October 18, 2017

Larry Norman Tribute

UPDATE: A very fair piece at Christianity Today’s Liveblog.

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I want the people to know
That He saved my soul
But I still like to listen to the radio
They say that rock and roll is wrong, we’ll give you more chance
I say I feel so good I gotta get up and dance
I know what’s right, I know what’s wrong and I don’t confuse it
Why should the devil have all the good music
I feel good every day
‘Cause Jesus is the Rock and He rolled my blues away

Larry Norman died over the weekend
. From the IM archives: I couldn’t say it better now: This is the tribute to Larry and his contribution to Christian art that I wrote a few years ago.

I love you, Larry. Family- many are praying for you. He really helped me see Jesus. That’s about as good as it gets.

READ: So Long Ago When CCM Wasn’t Awful.

Comments

  1. Michael, I mourn with you over Larry Norman’s death. One of the songs of his I loved was, “You Can’t Take Away the Lord.” One of his very profound songs that still speaks is:

    I Am a Servant

    I am a servant, I am listening for my name
    I sit here waiting I’ve been looking at the game
    That I’ve been playing and I’ve been staying much the same
    When you are lonely you’re the only one to blame

    I am a servant, I am waiting for Your call
    I’ve been unfaithful so I sit here in the hall
    How can You use me when I’ve never given all
    How can You choose me when You know I quickly fall

    So You feed my soul and you make me whole
    And you let me know You love me
    And I’m worthless now but I’ve made a vow
    I will humbly bow before You
    Oh please use me, I am lonely

    I am a servant, getting ready for my part
    There’s been a change, a rearrangement in my heart
    At last I’m learning there’s no returning once I start
    To live’s a privilege, to love is such an art
    But I need Your help to start
    Oh please purify my heart
    I am Your servant

    ©Larry Norman Words and Music by Larry Norman
    http://www.higherpraise.com/lyrics1/I_Am_A_Servant.htm

    Peace.

  2. Oh man. I hadn’t heard this. I remember seeing Larry 2 or 3 times at Ichthus back in the ’80s. He was always my favorite – just Larry and his guitar on the stage – good stuff. Final Peace to him and Peace now to his family and friends.

  3. 31 years ago Larry changed my life in a concert. I realized that Jesus was “cool”. I realized my life wasn’t. I’ve loved Larry’s ministry ever since and have countless records (you remember those big round things?). Thank you Larry for changing my life and pointing me back to Jesus when I was so influential!
    Kamie in Canada

  4. Ivy, ya beat me to it. Rest in peace, brother.

  5. I’ll mourn with you, too. Hearing of his death transported me instantly to my teen years, when ‘In Another Land’ was THE album I’d pull out for my friends to hear. Yet for a boy who was into rock and roll with all his heart, it wasn’t just ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music’ that I played again and again. Songs like ‘I Am a Servant’ and ‘The Outlaw’ are the ones that come to mind now, so many years on. God grant grace and peace to his family and friends, and I look forward to walking with him ‘in another land.’

    Come to reason, face the day,
    Now’s the season, old things pass away
    Stand beside us, take His hand,
    He will guide us in another land

  6. “Gonna lay down my burden,
    down by the riverside,
    down by the riverside,
    down by the riverside.
    Gonna lay down my burden,
    down by the riverside,
    Gonna study war no more.”

    I understand that for quite a number of years Larry Norman’s life has been a struggle, a “war”, against health and financial woes, and the sadness of this news is balanced by the realization that for him, the strife, the war is over.

    I am reminded of this video, which applies here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQYrF2g_48o

  7. I remember Larry Norman from my college days; one of my college roomies was a big fan of his and played several of his albums (vinyl, long before CD) on a regular basis. I think the album I was most familiar with was Only Visiting This Planet. As you said, Larry Norman was going head-to-head with the mainstream rock bands, not preaching to the choir and “I’m Safe for the whole Family”.

