Norman Greenbaum

Born in Malden, Massachusetts on November 20, 1942, Norman Greenbaum is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist best known for his Number 1 hit single “Spirit in the Sky”, originally released in 1969. The song has been a constant staple on terrestrial (and satellite) radio since its original release. It has been used in radio and TV advertisements, as well as on movie soundtracks. Growing up in and Orthodox Jewish household in Malden, Norman Greenbaum attended Congregation Beth Israel, a Hebrew school. His musical inspiration while growing up was the folk and southern blues music he would hear in the 1950s and 1960s. He taught himself guitar and, while in high school, he played with several different bands. He studied music at Boston University for two years before dropping out in 1965 and moving to Los Angeles, California. Within a year of arriving, he co-founded psychedelic rock band Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band. The band’s first single, “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago” (1966), was a hit, reaching Number 52 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles list. In 1967, the band released the album The Eggplant That Ate Chicago and two further singes with little success. After one more single with the band in 1968, he broke off on his own and released the single “School for Sweet Talk” under the name Dr. Norman Greenbaum. He began recording under his own name in 1969. His third solo single, “Spirit in the Sky”, became a massive hit, reaching Number 1 in Germany, the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Belgium. The single reached Number 3 in the U.S. and the Netherlands. The album Spirit in the Sky (1969) also sold well. His 1970 album Back Home Again featured the hit “Canned Ham”, but the single barely scraped the Top 50 in the U.S. His third solo album, Petaluma, was released in 1972 but his commercial momentum had died, and he dropped out of the limelight. Since that 1972 album, there have been several Norman Greenbaum and Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band compilations, but he has not released any new solo material since then, although he does still perform live on occasion.

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