A telephone call from my buddy Eric this evening told of a great loss to the Christian community: Larry Norman died at age 60 this last Sunday.
It’s fair to say that Larry was the progenitor of Christian rock music. Most music critics acknowledge him as such. All I know is that I absolutely loved his music. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Larry provided the soundtrack of my early Christian life.
That he didn’t fear what people thought of him and just told it like it was made him a precious commodity in an age when people shied away from flat-out truth. Larry also reached out to the people the contemporary church didn’t care about, drug addicts, street people, prostitutes, and on and on. That realness made him one of the few Christian artists to draw crowds in Europe.
A great performer, he could not only reinvent his music a million ways from Sunday (just how many remixes of his songs exist?), but I can’t ever remember laughing so hard than at one of Larry’s concerts. He was a true wit and laugh-out-loud funny.
To lose him so young is sad, but in many ways he was lost to us a long time ago. He suffered through years of declining health. A head injury suffered in an accident on a plane and chronic heart disease took their toll. The last time I saw him in concert was 1987, and he looked worn even then. He retired from active performing in 2001.
Legions of Christian bands and solo artists over the years have thanked Norman or attributed their genesis to him. He was a true original. Why should the devil have all the good music, indeed.