Cool vibe. Always dug it.
"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' Spoonful and the song was included on Greenbaum's first solo album. The song's arrangement came together in the studio in San Francisco where lead guitarist Russell DaShiell, bass player Doug Killmer from the band Crowfoot and drummer Norman Mayell from the band Sopwith Camel worked with Greenbaum. According to the New York Times article, Greenbaum used a Fender Telecaster guitar with a fuzz box built into the body to generate the song's characteristic guitar sound.
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.
There is a music video with Greenbaum singing the song.
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'."
"Everything that has ever happened to us is there to make us stronger."