LARRY NORMAN 1947 - 2008
Since meeting Larry in London in 1972 I have spent many hours, days and weeks in his company. He stayed at my home, I stayed at his and we had incessant discussions about faith, art and life through which we established our own foundations. The thing that impressed me when I first met him was that he wasn't 'using' music as a vehicle for mini-sermons. He had a deep love and understanding of rock 'n' roll. He also had an amazing curiosity about popular culture. He was, in his own words, a 'media junkie.' He delighted in toys, cartoons, magazines, newspapers, movies, jokes, photographs, posters - everything. To be with him was to embark on a roller coaster ride of spiritual reflection, social insight, artistic vision and outrageous comedy. As with most roller coaster rides there were also times at which you thought you were coming off the tracks. Heaven will be a brighter place with Larry Norman.
We all know Larry Norman was an epic pioneer. Almost single-handedly he blasted open the doors of rock music for a whole generation of christians. He was also an extremely kind, talented and faithful christian brother with an enormous heart. It had to be... God filled it. I am privileged to have known him and called him friend. I think we shall all miss him more than we can know.
All I can say is that without our meeting all those years ago in the early 70s and he inviting me to play on his album 'Only Visiting This Planet' I would not have known of his production team of Triumvirate who eventually became my producers for four albums that have been recognised as landmark recordings and have in their way become classics, and all this was started by my meeting with Larry. It's a funny old world isn't it!
I hadn't seen Larry for many many years. I wish I had known Larry better and I could have written a far more fitting tribute to this remarkably gifted and charismatic performer. All I carry with me are the 'fun' memories of that time, and of a guy who truly broke the mould in terms of Christian music and Christian performance. He was in my book the Bob Dylan of that scene at the time, and it saddened me to read that it was a tough time for him financially to pay these medical bills when really he should have been a wealthy guy, with the quality and sheer volume of the material he wrote. Sadly another neglected genius. Rest in peace Larry.
From a guy who knew you in the 70s.
Larry was one of our greatest contemporary Christian songwriters, who made it his business to prove that the devil did not ‘have all the good music’! I knew him, and am going to miss him and his talent, but I shall look forward to meeting up with him again in that ‘greater place’.
Sir Cliff Richard
Larry was a strange mixture of immense confidence and naive vulnerability. He couldn't decide if he was Paul McCartney, John Lennon or Bob Dylan. In fact he was probably a mixture of all three with some Michael Jackson thrown in.
I believe I first saw Larry when he performed a solo, sold out concert at London's Albert Hall; a major achievement. I remember he walked on stage to rapturous applause carrying a guitar case that he unpacked on stage without a word to the audience who were going wild. Arrogant, confident and very effective.
I’m not into deity-ising human beings but Larry Norman’s definitely been a major music prophet and probably will be looked upon as one of the people who kept Christian rock music alive. It’s a very difficult ministry when you’re a pioneer. Sometimes he was obviously up for misunderstanding because the very nature of pioneering means he’s going places he’s never been before and so it’s like Roger Bannister and the four minute mile. Everyone thought it was impossible and within weeks of him running that four minute mile two other people had done it. And that’s how Larry done it. He broke through the nonsense and took all the flack for it.
Basically what Larry was saying was I’ve got long hair, I look like a hippie and I’m redeemed. And I’m well redeemed just because I play guitar and some rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t mean to say I’m less redeemed. I mean it was a huge statement especially to America.
He was neither the most amazing singer, nor guitar player in the world but it was the anointing on him - for me anyway. It was his stage presence for me – he was a giant on stage.
It’s been a privilege to know the guy.
I'm so very sorry to hear of Larry's passing. This past Saturday I felt compelled to Goggle Larry, and sat down at the computer for hours watching, listening, soaking up everything about him for the first time in my life. I don't know why this feeling came over me to do this but...I do now.
