Larry Norman, the “father of Christian Rock” died last week. I felt like I should pay homage to this man, but unfortunately I didn’t really know anything about him. I knew that he wrote the songs “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music” and “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”, but I’d only ever heard the covers by Geoff Moore and DC Talk, respectively. (I did download the only album on itunes today. Can’t wait to listen to it.) [Update: the only album on itunes is called Remixing This Planet. I do not recommend buying it. It’s just a bunch of house remixes of Larry Norman songs.]
So I’ve been doing some research into the life of Larry Norman. I’m not going to recount his entire life story, you can find that elsewhere (links provided below). However, I do want to point out some interesting things that I’ve learned:
- In the mid-50’s, at the age of 9, he began writing and performing rock songs with a spiritual message.
- In 1966, his band People!, wanted to name their first album “We Need a Whole Lot More Jesus, and a Lot Less Rock and Roll”, but Capital Records decided to name it “I Love You” since it was less controversial – i.e. overtly religious. Larry quit the band on the day of that first album’s release.
- In 1969, he released his first solo album, Upon This Rock. Larry told the magazine Contemporary Musicians, “I wanted to push aside the traditional gospel quartet music, break down the church doors and let the hippies and the s and other unwashed rabble into the sanctuary…I wanted to talk about feeding the poor, going into the world….[I felt that] most of the modern music was anemic and needed a transfusion.” Wow! That’s a vision.
- George Martin (Beatles producer) helped produce his second album, Only Visiting This Planet, which was named the #2 album of all time in Christian Music by CCM.
- His music was highly controversial because it addressed real issues that no one else was touching in the Christian music industry like hypocrisy in the church, hippie culture, “free love”, politics, etc…
- Both he and his music endured a lot of bans from Christian radio and Christian bookstores. The church didn’t like his music and they didn’t like the way he looked with his long hair and jeans.
- While the Jesus Movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s loved him, he tried to distance himself from them.
- He “had no desire to preach the gospel to the converted.” “He ministered to the less traditional, the alternative.” He specifically said that his music was not for Christians. Like GracePoint, he was really trying to reach the unchurched and dechurched.
- In the 1970’s, he began a bible study for musicians struggling with , which Bob Dylan attended.
- Kurt Cobain, Bob Dylan, U2, the Pixies, and John Mellencamp all considered him an influence on their music.
Here’s a few classic Larry Norman songs:
- Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus
- Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?
- The Great American Novel