“Spirit in the Sky” is a song written and originally recorded by Norman Greenbaum and released in 1969. The single sold two million copies in 1969 and 1970 and reached number three in the U.S. Billboard chart.
On this date in 1970 it hit No. 1 on the UK chart. It also hit No. 1 on the Australian and Canadian charts. Rolling Stone ranked “Spirit in the Sky” #333 on their list – 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was featured Greenbaum’s 1969 album.
In a 12/06/2011 interview with classic-rock music journalist Ray Shasho of The Examiner, Greenbaum stated that western movies were the real inspiration for “Spirit In The Sky”:
Norman Greenbaum: If you ask me what I based “Spirit In The Sky” on… What did we grow up watching? …Westerns! These mean and nasty varmints get shot and they wanted to die with their boots on. So to me that was spiritual, they wanted to die with their boots on.
Ray Shasho: So that was the trigger that got you to write the song?
Norman Greenbaum: Yes. The song itself was simple, when you’re writing a song you keep it simple of course. It wasn’t like a Christian song of praise it was just a simple song. I had to use Christianity because I had to use something. But more important it wasn’t the Jesus part, it was the spirit in the sky. Funny enough… I wanted to die with my boots on.