He was one of the most gifted songwriter/singer's in the world and I always had a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for his ability to write and sing. His lyrics were/are second to none and I will miss him more than you would think or know. The times spent recording with him (and Randy) back in 1970 are some of the most cherished memories in my life. He opened so many doors while working with him. May his music impact the world and last forever. My heart is very heavy and I just don't know what else to say.
I heard about Larry's passing from my friend Norman Barratt. It's very sad to hear this news, after talking with Norman and putting the phone down, I was flooded with just some great memories of those early days when we spent a lot of time with Larry. It was a very special time in my life and we certainly had a lot of fun. We travelled talked, prayed, and made lot's of music. Larry was one of a kind, a great talent and a great inspiration during those heady times. The one consolation in all of this is we will see him again when we meet him there.
Personally I had no idea that Larry even knew who After The Fire were so it was a pleasant surprise when we paid their US touring party a visit in their London hotel shortly after their appearance at Greenbelt 1979 that he welcomed us warmly! He was surprised, maybe even flattered, when I said his commercial album 'Only Visiting This Planet' had been an inspiration to me personally to get out there and be counted in the mainstream music business!
It is a strange sense of his release from suffering still being so sad for those left behind, never forget my Dad quoting Philippians when he was told he had 3 months to live: 'For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain'.
I am very sad to learn of Larry's passing. He was a unique artist who's influence across a wide spectrum cannot be measured. In my early years as a songwriter he was a constant inspiration. His songs were littered with references to a heaven and a better world. Peace and esteem to him there. x.
Larry was many different people in one. He could be difficult at times. An hour later he could be so overtly generous it took your breath away. I've seen him give people his whole concert fee the day after a gig because they were in need. But the Larry that will always stick with me was the one I saw on stage.
I promoted about 15 concerts with Larry in the UK and Ireland and I can't count the times I stood watching him on stage, in awe of what he had. He had a gift. He was an amazing communicator. And he communicated from the heart of God. In many ways his gigs were "thus saith the Lord". There was a presence that settled over his concerts, a reverent awe that accompanied what he did. Unlike anyone else I've ever seen.
I'll miss you friend. I've cried many tears since your passing. You were one of a kind.
I only met Larry twice but he blessed me on both occasions. To say he was a giant of Christian music is a huge understatement. If he hadn't been as bold about his faith no doubt our mass media would today be full of eulogies and tributes for one of music's great pioneers. But such things are of little value anyway. Larry was a loyal servant of the King of Kings. And I suppose finally that's more important than any musical gift he had, however great. See you in Heaven, Larry.
Within hours of hearing of Larry’s passing I began to get a sense that he will be much missed by many people around the world and here was someone who had touched and influenced people from differing backgrounds and across generations and continents. It felt like the UK had a special place in his heart and people here really appreciated his regular visits in good health and in ill health… he wasn’t your average CCM star who rarely played outside America. But I would bet people in Holland, Scandinavia, Australia would say something similar to us Brits. As my inbox grew, email after email said the same thing. Larry had been a profound influence on them. People felt they had lost a friend as well as a favourite singer. In different ways Larry had helped people connect with God or deepen their relationship with Him. And as well as boldly pointing to the truth he had almost without fail made them laugh out loud and laugh until it hurt to keep laughing! And people had great memories of songs Larry had written, albums he had made and concerts he had given. Terms like genius, legend, pioneer and unique abounded also. No one else wrote like him, or sang like him or approached a concert the way Larry did and I guess that’s why he’s more than just a great singer or songwriter for many people.