    Larry Norman and Don Francisco’s story-ballads were what defined the peak of CCM for me. (Never could like Isaac Airfrieght, however, no matter how much my other college roomie played it.)

    So long ago, before CCM became 20-year-old bubblegum with “Jesus” substituted for “Ooooo Baby”… (That South Park parody of the CCM industry — and Approved CCM Musical Styles –was dead-on…)

    IMonk, I’m starting out on a second career as a science-fiction writer at 52. My standards are more like Larry Norman’s: “Could my stuff have gone head-to-head with Poul Anderson and H Beam Piper in their prime?” instead of “Just like Left Behind, except…”

  8. Ivy…

    That, too, is one of my favorite Norman songs. He was the first and best artist I ever listened to when I first got into CCM. (Daniel Amos is very, very close second!). Micheal’s title, “Long Ago When CCM Wasn’t Awful” is the perfect title for Larry’s music.

    He is now “In another land” surrounded by a “small circle of friends”…

    Eric

  9. The late 70’s and early 80’s were a pretty weird time in the church (lots of new teachings and practices around), but one person always remained consistent in what he was singing and saying, and that was Larry Norman – I didn’t agree with absolutely everything he said (surprise surprise), but I loved that he was so there when it came to telling the world about Jesus.

    Songs like ‘Why Don’t you look into Jesus’, ‘Six O Clock News’ and ‘Forget your Hexagram’ were so on track speaking to the times, and his friendship and work with Randy Stonehill on the ‘Welcome to Paradise’ album produced what must be one of the best contemporary Christian rock tracks of the times -‘King of Hearts’.

    I knew he was unwell and I spent this weekend looking at his musical legacy – some cracking material can be found on You Tube under his name.

    When the Lion finally rests with the Lamb, Larry, we know your voice will be there…

    One Way.

    Howard.
    (A Jesus Movement UK Original)

  10. Howard, the late Seventies and early Eighties were a pretty weird time in general.

  11. Ken,
    Your right about the times.
    Would be fascinated to hear more about your Sci-Fi writing.

    Howard.

  12. The Chick Voice says:

    I could take you to the church and point you to the exact spot on the exact pew where I sat at 12 years old and saw Larry for the first time. All in black, he walked onstage, he messed with the microphone stand for what seemed like forever. Then he raised a finger pointing up to the ceiling and sang in that high, clear voice, “one way, one way to heaven, hold up high your hand, follow free and forgiven, children of the Lamb.” It was a moment that changed me forever. In all these years following, he has wove in and out of my life, my town, and my heart. I last saw him in the lobby of the Ryman auditorium in Nashville. He was not well then and his voice was frail and quiet, but his eyes still danced the way they always did. I feel sad, yet relieved that his battle is over.

  13. I remember Larry Norman so well!
    Our friends actually got Larry to come to their farm just southwest…small town kids would get together to have a good christian time, and Larry would come to sing there, along with a few others….Melody etc.
    I loved it when he sang in his high voice..
    ” He’s an unidentified flying object.” that was hilarious.
    plus…”I am a servant”
    God, thank you for sending us Larry for a while on this earth.
    Janey

  14. I remember the first Larry Norman song I ever heard — I think it was in 1976 — was “Moses in the Wilderness.” After that, I was hooked. I guess your visit to this planet is over, Larry. See you later.

  15. Larry Norman was extremely influential in my even having the desire to know Christ. As a teen in the late 70’s and early 80’s I went to see him more then 20 times in concert. I am moved by his passing. In some ways he seemed very unhappy with this world and the church, but he fought the good fight till the end. Turner Oregon is 2 hours from my home on the Coast of Oregon. I plan on attending the funeral this Saturday to recognize and celebrate his life.

    We will miss you Larry, but not forever. We will see you again!

  16. More than his music, Larry represented to me a cultural hope. Growing up in the Bible belt, where (at least in our neck of the woods) long hair was equated with homosexuality and homosexuality equated with something that made God want to throw up. Music with a beat was equated with the bowels of hell and Satan himself. Before I had read the Bible for myself we were preached to that those, previously mentioned, positions were straight from scripture.

