Monday, February 25, 2008

Larry Norman died yesterday

Do you know who Larry Norman is? He's the so-called "Father of Christian Rock", but musically he was much more than that. While I'm totally disenchanted with the modern contemporary "Christian" music scene, Norman was a pioneer in his day who made a significant contribution to music and culture. Norman was a Christian activist and artist who created a new genre of music.

He went home to be with the Lord yesterday after a 15 year heart ailment finally caught up to him at the relatively young age of 61 . Check out his website to learn more about him, I think he'll be appreciated more in years to come. In 2001 he was inducted in to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, here's the biography about him from that event:


Larry Norman is celebrating more than 45 years as a songwriter and performer. In 1956 he began writing his songs and performing them in public. He has continued to perform them all over the world. Instead of concentrating solely on America, he has toured exotic places like Russia, Lebanon, Israel, India, Hong Kong, and Japan. He has also performed in Western World countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, The Czech Republic, Poland, Holland, Britain, France, Italy, and Australia. He has sung in small clubs like New York’s Bitter End, and L.A.’s Troubadour, and also given concerts at The San Francisco Pop Festival and other outdoor festivals with crowds of up to 180,000. He has performed for The White House, twice - and in direct contrast, in Moscow at the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium. He has headlined at venues like The Hollywood Bowl, The Sydney Opera House, The Palladium and London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, which he has sold out six times; once filling it twice on the same day. Only recently has he slowed down.

For almost thirty years the press has referred to him as “the father of Christian rock” because it was he who first combined rock and roll with Christian lyrics. In the 70’s Billboard Magazine called him “the most important writer since Paul Simon.” To the church, in the early years, these accolades only deepened their doubts about him. He was banned in most Bible bookstores. But in later years he began to gain wider acceptance. Christian Artists Seminar awarded him their Lifetime Achievement Award and Contemporary Christian Music Magazine named Norman's Only Visiting This Planet record the most significant and influential gospel album ever released in the field of contemporary Christian music. This kind of recognition is not new to Norman. Time Magazine once called him “the most significant artist in his field.” He has said, “I’m just an artist, reaching toward Heaven.

"His recording ministry started in 1966 when he was offered a contract by Capitol Records and found himself on the same label as The Beatles and The Beach Boys. His first single, “Riding High,” was a song about the Christian life through the Holy Spirit. His first album was titled "We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus, And A Lot Less Rock And Roll". Larry and his band People! opened for secular groups like The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Janis Joplin, The Byrds and many others. Larry was outspoken about his beliefs. His music was original and thought-provoking. Pete Townshend credited Larry's own rock-opera, The Epic, for inspiring the rock-opera, Tommy, recorded by The Who. In 1969 Larry recorded his third Capitol album, Upon This Rock, which introduced the songs “I Wish We’d All Been Ready,” and “Sweet Song of Salvation.”

His style of music had been controversial for almost fifteen years before the Jesus Movement sprang up. During the Fifties and Sixties, he felt pretty much alone, but when other Christians began to write songs which were more modern and rock-based, things began to change. Larry’s broken finger, held up after each song, had become the One Way sign for the 70’s movement and his song “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” had become its anthem. The film "A Thief In The Night" used this song as part of its storyline. Other films would later incorporate his music into their soundtracks. His ministry continued to grow. Over the years his songs were translated into more than a dozen languages, including Russian and Hebrew. His music was studied in various universities and seminaries. He became friends with writers like Francis Schaeffer, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Hal Lindsey. Larry has had over three hundred cover records of his songs by other groups, including recordings by non-gospel artists like Sammy Davis, Jr. and Petula Clark. Later, even Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Black Francis of The Pixies nee Frank Black, the group U2, and Van Morrison have called themselves fans.

Larry Norman was a significant figure in American culture. He was a complex artist for sure, but his ultimate need was answered and he was never shy about proclaiming it- the forgiveness of sins he had through Christ.


Frontier Forest said...

Wow Tony, You took me back a long time. I remember when I first came to faith, back in 1972, with his weird, gravely voice; he came out with this far-out, haunting tune, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” But it really stirred me to think about how short time is as well as my own responsibility to be prepared and tell others!

jjmorgan said...

Larry Norman was something else. His song "The Great American Novel" is perhaps even more fitting now than it was back then.

JimFox said...

Just to let you know that the photo you have on this page is not Larry Norman, it is me - JIM FOX. Don't know how you made this mistake other than that we both have beards and long hair.
I do sing Larry Norman songs and you can see that it is me on my youtube channel - celticjimfox

You may want to change the picture and put one of Larry up.

Reepicheep said...

Wow! Thanks for the note Jim.

I'm glad you're alive!

Sorry! You look scarily just like Larry Norman