Spirit in the Sky hit no 1 on the Go-Set National Top 40 in June 1970 and remained there for 7 weeks.
I had come across a greeting card that said “Spirit in the Sky.” And it was American Indians sitting in front of a tipi, with the fire going and being spiritual towards what they had deemed God, which was a spirit in the sky. I think it was the Hopi. So I went, “That’s kind of interesting” and just put it in the back of my head.
Then I happened to be watching Porter Wagoner on TV and he did a religious song halfway through the show about a miner that was up in the hills, digging for gold. He hadn’t been to church [or] prayed for, like, years and years. So he took his viola, came all the way back into town, and when he got to the church, there was a note on the door that said, “The pastor’s on vacation.”
Then I started thinking about the Hopi Indians, the pastor’s on vacation, and as a kid watching cowboy shows and hearing that the bad guys — when they were dying from a shootout — always wanted to be buried with their shoes on. All this is starting to connect. I just sat down and it all came together.
Ultimate Classic Rock:
The line “never been a sinner / I never sinned” resulted in a backlash, since the principal that everybody is born in a state of sin is central to Christian beliefs. Greenbaum, who was brought up in the Jewish faith, reflected: “When I said I can do this, that didn’t mean I could do it perfectly. It wasn’t my religion; I just did it. I didn’t think twice about it. I took some of the seriousness out of it, but I didn’t do it as a joke or against anyone. I guess people can take offense to almost anything. There was the song about the plastic Jesus on your dashboard. They liked that one.”
This song is also on our Spotify playlist.
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