Larry Norman, a pioneer Christian rock musician, died on Sunday from a long-standing heart condition. God rest your soul, Larry.
I grew up in the faith with Larry Norman. When I first came to Christ, the local Christian FM station played the old 40’s-50’s style ballads, when they played music at all. The AM stations did the same, though some included traditional Gospel, which for me is fine in small doses. Coming out of the 70’s counter culture, I knew there had to be something more.
When my newly converted friends and I (we were part of a rapidly growing evangelical and charismatic Episcopal Church) found Larry, he was like Spring rain falling on the parched earth of our Christian musical souls. We knew that the musical form, in and of itself, was not evil and could be claimed for Jesus Christ and we were waiting for someone to figure that out and go and do it. Larry did, we embraced him, and the rest is history.
Those were heady days, back in the mid-late 70’s, when Christian rock was new and almost innocent. Now it is slick, packaged, and marketed like everything else (there are some who still try to resist the lure). There were four performers that started it all for us: Larry Norman, Phil Keagy, Anne Herring and the Second Chapter of Acts, and Keith Green. They were new, exciting and accessible. They were real, wore their faith on their shirtsleeves, and tried to avoid the lure of commercialism. Later, for me, Rich Mullins was added to that special group, along with Chris Rice (anyone who sings about cartoons getting saved, can sit with me anytime…) 😉
I hope when I die it will be in Lent, like Larry. It seems fitting. I will say it again, and it will be a prayer on my heart throughout this week, God rest your soul, Larry Norman. I look forward to having a long chat with you one day, in God’s own timing. Until then, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Postscript: Larry’s homepage has a posting by his brother about Larry’s last days. It was a good death, if that can be said about anyone dying. He was with family and friends, and they sang and prayed and made plans for his passing and afterwards. Though Larry had, at times, a very hard life, God was merciful and gracious to him at the end. May we be so blessed.