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Sounds on Sunday: 50 years on/5

POP MUSIC was once so new and daring: it’s shocking to think that it’s over 50 years old. Some standards have been around for over half a century… What, then, were we listening to 50 years ago? It was an odd year, 1970. The influence of the older generation saw a good deal of old school easy listening in the charts – while the movements that were to develop during the 1970s were not yet established. Come with us – whether it’s down memory lane or to unknown territory – and remember or find out what it was all about.

At the end of April 1970 a new single topped the Charts: Spirit in the Sky, from Norman Greenbaum, which stayed in the top slot for two weeks. Greenbaum wrote the song and was the first to record it, though it has been covered many times since. It’s one of those songs that you know as soon as you hear it, without necessarily being able to remember where you heard it first.

What is its secret? On the face of it, it’s an extremely simple song putting across, fairly explicitly, a simple, basic Christian message: believe in Jesus and you will go to heaven – a sentiment that doesn’t usually fuel mass popularity in a pop song. Maybe it’s the catchy tune that impresses folk who gloss over the lyrics – or perhaps it just gets listeners thinking about gin.

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Sounds on Sunday

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