an interview with 
Norman Greenbaum

This interview was conducted via E-mail on October 3, 2001

Norman Greenbaum is best known for his '70 hit song "Spirit In The Sky". For we psychedelic guitar aficionados, that song's main riff is a high water mark of cool fuzz tone. Thanks to Norman for taking the time to answer a few questions...


What inspired you to write songs & play music?

I was inspired to sing and write and play by listening to Elvis, Bill Haley, Bo Diddley, Alan Sherman, jug band music and Howlin' Wolf's song, Asked Her For Water, She Gave Me Gasoline.

The Spirit In The Sky album has a different sound; set the scene for us around its writing & recording...
I was discovered by Erik Jacobsen in L.A. after I left Dr. West's Medicine Show And Junk Band, the band I founded but was unable to stay in because of internal problems. He signed me to Reprise Records and I moved to Northern California. We recorded the album at Coast Recorders in San Francisco, now defunct and very little used in those days for rock and roll. We gathered a band to back me up, as I was signed as a single artist.

How did you get that guitar tone in the title track?
I played a Fender Telecaster through a Fender tube amp. A friend custom
built the fuzz box, just a small something or other, into the body of the guitar with a switch. I didn't slit the speakers. I fingerpicked and used lots of reverb.
There really wasn't much else done in the mix.

Name some albums that move you...
Favorite Albums or artists: The Eagles, James Taylor, Carole King, Holy
Model Rounders, Canned Heat, Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Freddie King, Bob Dylan and Stairway To Heaven.

What are some sources of inspiration?
I basically inspire myself by observation

Three causes that you feel strongly about:
I am a very private person and really am not involved in causes, although I believe in women's rights, save the endangered species in the wetlands and animal cruelty, as in ASPCA

What were you doing in the post-Spirit years, and what are you up to now?
After Spirit I continued to record flops and tour for years, eventually becoming a chef when music totally fizzled out, only to have a resurrection when the song landed in 20 movies and a dozen TV commercials. I am retired at the moment.

What do you carry with you from that era?
What I carry from the old days? Memories of touring, being on the charts
at number one around the world and watching the song get rerecorded by a
lot of artists, 2 versions which became number one in England, making
the song hit number one there 3 times by 3 artists.

What is your perspective on becoming such an important part of the soundtracks to so many people's lives?
I get a lot of E mail. My song has touched people in many ways, musically and faith wise. I'm big at funerals these days, not a joke.

Is there any life wisdom you'd like to pass along, Norman?
I haven't wisdom to pass on.

Any tidbits you could offer about the songs on Spirit?
Tidbits. Canned Ham was based on a true occurrence in a supermarket line.
Everything else was a figment of my imagination.

Hope this helps.
Read through my web site and check out an interview at
for additional stuff.


Thanks, Norman!



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