the record as ‘Number 22 song of 1970’. It also climbed to Number 1 on the UK, Australian and Canadian charts in 1970. Rolling Stone ranked ‘Spirit in the Sky at Number 333 on its list of the ‘500 Greatest Songs of All Time’. The song was featured on the 1969 album of the same name.
"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.”
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’”.
When I was a boy we would go to the pictures (this is the cinema for you young whippersnappers) around two or three times weekly. The Saturday Matinee would cost a few pennies entrance and a few pence more for ice cream. Those boys and girls who had not got the entrance fee would be surreptitiously let in through the fire escape door that was in the enclosed area of the lavatory ( that is the toilet for you young whippersnappers). You might see a boy or girl slip to the lavatory after the lights had dimmed and seen three or four return back into the picture house.
When I was a boy we would go to the pictures (this is the cinema for you young whippersnappers) around two or three times weekly. The Saturday Matinee would cost a few pennies entrance and a few pence more for ice cream. Those boys and girls who had not got the entrance fee would be surreptitiously let in through the fire escape door that was in the enclosed area of the lavatory ( that is the toilet for you young whippersnappers). You might see a boy or girl slip to the lavatory after the lights had dimmed and see three or four return back into the picture house.
The film being shown would always include a ‘Cowboy & Indian’ film (not considered as being ‘racist’ viewing in the least during the 1950s). The film would always break down partway through and the lights went back on until the projectionist had done his repair job. This period of the show became the time when all manner of missiles were launched towards the heads of other seated occupants such as hard-boiled sweets, halfpennies, popcorn, and even heavier objects capable of rendering the person hit unconscious.
In almost every ‘Cowboy & Indian’ film, the Indian Chief or another native American character would make reference to the ‘great spirit in the sky’. The native American Indians had many Gods and all resided in the sky above and manifested themselves in either spirit form or in other forms of nature like bolts of lightning.
Throughout time, Christians, whilst believing that their God is everywhere, still hold on to the notion of Heaven being ‘up there’. Despite my aging years (now 77 going on 78 years of age), the sky has remained an infinite movie to me. I never get tired of looking at what’s happening up there. Even our common saying of ‘aiming for the sky to achieve our all’ tells you how much we refer to the sky whenever we think about concepts of ‘eternity’ and ‘all’. Every time I see the changing cloud patterns, they remind me that life is a constant process of change. I am reminded that there is but one God and that we all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon. Being of different birth, beliefs, and cultures, and with each person (east or west) being of varying temperament and disposition, we will never see things and respond to emotional events in precisely the same way. Some will choose to live in the past as opposed to the present, some will automatically select the negative aspects of any situation as opposed to taking the most positive from life; and some will stay constantly looking at the ground downcast and never raising their aspirations to the sky above.
One of the most beautiful quotations I ever came across came from Eleonora Duse, the 19tyh century acclaimed Italian actress:
“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy if a blade of grass springing up in the fields, has the power to move you if the simple things of Nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
Love and peace Bill xxx