My lasting memories of Larry are of his warmth and kindness, generosity and the time he took to encourage me as a writer and of friendship he showed beyond the call of duty. He could be stubborn and tenacious too, but mostly in a good way. How else do you explain his limping round his final UK tour on crutches after being run over by the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour bus on day two of the tour? He never wore a watch and events unfolded on Larry time rather than their advertised time but it was interesting to observe how often this way of doing things seemed to result in him being there at the right time with just the right words to change a life. He was completely unpredictable too. He loved his family and spoke often of how much they meant to him. Many fans were initially disappointed after concerts when he seemed reluctant to talk some more about himself or his songs and preferred to find out about his fans and their lives and families instead. One of the surprising things about the last 24 hours has been remembering how many friends I made with others who felt the same way about the man and his music. Who can sum this stuff up in sentences or paragraphs or who can measure how much this one man’s life meant to so many people? All I know for sure is there was a lot more to him than the length of his hair or songs and albums which will stand the test of time. He was just Larry, and I’ve never met anyone else like him.
He was a genius, no doubt, who changed the direction, the content, and frame of "Christian" music. Was there ever anyone better on stage with just a guitar and microphone? For entertainment value and persuasive substance, no one. He touched tens of thousands of lives offering the hope of the Gospel and an insightful perspective on social matters. Any listening of "Only Visiting This Planet," the quintessential album of the genre, bears out these qualities.
I am touched by the death of someone who was a close friend and fellow warrior in our efforts to establish the Kingdom. I mourn his passing.
I remember his smile, his generosity, and his lyrical brilliance. Our prayer and assurance now is that the shedding of his mortal coil has released what is eternal in his spirit.
Philip F. Mangano
A brother gone to glory who will be very sadly missed. No doubt he will now be lauded by those who ignored him.
Death is such wonderful stuff and we all get to experience it. I've always thought I would hate to die in my sleep. I'm only going to get to do it once and wouldn't it be a bummer to go to sleep and wake up in heaven having missed the whole transition of my spirit leaving my body. And look here....my friend, Larry, has gone ahead and done it.
You know of course, we haven't lost Larry. If we were to put a million dollars into the bank, we would not have lost our million dollars, and Larry is at this moment in God's bank. Safe, secure, and I imagine in quite a state of euphoric awe.
It's true, we can't call him on the phone, we won't hear his gentle chiding voice encouraging us to sink deeper into God, nor can we see the mischievous sparkle in his eyes. It's just like having a long-term cash deposit, we can't take the money out and spend it or use it in any way. Larry is now living in a very long-term heavenly deposit, and it won't be too many years until I, myself, or you, the reader will be deposited right into that same account. How good can it get!!
All this and heaven too. It's like having your cake and eating it all at the same time. We live, breathe, and have our being in Christ now, only to be promoted into the very living, face to face presence when we step out of these bio-wetsuits we're all wearing, into the presence of Eternal Being.
Larry was my friend, is now my friend, and will always be my friend. Do I miss him? Not really. He lives in my heart. He is indestructibly my brother forever, and nothing can ever take him away from me. I can only say, "Thanks Larry, for who you are in my life, I love you Larry and I'll be seeing you soon."
Larry Norman changed my life, without any shadow of doubt. He brought rock'n'roll into the Christian world I inhabited, and not just the sound of crunchy guitars - the whole jing bang! the clothes, the hair, the attitude. The moment when he climbed onto the lectern at the Tent Hall in Glasgow (and was immediately and angrily removed) was the moment rock'n'roll really entered Scottish evangelicalism.
I played his records until they were ruined, I learned his songs, went to his gigs. I hoped we'd all be ready, and then I renounced that theology. But those songs, in their daftness, their passion, their melodic deftness and their sense of engagement, still resonate with power.
Larry Norman played his part in changing my life. When my friend Philip McCrae handed me his album In Another Land back in the spring of 1979 I’d never seen anything like it. Who was this long blonde haired rock dude. When I set the needle on the first track and Rock That Doesn’t Roll came on my archaic views of Christianity were forever blown away and the quality of the poetry, melody and performance of the entire album drew me in. Truthfully my life has never been the same since I heard Larry Norman. If you could open my spiritual growth you find his music imbedded through and through.
