Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Today In Oldies 10/27/2010

Golden Hits Radio and GHR-2's Everything Oldies.....spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of Oldies news!

Where In The World Is.......Norman Greenbaum?

If you're gonna be a one hit wonder, make sure that one hit is big enough that you'll never have to work again if you don't care to.  That's the route Norman Greenbaum took, and his one hit is one of the most played songs of all time from radio to commercials to movies to TV! 

Born in Malden, Massachusetts, Norman Greenbaum studied music at Boston University.  His first taste of national success came in 1968 with a novelty record done under the name Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band.  "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago" peaked at #51 on the Billboard Hot 100.  A year later, success came while Greenbaum was watching TV. 

You probably don't know this about "Spirit In The Sky" until now, but the inspiration for the song came from two music legends.  The song has an overtly Christian message, which is interesting considering that Norman Greenbaum is Jewish.  He wrote it after watching country music icons Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton performing a religious song on Wagoner's 60's TV show.  After experimenting with a "jug band" sound for the song as well as a folk rendition, he finally hit upon the sound that created a smash thanks to producer Erik Jacobsen.  "Spirit In The Sky" had an exceptionally long shelf life that spanned almost a year on the American and British charts, peaking at #3 in the U.S. and topping the UK survey.  It sold more than 2 million copies in the U.S. along and became Reprise Records' biggest single ever, eclipsing the success of the label's two marquee acts, The Kinks and label founder Frank Sinatra!  It also didn't hurt that the song had friends in high places, as none other than John Lennon sang its praises in an otherwise angry and defiant post-Beatles breakup interview in Rolling Stone

As big as "Spirit In The Sky" became, however, success couldn't be sustained for Norman Greenbaum.  Follow up singles failed to register, and he was eventually dropped by Reprise Records.  By 1980, he was out of the music business entirely and reinventing himself as a cook around several northern California restaurants.  He was broke and as far removed from music stardom as one could possibly be. 

Things finally began to turn around for Norman Greenbaum thanks to the producers of a long-forgotten 80's movie.  The folks who were making a movie starring Ally Sheedy called Maid To Order included "Spirit In The Sky" on the soundtrack.  For the past 20 plus years, the song has shown up in a steady stream of TV commercials and movie soundtracks in addition to being a staple on oldies-based radio stations.  It has returned Norman Greenbaum to the point where he was able to escape the restaurant business and live solely off the royalty checks from "Spirit In The Sky".  He has built a website that is an homage to his one hit, and you can visit it by clicking here.

Here's the song that Norman Greenbaum is living off of these days.........

Golden Hits Radio and GHR-2's Burning Question of the Day

"Hungry Heart" was Bruce Springsteen's first Top 5 hit in 1981, but he originally wrote it for someone else.  To which band did he intend to give "Hungry Heart" before being advised by his manager to keep it?

Check back tomorrow @ Everything Oldies for the answer, and leave a comment here with your best guess! 

Yesterday's Burning Question (and Answer) of the Day

From which 80's classic did Michael Jackson later admit to "borrowing" the beats for "Billie Jean"?

Answer: According to Daryl Hall and John Oates, he confessed to lifting the beats for "Billie Jean" from their #1 smash.........."I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)"


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