Sunday, February 24, 2008

Larry Norman (April 8, 1947 – February 24, 2008)


Christian music artist Larry Norman died today. As a kid, I was a big fan of his music. Well, even as an adult I was a big fan of his music. I have quite collection of LN CD's and albums.

I don't really know what to say- Larry was only visiting this planet, and he knew it. It saddens me he's gone, but...he's now in another land, a much better land.

This website recorded LN's final words written yesterday:

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.

My brother Charles is right, I wont be here much longer. I cant do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help.

My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.

I'd like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again.

Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.


It was around 1980 when a guy at church gave me some Christian rock albums on cassette. Up until that time, I was listening to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Who, and most of the popular rock on the radio. He gave me Resurrection Band's Awaiting Your Reply, and a few others I just simply don't remember anymore. The music was, well, pretty bad. I really tried to like it. The music was simply not as good as "real" music. The guitar players were not Jimmy Page, if you know what I mean.

He also gave me a cassette of Larry Norman, telling me it was not as "heavy" but I might like it. The album he had recorded for me was Norman's Only Visiting This Planet. Indeed, the music was not as heavy, but for some reason, the lyrics and music resonated with me. I really liked the album. It was...real. I didn't feel like the music was trying to be preachy or contrived. The songs spoke about rejection, loneliness, politics, racism, the facade of popular music, and...often and overtly....Jesus. I was hooked.

During the 1980's, as I went from a pimply teenager to an adult, I tracked down a lot of Norman's recordings. This was not easy. Norman had totally rejected the CCM "industry." His music was not easy to find. But, I did manage to find some rare gems. His album, So Long Ago The Garden had been pulled from Christian bookstores because of a controversial cover. somewhere down in my basement, I have an original MGM copy of this album. Larry then began his own company, distributing his own records. At this time, he had his father doing the orders. I still have some letters from Larry's dad, thanking me for my interest in his son's music.

I first saw Larry Norman perform in 1982 (somewhere, I have pictures and a recording from the concert). I recall going backstage to meet Larry. He would stay for hours after a concert to talk with people. During the 80's and early 90's, I saw Larry perform many times. Larry was always a treat to watch perform. He wasn't a great musician, but he was real.

Well, I wouldn't call Larry theologically "Reformed." In fact, as I reflect on the theology of Norman, I guess he was a quasi-dispensational, quasi-Arminian, if not bordering on Pelagianism at times. As my own theology shifted, I lost interest in Norman's music. It was not easy to listen to "I Wish We'd All Been Ready" and his other dispensational eschatological songs. That being said, I can honestly say that Norman's music was very influential in my life, and I would still classify it as "real" music. I still don't like Contemporary Christian music. I probably never will. That's why I'm tempted to say, Norman did not really do Contemporary Christian Music. Larry was a singer/songwriter who happened to be a Christian.

20 comments:

------- Theo ------- said...

God bless Larry Norman. Eternal rest grant unto him, Oh Lord. Let perpetual light shine upon him.

BJ said...

I have never heard of Larry Norman, but, James, your description of him makes me want to find some of his music. Thanks for posting this.

BJ
Stupid Scholar

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Tiber Jumper and I used to listen to Larry Norman during our college years in the late 70s, when we first heard him. That's also how I learned about Randy Stonehill and Tom Howard, both of whom were produced by Norman on his label. And both were consummate musicians who transcended the narrow "Christian artist" appellation.

I had seen Larry in concert a couple of times at small venues. Sometime during the early nineties I tuned the piano for him at a concert he was giving in a local theatre near my home. But alas, I never got to meet him.

Having fallen away, as it were, from Christian music for many years now, I also hadn't thought of him for a long time.

Having faithfully served our Lord Christ, may he now reign in glory with the saints forever. Amen.

Tiber Jumper said...

Larry touched more people than he could ever know .
Pilgrimsarbour introduced me to him in 1976 and he had all his early albums (I was too cheap to buy albums then, and didn't have a phonograph)I'm still cheap now too :)
We listened to his tunes and imitated Larry as he said "Go Jawnee"
when Jon Linn took a lead break on "the Rock that doesn't role."

I always loved the line in "I love You"
"Life is a mystery, Love is a Dancer
I had the question, you brought the answer"

The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day.

Good post, thanks

Hidden One said...

Wish I'd heard of him before today... I have, however, heard of "Wish We'd All Been ready" - as I guess redone by dc talk.

L P Cruz said...

It sounded to me that Norman was into some Christian Rock music. Well, that genre does a lot or reality when it comes to the lyrics. It is not always smooth, but that is because the lyricists are trying to explain the experience they get as they ride the bumps of this thing called - life.