Last autumn I did a Lecture Series on Jesus and Rock and spent an evening looking at the Jesus Movement of the late sixties and early seventies. It was a time of remembering how good Norman was. In those first few years some top quality albums appeared none better than Norman’s mid seventies trilogy Only Visiting This Planet, So Long Ago, The Garden and In Another Land. These albums are simply impeccable in quality and content. They were not good Christian albums they were great albums full stop, able to sit alongside anything recorded at the time.
As well as his social observation Norman was introspective and brutally honest about his life and love. Added to all this was an enormous amount of Jesus and theology, expressed in clever word play and articulate poetry.
For me personally these albums imbedded my Christian worldview and made me take for granted that the Jesus I believed in was relevant to every aspect of my life and world. Young people growing up today with modern worship music instead of Larry will not be so grounded in breadth and depth of faith.
Norman’s eccentricities, often times paranoia caused him to lose the ear of the Christian music industry but his influence should never be underestimated and the strength of the body of his work is second to none in that industry. He probably dreamed of being the Dylan of the Christian world and in truth he probably was.
The number of emails I have received today tells me that Larry Norman meant an awful lot to a great number of people. It is truly the end of an era.
Being on tour with Larry I sat and watched him perform at every concert we did with him. I was always amazed and spell bound at what he did with one voice and one nylon stringed guitar. I cherished the times I spent with Larry and for what he gave us in those formative years of Jesus Music, he will always have a place in my heart.
Just one week ago I sang a few of his songs in a concert in Fredrikstad, telling people how much Larry has meant to me as a friend, a brother, a songwriter and artist! Though I haven't seen him for a very long time, I had been looking forward for some time to meeting him again here in Norway in connection with "The Royal Years" tour this April. I got the news on my birthday and I can tell you that my whole day was heavily influenced by this sad news! I've been crying because an old, dear friend of mine, maybe the only true hero of mine has gone. Because Larry was in a way PART OF my life! He showed me how to write songs that communicate with ordinary, normal people. Real rock music! And I thought that I would never sing rock 'n roll again after I became a Christian! I realised that God wanted me to be myself and use my talents and experience, but based on a new platform... Bob Dylan had always been a great source of inspiration for me. Now Larry became an even more important inspiration for me! I thank God for Larry Norman, this bright, intelligent and creative man who sought to use his talents and life with the attitude of "I Am Your Servant". Your old friend and brother,
My last conversation with Larry was in 2005, I was in a dodgy little cyber cafe in the town of Sanur, Bali, checking my Email. There was a message from him asking after my health, life, and how things were going.....
I met Larry in England in the early 1970s. It was because of his and Randy Stonehill's enthusiasm and generosity that I initially moved to USA to try and make music and art. Larry, at his best, was committed to his own deep faith, his own abundant creativity, and being a source of empowerment and encouragement to others. His music and art opened the door and turned on the light for many many people all over the world... I'm not sure if there's a way of measuring the extent of his influence.
Larry Norman may not have been particularly innovative musically, his template the 60s trinity of Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. But what was innovative was what he did with it. As a songwriter he was literate and passionate, caustic yet caring, wanting his listeners to believe in the same God and Saviour he loved by presenting the Gospel in a way that challenged the audience’s intelligence and didn’t patronise them.
Larry showed that Christians could not only enjoy rock music but make it too. For that alone we should be eternally grateful.
The last time Larry played with a band in England was in the summer of 2006 at a church near Waterlooville in Hampshire. His final song was a cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘The Last Time’. Its chorus, ‘This may be the last time, I don’t know’ was the more poignant because all of us knew it was true, having endured prolonged ill health for well over a decade.
Ending with this song brought everything full-circle (the sign above the church entrance said its caretaker was one K. Richards). And there was a further twist. ‘The Last Time’ was inspired by the James Brown single ‘Maybe The Last Time’, which in turn was based on a Gospel song by The Staple Singers. So Larry was reclaiming in a church what had come from the Church in the first place.
