If You Start With a High School Band, Norman Greenbaum Proves You Can Make It

By Sky Malbera Remember Spirit In the Sky, the rollicking rock hit from 1969 about spirituality?  Did you know the singer was a Malden-born-and-raised musician? Norman Greenbaum, an Orthodox Jew born in 1942, went on to create music but it was Spirit in the Sky that would reverberate through American culture. It was featured in almost fifty films, including Apollo 13 and the sequel to Wayne’s World and numerous television shows such as Law & Order and Big Love. Fun fact: the lyrics reportedly took all of fifteen minutes to write! Greenbaum was more than a one-hit wonder. He led in the charts with several other memorable tunes such as The Eggplant That Ate Chicago in 1966 and Canned Ham in 1970. A long-time resident of Santa Rosa, Calif., Greenbaum visited Malden on Oct. 16 2019, to cut the ribbon unveiling a mural on 110 Pleasant Street painted by Jesse Melanson to honor of the 50th anniversary of the famous song.  Fittingly, the mural envisions a hand raised up to the sky with rainbows and music notes flying, mirroring the streets of Malden blasting the hit with the universal themes incapsulated by […]


Norman Greenbaum feels the Spirit in Malden

By Joe Bohrer Photos by Paul Hammersley On Oct. 16, the downtown Malden came alive with the sounds of rock ‘n’ roll when classic rocker and former Malden resident Norman Greenbaum returned home to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mural inspired by his famous “Spirit in the Sky” hit. Also on hand was Texas-born artist Jesse Melanson who had painted the four-story mural at 110 Pleasant Street, facing the Exchange Street side, to honor Greenbaum and his enduring song. A small but excited crowd gathered before the ceremony. When learning that “Spirit in the Sky” would be played,  a participant said, “I hope they blast it!” Another participant commented, “This is so nice” when asked about the mural. When Greenbaum walked in from across the street, he got stuck in the crowd because so many wanted to talk to him, shake his hand and get a picture with him. When the crowed finally let Greenbaum get to the front, a representative of Malden Arts ARTLine, which sponsored painting of the mural, gave a quick speech […]


The artist who brought the “Spirit in the Sky” mural to Malden

By Sharon Santillo Have you ever known a little kid who liked to draw all the time? Jesse Melanson, the designer and and painter of the new “Spirit in the Sky” mural in Malden, was one of those kids growing up in Maine in the 1990s. His journey from Maine to Malden took him from a friend’s car to California, on a bicycle to Central America, and to Austin with his lady love and her horse.  In early 2019, Melanson, an Austin, Texas-based artist,  answered the call to artists from Malden Arts ARTLine for public art proposals, especially proposals to honor well-know artists, writers, and musicians from Malden. A major fundraising campaign was held in 2018 and Patronicity and the community responded with enthusiasm. The first mural in 2018, located at Exchange Street at FitzGerald Park, honored Malden-born award-winning children’s illustrator, Ed Emberley. A playground for small children was recently added nearby. In August, Melanson, assisted by Megan Lacy, executed a four-story mural at the corner of Washington and Exchange Streets to honor Malden musician/composer Norman Greenbaum […]


Malden native still has that Spirit in the Sky

By Sharon Santillo Fifty years ago in 1969, a song was released that has become a quintessential guitar track for movies, TV, and advertising; it still receives radio play today.  “Spirit in the Sky” was composed and performed by Malden-born artist Norman Greenbaum, who is one of a handful of musicians who has made a lifetime of earnings from one song. Malden Arts ARTLine is planning a spectacular tribute to Greenbaum and “Spirit in the Sky” on this fifty-year anniversary with the painting of a mural to highlight the song on the back of 110 Pleasant Street, facing the Exchange Street side. Painting on the Spirit of the Sky mural has begun and will continue through August. A ribbon-cutting will be held at the site on Oct. 16  with Greenbaum as the honored guest. The Malden community is invited to enjoy the mural and welcome Greenbaum back to his hometown. Greenbaum was born at Malden Hospital on November 20, 1942, two months premature. “I couldn’t wait to get started on my career,” Greenbaum quipped in a recent interview with […]