Going to Heaven in a 747

A strange anecdote about the crash of Pan Am 103 and a young musician who´s first real break-through was cancelled by a horrific coincidence.


     My name is Dean Friedman. I'm a musician multimedia guy that had a few hit records in the late '70's and have done assorted soundtrack work for TV and film and multimedia productions since then. I've been doing some writing about my experiences in the music business and fact checking one of the true stories led me to your web site. I thought you might be interested in this particular excerpt.

    ...One day I got a call from Esta Charkham (TV producer Central TV) about an upcoming episode of Boon (hit UK TV Show from the '80's) which was to feature a story about an American TV evangelist. They were hoping I could come up with some contemporary Christian spirituals which would fit in with the TV evangelist theme.

        Being the nice Jewish yeshiva educated boy that I am, I promptly replied, "Well, sure, thatís my specialty."

        A few weeks later I found myself in a recording studio in Nottingham leading a choir through a take of the two modern spirituals Iíd just written. Iím still very proud of them. Theyíre contemporary spirituals, which I feel are earnest, affectionate and funny. (Hey, Irving Berlin was also a nice Jewish boy and he wrote White Christmas, the biggest selling record of all time.) The first song was entitled, "Talking on the Phone to Jesus". Here are the lyrics.

Iím Talking on the Phone, on the phone to Jesus
The rates are low. The rewards are high, high, high.
He called me up. He got my number,
From that big operator in the sky.

The first time he called, my line was busy.
Somebody else was on the line.
But I hung up. And now Iím dizzy,
With a love of a special kind.

Ring-a-ling-a-ling, somebody answer the phone
If itís the Devil. Tell him nobodyís home.
Say he got the wrong number.
Tell him donít call no more.
Iím just waiting for Jesus to call.

        The second spiritual was entitled Gonna Get To Heaven on  a 747 and went like this:

Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747.
Gonna go to paradise on a big jet plane.
I once was wicked, but now Iíve got my ticket.
Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747.

You know weíre gonna take off
Early one morning.
The flight attendant will have real wings.
And the pilot, his name will be Jesus
And weíll pray as his co-pilot sings.

Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747.
Gonna go to paradise on a big jet plane.
I once was wicked, but now Iíve got my ticket.
Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747.
Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747.
Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747.

        Everyone loved the new spirituals and I happened to be around for the day they shot the evangelist scene. It was a full blown film extravaganza with 200 extras playing church goers and a revolving stage which the choir stood on as they rotated into view singing Gonna Go To Heaven on a 747. They even printed up little hymnals so that the 200 congregants could sing along. I stood behind a camera, watching as they began shooting the scene, amazed at how a few lines in a script could evolve into such a massive production.

        The show and the music worked great and Esta and her production crew were delighted with how it all came together. The episode was in the can and scheduled to broadcast a month later. I went back to the states to work on another episode and waited to hear the viewers reaction to the segment. The day before the show was scheduled to air Pan Am flight 103
went down in Lockerbie, Scotland killing 270 people.  The episode was immediately canceled and replaced with another in the line up. When it  finally did air a few months later, the song Gonna Go to Heaven on a 747  had been overdubbed with a traditional hymn.

        There was even a story printed a few days later in one of the UK national dailies commenting on the fact that the TV episode was pulled and why.

        Anwyay, just thought you might find this to be a curious tidbit. Thanks for the facts on your well done website.

        Dean Friedman