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Gospel Soundcheck

Remembering Larry Norman One Year Later

It was one year ago today that Christian music legend Larry Norman passed away from heart related problems.From his biography:

Norman was an eccentric visionary whose songs drew controversy from both the conservative religious establishment and the secular music press for his lyrical mix of radical religious, political, and social themes. His 1969 solo album Upon This Rock was the first Christian rock record, and his milestone 1972 release Only Visiting This Planet is considered one of the best albums in the genre. His music was an influence on such diverse artists as U2, John Mellencamp, and the Pixies.


I think it’s fair to say that Larry Norman is the father of Christian music. So, in his honor, here is his iconic Christian music song, “Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music.” What’s your favorite Larry Norman song or moment?Get the Gospel Soundcheck headlines delivered daily to your email inbox. Just sign up for the RSS feed by going to the “Subscribe” box on the right hand side of this blog and entering your email address. Follow me on Twitter!

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posted February 24, 2009 at 7:33 pm

I don’t think it’s fair that the Christian music industry has pegged Larry Norman as the one who created the first Christian rock record. That honor goes to The Electric Prunes. That said, Norman was the first one to sustain a career, making Christian rock album after Christian rock album, and not a novelty one-off (see “Electric Prunes”).
I’ve never seen Larry Norman live. I’ve got to say that my favorite Larry Norman moment was in watching an anti-rock VHS (“Rock ‘n Roll, a Search For God”) and they ran a montage of salacious secular album covers. Throughout this montage, they played “Watch What You’re Doin'”, and it made me think, contrary to the filmmakers, that I really dug this Christian rock stuff–better check out who sang that song. It was Larry all right, from “Something New Under the Sun” (1980). I later amassed a real strong Larry Norman collection, and I’m very grateful that his talents were put to use for the glory of God.
Still, I’m awaiting with bated breath about the upcoming DVD doc on his life, unauthorized as it is. I think to truly appreciate Larry Norman, one must look at his personae, and his actions, with an unfiltered lens. There’s a lot we can learn from, good and bad. It doesn’t negate his talent, even if it may add dimensions (and possible roadblocks) to his witness.

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J. Nordstrom

posted February 24, 2009 at 7:44 pm

I find it strange to think that Larry died only a year ago. The internet’s been peppered with news about him ever since, and I’m still pretty ambivalent about it all. In spite of this cyber-noise, I find I’ve been listening to his music a little more often as of late, most often the songs “The Troubles” and “Butterfly.” He was one heckuva troubadour; his message-based style of songwriting disappears a little more each day.

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Bert Saraco

posted February 25, 2009 at 10:25 pm

I simply offer my piece on Larry, which I wrote shortly after learning of his death. Like this blog, it’s also called “Remembering Larry.”
Larry was one of those people who had deep, penetrating eyes that seemed to look right through your outside – the mask that you would wear everyday – and directly into your soul. You had no place to hide at that moment: you were in The Larry Norman Reality, and you knew that it was not a place to play games in. This, no doubt, made the prospect of a face-to-face encounter with Larry an intimidating and even frightening event – of course, until you actually did meet Larry up close there was no way of knowing how welcoming and warm he would actually be. I remember vividly (and this was another aspect of Larry’s personality: once you met him, the event was etched indelibly on your soul) meeting Larry backstage after a concert. My wife, Carina, and I were both fairly nervous about approaching this man who, to us, was a legendary and enigmatic figure. Even from our seats, we both felt that penetrating gaze, that moment of eye-contact that seemed to momentarily transform us from concertgoer to brother/sister/friend, as Larry entertained, challenged and – most of all – touched us through his art – and his art, it turns out, was his life. When we finally did meet him, hoping simply to say, ‘Hello, Larry – your music has really meant a lot to us,’ and to get away with our dignity relatively unscathed, we encountered a man devoid of the ‘rock star’ ego, an icon of the Christian music scene who didn’t see himself on a higher level than his audience. Within a few minutes, Larry Norman – Larry Norman – had his arm around our shoulders, introducing us to fellow-performer James Sundquist as his friends, Bert and Carina.
Some say he was an outlaw…. Larry was the ultimate outsider: Unwilling to dance to the tune of the industry moguls, Larry Norman seemed ultimately estranged from the Christian Music Establishment that largely owed their very existence to him. What better figure, then, to become a role model and hero to so many of the optimistic but disenfranchised artistic souls that blossomed in the sixties? Norman was the free spirit, the poet, the troubadour, the artist, the rebel, and – yes – the man of God that so many of us suburban-bred church boys lived vicariously through. I remember, after discovering that at last there were Christian artists creating rock music, arranging to sell ‘Jesus Music’ albums in the lobby of my church after Sunday morning service. It all ended after a deacon listened to all of the lyrics in “Why Don’t You Look Into Jesus?” Larry got me into big trouble – cool. Being the outsider wasn’t always cool for Larry, though. Eschewing the politics of the music industry drove Larry from the mainstream to an increasingly smaller circle of friends. Years of unfortunate situations and illness plagued Larry’s later years, ultimately ending ten days after Valentine’s Day (yes, ‘VD’), as his heart slowed to a stop and his life’s momentum propelled him to the home he often sang about.
No doubt, the tributes will come, perhaps with a sense of awkward recognition – like having to say nice things about the deceased relative that you never really got along with. Larry Norman’s special genius and pioneering spirit will, however, be recognized – perhaps more so now than when he was alive, since he’s no longer around to make the CCM establishment nervous. Larry was real, and didn’t play games with his Christianity. I remember one concert in particular, when some well-meaning but misguided audience members were asking Larry why he didn’t smile more. Later in the show, in a very impromptu encore moment, Larry had great fun playing a Beatle song, for which he was promptly chastised by the same audience that, earlier in the evening, demanded a smile. The irony wasn’t lost on Larry, who wasn’t the type to let that kind of audience behavior go by without expressing his own hurt and confusion at a community of believers that required a puppet-like performance to appease their own idea of what a Christian artist was supposed to act like.
I hope Larry’s smiling now.
A friend – Bert Saraco