    When a friend, Bill, showed me his Larry Norman album (as a senior in high school) for the first time, I realized that Christianity was much bigger than the fundamentalist subculture of my valley. But we could not play his albums on our big turn
    table “stereo” that took up half of the living room. If we had, it would have confirmed the belief of my parents that the generation of the sixties was going to hell in a hand basket.

    I remember that one of my parents had a friend that owned an “Eight Track” recording machine (where they were bootlegging country and western tapes). Bill and I went over to their house, with their permission but when they were away and copied the album to an eight track tape. We had to work fast (as if we were making methamphetamines ) before the owners got home and heard the music. In our haste we recorded it in mono (using only 4 of the eight tracks and missing some of the sound) and we had large gaps between songs. But finally, we could listen to the music in the privacy of my Plymouth Duster and his lyrics rang true to our personal experiences and beliefs (like questioning the Vietnam war and materialism).

    Larry set me on a course that has continued for 35 years . . . trying to dissect that which is amoral culture from Biblical truth. If I had not discovered Larry at that vulnerable time, I may have taken the same path (barring the sovereignty of God) as the 98% of my fellow-churched teens . . . leaving the faith and its Bible-belt subculture forever.

  17. Larry Norman was my favorite Christian music artist (if you don’t include Bob Dylan, but that’s another topic for another combox). I remember the first time I heard his music. It was on a casette tape consisting of Norman bootlegs that included the songs “Right Here in America,” “The Great American Novel,” and “UFO.” I was hooked. Here’s my favorite line from the second song:

    “and when i was ten you murdered law
    with courtroom politics
    and you learned to make a lie sound just like truth
    but i know you better now
    and i don’t fall for all your tricks
    and you’ve lost the one advantage of my youth.”

    Apparently, Norman was invited by the Carter White House to perform at a special Gospel Music concert. He was told not to sing any political or religious tunes. He said, “I don’t known any Neil Diamond songs,” and then proceeded to sing “the Great American Novel,” which ends with these lines:

    “and your money says in God we trust
    but it’s against the law to pray in school
    you say we beat the russians to the moon
    and i say you starved your children to do it
    you say all men are equal all men are brothers
    then why are the rich more equal than others
    don’t ask me for the answer i’ve only got one
    that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son”

    Frank

  18. I forgot about the Great American Novel – sadly, I have it only on cassette (remember those?). Thankfully, I can feed it into my computer and clean it up.

    I really want to sing “Why don’t you look into Jesus” in worship on Sunday – both because it’s a message the church needs to hear, and to pay my own respects for this awesome looney for Jesus.

  19. Rick Conklin says:

    It is important to keep in mind that Christian Rock became a record filing category AFTER Lary Norman, not before. When Larry Norman began shakin’ things up there were but a handful of Christian rock artists, fewer still of note. I had the priviledge of seeing Larry Norman at a very early concert appearance at the Hollywood Palladium (circa 1970), his powerful and provocative message and music (in that order) had a profound effect on me. I was already a Christian, playing secular rock ‘n roll, and had begun to consider combining those attributes. Larry’s example was a significant catalyst in my deciding to surrender those talents to the service of the one who had given them to me. I spent 7 years full-time as a Christian musician, singing and sharing the gospel to thousands of people, it was an amazing life changing & affirming experience.

    I finally met Larry in 1976 when our band (Aslan) opened for him at a concert in Tempe Arizona… it isn’t everyone that gets to meet their real-life heros, I wish I had more time with him. He was truly a pioneer and he paved such a very broad path. So very many Christian artists were, and still remain, inspired by Larry’s work. I know how his life and art touched me and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you Larry for your courage and brilliance, your work continues to speak out. I’ll be seein’ ya & we’ll have time then.

