Sunday, February 24

Only Visiting this Planet

A great hero to a lot of people, and a mentor to many, passed on to Glory this morning. Larry Norman, the first musician to use his musical "first language" (at least in the modern Western culture) pioneered was was disparaged as "Christian Rock and Roll" by a generation who still esteemed Fanny Crosby as the last word in hymnody. While not quite as prolific as Miss Crosby, Larry was responsible for songs like "Why Don't You Look into Jesus," "I am a Servant," "The Outlaw," and "Why Should the Devil (have all the good music)." Curiously, the last title was a tribute to Martin Luther, though many reacted as if he had attacked both the Church and her Lord in singing it.

For over ten years he was the only musician in the States singing for the Lord with contemporary styling, and one of very few to use a guitar. Besides his own talent, he graced us with such musicians as Mark Heard, Randy Stonehill, and Steve Taylor, and seemed to have borne much influence on Bob Dylan as Dylan did on his own work. Norman's "Reader's Digest," "Six-O'Clock News," and "Why Don't You Look into Jesus" and such Dylan hits as "Serve Somebody," reflect as much.

Having grown up in the only white family in an African-American neighborhood in Los Angeles, Larry learned early to love the Lord with his all, and to put his heart and soul into what was put before him, and in his case that "what" was proclaiming the praises of His Savior, which he did with everything he had: A guitar, a heart of love, and a voice that never impressed but always reached straight to the heart. Having assisted with his sound at one concert, that was what came across without ever trying. A real man of God who will be sorely missed. Sing loud, Larry! You've finally got the ultimate Audience!


  1. I have a couple of friends that are fans and I let them know about the passing thanks to your email.

    Cheers, Robert.

  2. This might even be a chance to promote Larry's work, and message, "though he were dead, (he) yet speaketh." So much of his work has been passed over for more "marketeable" themes or higher gloss and glitz. "Reader's Digest" and "The Outlaw" (and many others) will still preach today, and need to!

  3. There's no doubt Larry Norman was a great pioneer in Christian Music.

    One of his classic songs you missed was "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", which you can find here, performed by the Lightbearers.

  4. I still sing the "The Outlaw" as the basis of a "Who do you say I am" sermon when that pericope comes around... I was introduced to LN by my girlfriend (now beloved wife) while in college back in the late 70s. Not all of it passes through the orthodox screen; however Larry had his finger on the pulse in ways that would shape myriad singers. His music was VASTLY superior to Kieth Green's, but I (personally) appreciated the spiritual direction that John Michael Talbot took. Still, what a gift he was/is/shall be to the faithful. Thanks, Robert, for alerting us.

  5. David+, That's two points for your better half now- association with you, and appreciation for Larry!

    I think the greatest tragedy in Larry's illnesses, & now departure, is current need for theological content in the music. Larry's, sure, was light and evangelistic, Acts 2 was great for leading folks into deeper worship, and Keith Green, especially in his later stuff, carried a strong message of Christian Service, all of which are rather rare on the CCM labels today. What was the rule is now the exception. God "for us," not uncommon: God "in us," don't get me started! It's time for Christian musicians to be at least as well-grounded in theology as in their theory, in my opinion!

  6. I was given the link to your blog site by thekingpin68, since there is a tribute to Larry Norman on my own blog site, in my March 4th post.

    I agree that much of today's 'Christian' music is seriously lacking in deep theological truth. Even worse, there are a few 'Christian' songs that, in my opinion, contain false doctrine.

    Another point is that it sometimes seems the only requirement necessary to label a song as "Christian" is that the lyrics be free from cursing.

    Keith Green was one of the best contemporary Christian vocal artists, IMO, as far as theological depth. I also very much liked Don Francisco, because his songs were generally stories from the Bible, written to music.


So what's your take?