Spirit in the Sky

Juan, 45
Mountain View

Your songs, and why?

It came from conversations started a while back with friends, because with family it’s kind of hard to talk about this. We were just talking about ceremonies and then about songs—funeral songs that we would want for ourselves.

My friend said, “I want something happy.” And I was thinking, “I want something happy too, but actually, I want something more like rock n roll. I want something groovy.” Something that has a nice guitar. Something not too crazy or overplayed. Not too over the top.

The first thing that came to my mind was a song that I had always liked since I was a kid. I was thinking of some song that would make my parents happy, it would make me happy…it would probably make everyone feel good. And one that I had always loved since I was young was Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky.”

I’m not a religious person, but it’s something spiritual, on my own terms. This was the closest thing to religious music that I’d experienced. I love the way the guitar sounds: to me, that’s very spiritual. It has this really cool groove. And it’s psychedelic. And folk-y. The guitar effect is important. It has a nice beat. I always feel happy and calm when I hear that song. There’s something transcendental about it. Even if you don’t know if you’re going to go to heaven, or if your version of heaven or the afterlife is the way it’s described in the song, it transports you into another dimension. Such a powerful song.

The other song I like is more personal. There’s this post-punk band from Mexico City called Caifanes: on their first album, they have this song called “Amanece”.

The song is pretty much about “I did things on my own terms, and only death can take that away.”  It’s a very existential song. It always makes me think about my own existence; how you can do things better, every chance you get. It’s in Spanish; it’s pretty old now. It just turned 30. So this is a song I heard when I was a teenager, during those crucial formative years. For many of us from that generation, it was our first encounter with existentialism in pop culture. That Caifanes album was a landmark one; there was no precedent for something that like.

How to share these?

I want to have both of those songs, back to back; one performed live and the other one played with a slide show with pictures from my youth. I want a gathering with family and friends and I want people to have a good time.

I want “Spirit in the Sky” performed live, by my musician friend Sonny Smith and if possible, his entire band. My other request for the band: the guitars have to sound exactly like the guitars on Norman Greenbaum’s original version. Everything else could change, but the guitars have to be exactly the same.

With “Amanece,” we can just play the original. I don’t mind if it’s a sing-along; that’d be beautiful. Just don’t forget the slides.

Your “no-go” songs?

Maybe the only thing I wouldn’t be a fan of is New Age music. And no U2, especially anything made after 1988. I wouldn’t mind Perez Prado, cumbia, disco, punk…just make it loud!