  20. Back in the early 70’s I was exposed to Larry’s music for the first time as a young Christian teen and it was like a revolution. For the first time “my” style of music was available in a Christian context. I remember my mother coming into my room ready to tell me to turn that rock music off and I handed her the album jacket to read the lyrics and, after she got over Larry’s long hair, she was impressed and gave her blessing.

    Several years later Larry wrote a song that gripped my heart and was one of the tools the Lord used to bring me into ministry. The song was “I am a servant”

    When I received the news that Larry went home to be with the Lord my mind went rushing back to my early calling to be a pastor, my loneliness and the welcoming arms of Jesus to receive a sinner and have a place for him in his kingdom. Larry was a part of that calling.

    My choice to follow the way of the cross is really the unfolding of God’s first choice to provide a way of salvation and to draw me irresistibly to it. This weekend was a reminder of one of the ways God took charge in my heart and gave me the greatest privilege life can off – to be His servant.

  21. Around 1975, I was introduced by my cousin to an
    8 track tape of Larry Norman-upon this rock.
    A year later, I purchased the lp, and in 1978,
    being 15 years old, my dad took me to see him twice
    in central pennsylvania.
    His performances were truly refreshing to me, also
    with Petra opening up until he arrived. They were
    so loud it killed my ears, but when Larry came on,
    it was awesome, and it was truly entertaining.
    In 2001, after 20 years, he came to Lancaster for
    2 concerts and the last one was even better than
    all the rest.
    It is hard to believe and realize he is gone.
    He will be missed and it’s hard to listen to any
    music right now.

  22. If anyone is interested I have written about the memorial service at my website http://www.mayberrychurch.com

  23. Mark Bridgman says:

    I saw Larry a number of times at Dallas Brooks Hall in Melbourne (Australia)in the early 80’s. At that time there were regular international Christian artists making the journey ‘down under’, but Larry was without question my absolute favorite. The great music, the strength and depth of his lyrics and his on-stage showmanship were brilliant. I bought his albums and learned to play some of his songs on my guitar.
    Strangely, I’m in China on business right now and I bought a new guitar here to ‘be my friend’ while I’m away. As usual I have been picking over some of the old Larry tunes, which really have become a part of my life. A couple of days ago, my wife back in Australia, told me a that Larry had died (it was on the radio). It was certainly sad news, and my heart goes out to his family and close friends.
    I’ve never fully understood why he was so misunderstood by so many. He gave so much, was a visionary, but suffered in other ways for many years. Larry’s music and message will live on – and maybe after his passing, will be ‘discovered’ by a new generation. Wouldnt a Larry dedication album of Larry songs done by the Newsboys hit the spot with a later generation? Just a thought….

    Larry may have left us, but for many of us what he really left us will never go away. Thanks Larry.

  24. Larry was an inspiration to me. His music helped lead me to the Lord.
    My favorite song of his was One Way.
    This world need more Larry Normans to help lead others to the Truth.
    I thank the Lord for you my brother Larry.

  25. Tim Tobin says:

    I want the people to know, that he gave me hope! Only saw “Stormin’ Norman” in concert once. That was enough. Only heard Francis Schaeffer once. Same. Larry’s art & humor is very much alive in my memory. There was only one Larry Norman; the world wasn’t Big enough for two. – Selah. Schaeffer once said: “Larry Norman was one of the most misunderstood Christian artists.” -OR- words to that effect…. Norman’s impact & brilliance was all part of God’s design for his servant. Larry always said: “This world is not my home; I’m just passin’ through….” May that be said of us. Amen.

  26. Andrew says:

    Anyone interested in the new documentary about Larry Norman can visit the website http://www.fallenangeldoc.com Daniel Amos, Randy Stonehill, Sir Cliff Richard and Larry’s abandoned son Daniel appear in the documentary . Daniel is 19 and lives in Melbourne Australia. He was raised by his mother with very little financial support from Larry.

    Daniel also appears on youtube , http://www.youtube.com/user/jenksaustralia

    Thanks Andrew