As little as I know about current recordings, I know about as much about the music of my youth. If you asked me who performed the first three songs I have mentioned here, I would have little problem, though these were the only Top 40 hits each of them had.
Put Your Hand In The Hand, I could tell you, was by the group Ocean. I even have this song on some compilation LP. The record by the pop band from London, Ontario, Canada went to #2 in 1971. It was originally released by future Canadian hitmaker Anne Murray in 1970, but it did not chart for her.
In my mind, I associate that song with One Toke Over The Line by Brewer & Shipley, which hit #10 in 1971. Mike Brewer was out of Oklahoma City, Tom Shipley from Mineral Ridge, OH, who formed as folk-rock duo in Los Angeles.
Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum, born in Malden, MA, was #3, for three weeks in 1970. Dustbury described this quite well recently, but I included it anyway.
Given the decadent nature of rock and roll (or so I’ve been told), I was fascinated by the spiritual nature of these songs, plus the explicit message of Oh Happy Day by the Edwin Hawkins Singers in 1969.
For another song from the era, I picked Jesus is Just Alright by the Doobie Brothers, assuredly NOT a one-hit-wonder. This song went to #35 in early 1973. This was on Toulouse Street, their second album with the decadent gatefold photo.
Put Your Hand In The Hand – Anne Murray HERE
Put Your Hand In The Hand – Ocean HERE
One Toke Over The Line – Brewer & Shipley HERE
One Toke Over The Line – Gail and Dale HERE
Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum HERE or HERE
3 thoughts on “Music Throwback Saturday: Jesus is Just Alright”
My youthful attitude toward Spirit In The Sky and Jesus Is Just Alright was that I liked and admired the straightforward rock and roll but thought it was wasted on Jesus songs.
“Jesus Is Just Alright” began life as a proper gospel song by Art Reynolds; the Byrds got the first pop hit out of it, if you consider grazing the bottom of the Hot 100 a “hit.” For now, it’s indelibly associated with the Doobie Brothers.
I was still religious when all those songs came out, so many of them had a different meaning for me then than they do now, except for “One Toke Over The Line”, whose meaning hasn’t changed (and I liked the harmonies). Even back then, I thought Ocean’s cover of “Put Your Hand In The Hand” was too sappy (I liked Anne Murray’s version better when I heard it on a compilation album many years later). But I particularly liked “Spirit in the Sky” because of the heavy guitar, and at the time I liked the lyrics. Nopw, all those songs are just nostalgia, which is enough for me.