LPC

James Swan said...

It sounded to me that Norman was into some Christian Rock music. Well, that genre does a lot or reality when it comes to the lyrics.

Well, put yourself back in the early 70's, and as you listen to Norman's recordings from this time period, you'll find his lyrics were quite at odds with other CCM at the time.

There was simply something very genuine about Norman, throughout his career. I recall in the mid 80's, as Christians strove to put on Christian rock concerts with lights and explosions, etc., watching Norman get up on stage and yelling "ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?!?" To which the audience responded, "YEAH!", and then he yelled, "Are you ready to rock? Who cares? Are you ready to die?"

James Swan said...

Sometime during the early nineties I tuned the piano for him at a concert he was giving in a local theatre near my home

I think I read you expound on this on another blog- if this was the Ambler Theater, I was at that show. I recall it being bitter cold.

Rhology said...

Wow!

Who cares? Are you ready to die?"

That is awesome!!!! Seriously.

James said...

First of all there is no such thing as "Christian" rock music. Anyone who has read any history on music and virtue knows that rock music is not virtuous music. It is like calling it, "pagan/Christian music". It does not go together. This is just another Satanic disturbance brought in by the Protestants. All these corrupt pagan elements that have caused division in Christianity for the last 500 years has been brought upon us by Protestantism. This is just another example. Christian rock music, ???

Carrie said...

This is just another Satanic disturbance brought in by the Protestants.

Wow, James is really a killjoy.

------- Theo ------- said...

Dear James, my brother and fellow professing Catholic Christian:

Please consider that most of the major advances in Western music from the polyphonic to the symphonic were introduced to the world within the context of either the Church herself or under her direct cultural influence. There is a sense in which one could say that Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium Mass was a production of the "rock and roll" of its day with its eight-part polyphony and dissonances contrasting in resolving harmony, complex rhythms, textual repetition and built-in virtuosity.

I’m sorry to say that the chain of reasoning in which “Rock and Roll” equals “Protestant” eludes me. Have you ever heard the Mesa Africana? It is beautiful—and has more drums in it than a singles cruise ship limbo contest.

As for ministers such as Larry Norman (or James White, for that matter), it is not for us to cast doubt upon their Christianity. God alone shall judge them—as he will judge us also. I hold every prayer and have every hope that His mercy reaches all who He wills shall have it.

With prayers for your blessing, I humbly submit this as your servant and brother in Christ,
--Theo

------- Theo ------- said...

On a side note (pun intended) James, you might want to check out “The Mass in F Minor” by the Electric Prunes (1968) to get a good feel of a Catholic contribution to really bad early Christian rock music. However, if you do, PLEASE follow it up with some John M. Talbot (I recommend "The Painter") to get the bad taste out of your mouth. Protestants have not cornered the market on good or bad music composed in the last fourty years.

--Theo

Tiber Jumper said...

James, if it was the concert at the Ambler when the heat wasn't working and Larry was complaining how cold he was I was there too.

Hidden One said...

"However, if you do, PLEASE follow it up with some John M. Talbot (I recommend "The Painter") to get the bad taste out of your mouth. Protestants have not cornered the market on good or bad music composed in the last fourty years."

On that note, I'll add two more Catholic self-described rock artists to the list - without otherwise giving away my personal opinion:

Critical Mass - www.catholicrock.com
Oremus - www.oremusmusic.net

James, Rock music doesn't belong in the Catholic Mass, but that doesn't make it satanic. Cheesecake doesn't belong in the Mass either.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I hold every prayer and have every hope that His mercy reaches all who He wills shall have it.

Why Theo! That's the most Calvinistic thing I've ever heard you say!

;-)

James Swan said...

James, if it was the concert at the Ambler when the heat wasn't working and Larry was complaining how cold he was I was there too.

Yep...that was the place.

PLEASE follow it up with some John M. Talbot (I recommend "The Painter") to get the bad taste out of your mouth

Saw him in 1986, or 87.

All these corrupt pagan elements that have caused division in Christianity for the last 500 years has been brought upon us by Protestantism.

Thank you for calling and sharing, and shall we take our next call please... Hello, and welcome to Open Forum...

------- Theo ------- said...

"Why Theo! That's the most Calvinistic thing I've ever heard you say!

And I said it of my own free will. :-)

------- Theo ------- said...

And PA, did I ever mention that I believe He wills that all who will recieve it shall have it? :-) But I don't want to move this thread off topic.

PS. I really do appreciate you, Bro--no kidding.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Thank you for calling and sharing, and shall we take our next call please... Hello, and welcome to Open Forum...

James, you earn a guffaw from me for that one!