Larry, thanks for the memories and your songs. You’re missed more than you’ll ever know.
Larry Norman was my friend. He was a great songwriter, performer and communicator. Often misunderstood, he challenged me and thousands of others to work out ways of communicating our faith in God and our Christian commitment in language and artforms that could be heard and understood by people outside the Church culture. He was responsible for inspiring a generation of singer-songwriters and creative craftsmen to greater heights.
Larry Normans' legacy is a valuable one. It will echo through this earthly culture for a long long time. He was "only visiting this planet" and now he has gone home. I miss him as do many others who loved, respected and cared for him.
The Larry Norman that I knew, that we all knew, was a man of songs, so when I heard the news the other day, I just began to think about the songs. Larry's songs. The one that immediately started whirling through my head was his "Song for a Small Circle of Friends". Around and around, repeating the concluding line, "He loves you." So direct as Larry could be so direct.
But then "Nightmare 71" came creeping in..."We've learned to greet a man with knives..." Larry could be so twisted. And to any of us who had any contact at all with him, those Jekyll and Hyde sides flipped back and forth, often in the same instant. You'd wonder which was the real Larry, but then you'd realize, they both were.
That made him a lot like the rest of us, I suppose, except he was gifted enough (commanded, even?) to put a Christ-like light on those conflicts then spin them into those wonderful songs. "U.F.O.", "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", "Why Don't You Look..." etc. Simple. Profound. I can't get them out of my head, but why would I want to?
Then again, I've always been partial to "Be Careful What You Sign". ("This man came in and melted..... -- insert pregnant pause -- all the candles on my cake"). He wrote about death a lot, but it was always cloaked in life. Eternal life.
Larry could think on his feet, or as I remember one episode, think on his seat. He was playing solo at Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Hall (I want to say it was 1974), banging out "The Tune" on the grand piano. He was pounding so hard that the lid, which was in the propped up position came crashing down and slid off its hinges. Without missing a beat, he picked up the lid, set it on the floor, and continued with his carrying on. Seemed like an act of worship, to me.
"And I think we should get ready, 'cause it's time for us to leave."
In 1976 when I happened to be working for a short time in Memphis, Tennessee - I made a point of contacting Larry Norman who was coming to town for a concert. I had known Larry Norman as the talented songwriter and musical mentor to my best friend Randy Stonehill.
Larry wanted to see Elvis Presley's Graceland - so we toured it together reflecting on the conflicted life of this world re-known star.
As Steve Turner referenced in his tribute, Larry was a voracious consumer of all things in pop culture and in Memphis that day it was no exception. He bought every Elvis magazine, book and token in the gift shop without a second's deliberation. It was a hunger that he seemed to have for the most superficial and superfluous of objects. Later when I came to work for Street Level Agency and Solid Rock Records - I had the opportunity to view Larry's vast storehouse of such magazines and objects in wonder. That day in Memphis however it seemed to me his acquisition of these things was a balance to the profundity of his vision and intelligence. As if he needed more Elvis mementos and magazines than anyone could possibly read or appreciate to counterbalance the weighty things of personal faith and Christian calling which preoccupied his music and work.
Of the many Larry Normans that I encountered over the years, I choose today to remember the gravitas of his brilliant songs juxtapositioned against the silly collecting of temporal ephemera that is a memory that brings a smile to my face.
I'm told that the Keystone interview with Larry was the definitive interview. I don't know. Larry and I became great friends and we spent three weeks on the road doing the interview. I would ask the questions and he would answer. We got a transcription of the interviews and he and I sat in a motel room, while he retyped the answers, making sure we had an accurate record. It was the days before computers. I still have the little portable typewriter.
You see, Larry was a major voice in the Jesus Movement and the Church didn't get it back then and it still doesn't get it. The Jesus Movement didn't die back in the 70's. For many of us, who 'found Christ' is those early days, the likes of Barry McGuire and Chuck Girard the Jesus Movement continues, and it happens again everyday and every new morning is a celebration of new life. For him who has an ear, let him hear.
