Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Larry Norman: Visiting This Planet No Longer

I got into Christian music in 1983, by then Larry Norman was the legendary first Christian rocker, someone older people mentioned but not someone my friends or I listened to. I remember quite enjoying Jeff Moore and The Distance's cover of Larry's classic Why Should The Devil Have All the Good Music?

Andy Whitman from Paste has wonderfully honest farewell to Larry:
Larry, who died yesterday, was a friend I never knew, and a frustratingly untrustworthy witness to the faith. He was talented, insecure, prone to fanciful tales that bore little or no relationship to the truth, possibly mad as a hatter, and utterly, fearlessly in love with Jesus. The truth is that he made about three good albums over the course of thirty five years and dozens of releases. He repackaged his thirty great songs over and over again, made ridiculous claims about his role in the music industry (the founder of rap was my favorite), and claimed to be the spiritual mentor to everyone from Paul McCartney to Bob Dylan. He was also the self-proclaimed Father of Christian Rock, and for once he got it right.

Those who are familiar with the safe, sanitized world of Contemporary Christian Music might be startled if they listened to those thirty songs. There was nothing safe and sanitized about Larry Norman’s music. He sang about gonorrhea, drug addiction, NASA’s foibles, the death of Janis Joplin, and Jesus. Always about Jesus. Larry was wrong about some of those things. The devil never ever had all the good music. Larry Norman had some of it, too, and so did all the lost pagans Larry both excoriated and loved. But there was an emotional directness and honesty and prophetic tenacity about those songs that anyone – CCM musician or otherwise – would do well to recapture:

You kill a black man at midnight
Just for talking to your daughter
Then you make his wife your mistress
And you leave her without water
And the sheet you wear upon your face
Is the sheet your children sleep on
At every meal you say a prayer
You don’t believe but still you keep on

Larry Singing his signature song:

- Peace

1 comment:

James said...

Yes, very sad... A huge loss, I feel like there's a void in my musical life right now... And something I regret, I never saw a Larry Norman concert, one of my dream concerts which won't happen now