Jewish rocker Norman Greenbaum injured in Santa Rosa auto wreck

The singer-songwriter behind the 1969 rock hit “Spirit in the Sky” was hospitalized on Sunday after being critically injured in a Northern California car accident that killed a motorcyclist.

Norman Greenbaum, 72, a longtime resident of Santa Rosa, was the passenger of a Subaru Outback that collided with a motorcycle at a street intersection near the city on Saturday, the California Highway Patrol said.

The motorcycle driver, Ihab Usama Halaweh, 20, of Santa Rosa, died at the scene; his passenger and Greenbaum were taken to the hospital with critical injuries.

Greenbaum was raised Jewish, and said in a 2011 interview that his hit song, despite its gospel inflections and Christian overtones, was well-received by the Jewish community. 

“I think at first it was a little hard to conceive but it seems to have gone away,” he told “I still get strange letters from heavy Christians that find it appalling that I said, ‘Never been a sinner, I never sinned,’ and I’m truthful in writing back. I say, ‘You know, I flubbed that part. So what are you going to do?'”

A spokeswoman for Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Vanessa DeGier, declined to release Greenbaum’s condition on Sunday, saying that his family requested privacy.

The Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported that a nursing supervisor at the hospital said he remained in critical condition.

The newspaper said the Subaru driver was not injured, and that investigators do not believe that alcohol or drugs were factors in the accident.

“There’s no stop (at the intersection), but the Subaru driver was supposed to yield to oncoming traffic and they didn’t,” CHP Officer Matt Pinheiro said.

“Spirit in the Sky,” which became a hit in 1970, has frequently been used in commercials and movies, including, most recently, Disney’s 2014 box-office smash “Guardians of the Galaxy.”