Larry has been criticized, ostracize and misunderstood most of his life. What remains with me is that impish cheeky grin appearing around a corner saying "Hi Donny!" On major issues of faith he would look at me, throw his head to one side, squint his eyes and make a statement, then smile. As if to say, "They're not going to get it... but they need to think about it" and we'd laugh.
Larry lived outside the box. He provoked you to the point of thinking about what you believed, he challenged the status quo. I've often described Larry as a musical Francis Schaeffer and if there is one single message from Larry after all these years it's simple "love one another and think". Larry, we'll miss you but we know you're celebrating with our Lord.. you ran a great race.. this was never your home, you just passed through and touched all our lives.
At his core, I think Larry was a teacher. Growing up, as he did, with a career schoolteacher (his father, Joe) he took on a gift for the instructional that informed his performances, his art, and his life. The hours we spent together in the studio or just sitting around and gabbing were always infused with a passion for learning and taking in new ideas. In our early years together he was an able and patient teacher when it came to the craft of song writing. Larry's performances, satisfying as they often were musically, also had this teaching element, which enraptured his audiences. Larry contributed to my formative years in the recording studio, for which I will always be grateful.
Although I only toured Larry once in South Africa and Zimbabwe, he was ever
present in the subsequent 13 visits to South Africa of Sir Cliff Richard,
who always acknowledge Larry as he inevitably sang at least one of his
Larry kindly invited me to speak up in Salem just over a year ago at his
Barbeque. So glad I had the privilege of knowing the man who wrote "The Tune"
we all now dance to. I prophecy, just like Elvis, Larry Norman will sell
more music, while he is in Heaven, waiting for us to join him!
Rev. Tony Louch
Misunderstood; sinner saved by grace; extremely talented; creative musician and songwriter; eccentric; loved by many who struggled to get close to him; deep thinker; radical; difficult and stubborn; generous and giving; often ripped-off; dedicated follower of Jesus; true friend; photographer; ragamuffin; etc are just some of the descriptions that have been used by people to describe Larry Norman on more than one occasion.
My experience with Larry was only good, and although I never had the opportunity to get real close to him, I enjoyed the involvement we had together. I have been around the radio industry and Christian music for over thirty years, and I have been an avid fan of his music for most of that time. I have met and heard from many people who have been affected by Larry, some in positive and some in negative ways, over many years. I have also seen Larry cared for and loved by promoters and tour coordinators, and I have seen what seemed to be unjust treatment of Larry by others. I know he was often ripped-off by so-called “friends” and business associates, and I know that the boot-legging of his music was being done (sometimes for profit) long before it became easy to do by today’s digital means.
Needless to say, I enjoyed my association with Larry and I cared for my brother. His health issues have plagued him over many years, and I have been praying specifically for his healing over the recent years with his heart issues. I believe he has now found that healing, as he runs freely in the presence of his Lord, without any pain or discomfort.
