"Spirit in the Sky" was one of the biggest hits of 1970, peaking at #3 in the charts and staying in the Top Forty for 14 weeks. It's also one of the songs most likely to be cited when "one-hit wonders" are discussed, though Norman Greenbaum did have a few other low-charting singles, both as a solo singer and a member of Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. There were few other singles of the time that boasted such an arresting opening hook: a searing, ominous distorted guitar riff that pulsed up and down like a cardiograph, backed by unearthly descending electronic glissandos and revival-meeting handclaps. The handclaps and riffs remained in force throughout the vocal verses, but simmered down a little to allow Greenbaum to sing a tune which really did sound like a genuine gospel song, albeit one with more pop hooks than what you'd find in the gospel repertoire. The gospel feel was amplified by creditably wailing backup female singers, cementing the impression of a revival meeting somehow colliding with both psychedelia and the AM Top Forty. And Greenbaum's lyrics, for all the melody and arrangement's commerciality, didn't sound contrived: they really did sound spiritual in their celebratory anticipation of going to a spirit in the sky to rest after death. In fact there was some anxiety on the part of Reprise Records as to whether a record with such religious-centered lyrics would be too controversial to be a hit single, a fear that was amply disproved. John Lennon even cited it as one of his current faves when he was interviewed by Rolling Stone in the early 1970s. To subsequent generations, unfortunately, it might be most familiar through its use in a television commercial. As a lamentable coda to that business, Greenbaum once said about the American Express commercial in which the song was used, "It gave me a lot more faith in American Express; but they still won't give me a card. They gave me money for using it, but not the Gold Card."