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posted February 26, 2009 at 6:48 pm

I went to see him about 10 yrs. ago. he was a different kind of bird…I was expecting him to be more socialable afterwards, that never happened. I found a cd at a yardsale several years later, I still have it.:)

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posted February 28, 2009 at 2:23 am

I grew up in a Christian home, listening to Larry Norman albums.
I have fond memories of my childhood, falling asleep at night listening to classic LN albums such as “In Another Land” and “Upon This Rock” spinning on the record player. (although I never really fell asleep until after the songs were over, as I had to listen to the lyrics and the guitar solos !)
I never had the opportunity to see “Hairy Larry” Live in Concert but I have been blessed to amass some of his CD’s and rare vinyl in my ever growing collection. My favorite CD is “Something New Under The Son” for its raw blues and ‘ broken-heart-on-my-sleeve ‘ lyrical honesty.
I thank God for artists like Larry Norman, who were bold enough to encourage us to take our Christianity outside ‘the four walls of the church’. And he got a lot of flak for his unique ministry.
Jesus Christ came to save sinners. To often we get caught up in our own ‘Christian Bubble’ and forget about the lost and dying world out there, dying and going to hell and sadly, laughing about it.
May we truly be like Christ, who identified with them , ate with them and offered His Love and Salvation. (Luke 15:1)
My favorite Larry Norman song is “I Am A Servant” . This song really expresses the heart of a Christian Music Minister, something we all need to be reminded of.
Its interesting to note, that song in particular, can now be found in various hymnals in mainstream churches, quite possibly the same churches that gave Larry flack for his unique brand of artistry and ministry.
-Tommy Wales

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posted May 3, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Anyone interested in more info regarding the documentary of Larry’s life can go to, there is also a trailer that can be seen there.
The URL at youtube quoted is about Larry’s abandoned son Daniel. Daniel is 19 and lives in Melbourne Australia. Daniel also apprears in the documentary.
God Bless, Andrew Australia

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posted May 3, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Sorry, I thought it would show the youtube URL, it’s -:
Thanks Andrew

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posted April 20, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I thought the “Fallen Angel: movie came across in a way that obscured the point that holds the most value which in my opinion is getting Daniel legally recognized. It would have been a complete movie just to explore Daniel’s situation and stick on that one unassailable fact. That might be something that one COULD do in a loving way that could treat Jennifer, Daniel AND Larry with respect. That could be truly a ‘Bible Story’. Can’t we handle difficult subjects without trying to completely destroy those that have a different perspective? But by trying to cover so much in so little time but from only one side of the controversy the film comes across as very unfair and unbalanced and hardly ‘christian’.
A friend I brought to the movie (who didn’t know anything about Larry Norman before seeing the movie) said they felt drug through the mud and said to them it seemed like what they called a “hatchet job”.
Several of the articles said that Norman had been diagnosed with bipolar trauma, but for some reason this important point goes unexamined in the movie.
Some rebuttal to some of the points in the movie:

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