Song Lyric Sunday – “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

This week Jim Adams has prompted us with choosing songs pertaining to Ghost | Pumpkin | Trick | Treat | Witch for this week’s Song Lyric Sunday.

Ghosts are also known as spirits and this week I have chosen Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky”. The song was written and originally recorded by Norman Greenbaum. Greenbaum has always been known as a “one hit wonder” as this was his only number one hit. “Spirit in the Sky” was released in December, 1969 in the UK and January, 1970 in the US by Reprise Records. “Spirit in the Sky” makes several references to Jesus even though Greenbaum is Jewish. Greenbaum stated that western movies were the inspiration for “Spirit in the Sky”. Greenbaum also went on to say, “these mean and nasty varmints get shot and they want to die with their boots on. So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on”.

It also became somewhat of an anthem for the Vietnam War. Appropriately so, as those men died with their boots on! Hopefully, their spirits went straight to the sky. Whether you are religious or spiritual, a believer in God or reincarnation, this song has a great anthem vibe with its most recognizable opening guitar riffs ever. Whether you believe that our spirit will live on once our short lives on this earth have concluded or you are an atheist, this song can possibly take you to a place of calm. ROCK ON!

The video above features the UH-1 helicopter flown during the Vietnam War. This war was one of the worst in U.S. history for the servicemen who were caught up in the politics and treated horribly when they returned home. They fought because their country told them to. During a time when we fought for freedom and civil rights, the American people blamed the troops for fighting in a non-winnable war thinking they had a choice. Let me tell you…you take an oath and you follow orders unless you want to get court martialed.

I salute those brave men and women who either fought or was part of the support squads to take in the injured and dead during the Vietnam War. They did their job and should have been seen as heroes, rather than the scum they were made out to be.

Farm Aid

The Kentucky Headhunters cover “Spirit in the Sky” live at Farm Aid in Irving, Texas on March 14, 1992. Farm Aid was founded by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land they had worked for generations. American needed these people to keep their boots on for generations to prosper and the American people to be fed.

Regardless of the persona of being a “one hit wonder”, several of Greenbaum’s songs have placed prominently in the charts. How do you move on from the great commercial hit of “Spirit in the Sky”?

On March 28, 2015, Greenbaum was a passenger & critically injured in a car that turned left in front of a motorcycle, killing the motorcyclist and injuring the passenger on the motorcycle. At age 77, he is back to performing. Check out his website…


  • Written by Norman Greenbaum.
  • Sold two million singles in 1970 setting a record for Warner Brothers.
  • Reached #3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and spent 15 weeks in the Top 100.
  • Reached #1 in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ireland & UK. It also peaked at #1 on the US Cash Box Top 100.
  • Rolling Stone ranked it #333 on its list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • Cover versions by Doctor and the Medics and Gareth Gates have peaked at #1 in the UK.
  • It has been featured in almost 50 movies including Apollo 13 and Wayne’s World 2.
  • It has been the theme of many commercial ads on television such as Gatorade, Nike, American Express and HBO.
  • It has been included in many TV series episodes like Law & Order, Big Love & House.

“Spirit in the Sky”

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 Β© Concord Music Publishing LLC

28 Comments on “Song Lyric Sunday – “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum

  1. This song was a huge hit when I was in High School and I think that I heard it at least once every day. I agree that a spirit is like a ghost, thanks for adding this Lisa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jim! I’ve always loved the song. I gave Native American blood in me & being a Texan, it has always made me feel like I had a spirit beyond this world.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This song had a huge impact on me when I was a teenager. It still brings back memories of Vietnam War protests in Sydney, Kings Cross full of US soldiers running amok. Norman was a bit of a one hit wonder though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was just a kid and didn’t quite understand the implications of what was happening at the time. President Nixon was impeached when I was in 3rd grade and it was 2 years later before the Vietnam War ended. I only realized through the history books later what kind of impact (mentally & physically) it had on our military. I am a survivor of child abuse as a backlash from it. My step-dad was over there and was on drugs (hid it from all of us) when he married my mom. That’s when I began learning about it. 5th grade & up. πŸ™‚


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