Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Larry Norman did say he was only visiting

...and now he's gone home. The artist I think of as the "grandfather" of contemporary Christian music, Larry Norman, has passed away. He was one of the most prominent voices--if not THE most prominent voice--in the so-called "Jesus Movement" of the late 60's. You could say it was a reaction to the hippie movement; the latter promised universal love, peace and happiness, but for many it seldom delivered, especially in the long-term. It was the house built on sand, as contrasted with the one built on the Solid Rock that gave Norman's label a name and a purpose.

The "Jesus People" seemed most visible in the countercultural center of the universe, namely California, but thanks to musicians like Larry Norman (and church members and leaders who were able to look past outer appearances to see the inner passion for reality and truth), the movement spread. Contemporary Christian music became its own genre, and eventually an industry. Norman had as much skepticism toward that as he had toward the unbelieving world and remained a "voice in the wilderness" to a certain extent all his life. The world can always use more of his original thinking and visionary perspective, now more than ever.

He was an example to me of why it's more important to be true to yourself (even if it causes friction at times) than to conform to what others tell you to be. I don't doubt he got plenty of advice that would've made him fit into the system better...and that would have rendered him utterly forgettable as well. I gather he was easier to admire from afar than to love up close, but then, who isn't?

Here are some articles followed by samples of his work:

Wittenburg Door interview with Larry from 1976 (A MUST-READ):
"This World Is Not My Home"

John Fischer's tribute:
"The Prophet Was Ready"

From Entertainment Weekly:
Remembering Christian rock maverick Larry Norman

From Christianity Today:
Larry Norman, 'Father of Christian Rock,' Dies at 60

Steve Camp's tribute:
"Larry Norman: Home with the Lord"


(Click arrow to play video, click screen to open new window)
"Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" (inspired when he shared a bill with Janis Joplin)

"Put Your Life In Jesus' Nail-Scarred Hands" (the coolest invitation song ever)

"Only Visiting This Planet" and "God Part II" (live w/ Mike Roe. Later in life, his energy fading but far from gone)

"The Outlaw" live

"I Wish We'd All Been Ready" (this song and the images put to it may seem cheesy, but it's hard to explain the impact it had on a generation long before the "Left Behind" series was written).

"I Love You" (his first hit song with People, from his early pre-CCM days; I had never heard this before finding it today)

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