I wrote a song for Stereotype Be back in 2000 with that title.....’Leaving The Planet' was written by George Cochini and I as an answer or an ode to ‘Only Visiting the
Planet’ by Larry Norman....Larry was and will continue to be an inspiration to me in many ways......he was my Elvis in the contemporary gospel community.....I looked to Larry when people did not understand why I wrote lyrics that did not correspond with christian radio....and he was indeed the catalyst for many in the industry that could be bold about their faith, but make good music at the same time....Dylan was a fan, McCartney was a fan, dctalk was a fan.....Larry left a mark on music and on the terrain of modern christian culture....we met Larry as dctalk, on the road in Europe in the early 90's.....I didn't know much about Larry at the time, except that he was one of the original ‘Jesus People' movers....I knew him for his Snakeskin boots and record produced by Sir George Martin.....I knew he was known as the grandfather of christian rock...but that was all.....in my years, I have been privileged to get to know the 'man', Larry Norman....a human being....flawed...erratic....compassionate....curious....intelligent....free....after singing ‘I Wish We'd All Been Ready' numerous times in concert with him, on award shows and the like, I started to understand the man....his direction....we became friends behind the scenes....I talked to him on the phone occasionally when on the road....I decided when I made my first solo album to include Larry in the process.....Larry and I did a couple of performances together, one in a festival and one in Nashville....always, whenever the circumstance, he taught me to love people no matter the differences.....my favorite memory is of sitting around a table at The Palm, downtown Nashville with Larry and Adrian Belew....during the making of Stereotype Be I flew Larry in to be a part of it.....I thought it would be great to have him meet Adrian.....we sat around the table and discussed music and talked about stories from the road....Larry shocked Adrian at how many near death experiences he had had on the road....one involved being struck by lightning more than once on a plane.....one involved the Russian KGB being interested in him for no apparent reason.....all in all, Larry was a walking, talking Legend full of love and insight.....I know at the end of every story or phrase he tried to relate it to his belief in Christ.....this was the mark of a true modern missionary....I like to think of Larry that way......relevant, on the edge, classic, literate and always arresting....the musical missionary- may you rest in peace great friend.
In the sleeve notes to "Only Visiting This Planet" Larry Norman said that he wouldn't be here long. In an interview with Stewart Henderson in 1984 he said that he wondered how long he could keep the touring up and how long his body would stand up to it. He began singing "What's Wrong With This Body" around the same time. In the 1990's I remarked to him about the Rolling Stones etc... who still tour although they are getting older, he said "I don't know how they do it." I told him that he blessed a lot of people with his music and he said, "That's the only reason I still tour." Music reaches people, it's one of God's tools, He chose Larry to reach people that couldn't be reached by regular preachers. Early on in the 70's Larry said that he wanted to inspire other artists and bands to go out and tour and not just in churches either but anywhere people gather: pubs, rock venues, concert halls (and I suppose these days on the internet too). It's good for those of us involved in music to continue the work that Larry started, reaching out and spreading God's love around. He was the trailblazer: "a person who blazes a trail for others to follow through unsettled country or wilderness". Larry had his peculiarities, as we all do; we're all a bit weird in different ways. But Larry's generosity of spirit was too engaging to be ignored. Though he was getting frail his shows lasted a long time, he gave himself. And I think that's pretty close to the Spirit of Christ who also gave Himself for others.
Larry Norman was my friend and a true cutting edge man of God. We were
together on Sunset Strip in Hollywood and in many of the early days of what
became known as the Jesus Movement. We talked together about how to reach our generation for Jesus. He came up with the 'One Way' finger pointed toward heaven as I started the Jesus Cheers. We did Jesus marches and Jesus rallies together across the U.S. and England.
Larry had passion for Jesus mixed with an understanding of people. He
understood the struggle of the church with the radical person of Jesus. With
his understanding and fearless spirit he pioneered in sharing Jesus in the
Larry was a Jesus revolutionary owned by no one but his Lord. He cared,
loved and stayed faithful to following Jesus. He was free and in his freedom
he threatened the 'normal' and stretched believers and in it all he lifted
I'm glad I had the privilege of being by his side many times. Seems I can still hear him saying 'see you later Blessitt and don't let them make you normal...stay radical' ‘Will do’.
A pilgrim follower of Jesus,
I first heard Larry playing in Northampton, England in 1972 and got to meet him a couple of years later. I felt honoured that someone as "important" as he was, was willing to spend some of his time talking with me. We went on to meet a number of times after that and his music and his method of presenting that music set me on the road that I am still treading 36 years later - I can honestly say that if it were not for Larry Norman I would not be still singing and writing today. My tribute to Larry is that every time I stand in front of an audience with my long hair and guitar, there will always be at least one Larry Norman song in the set.
It's been a long time since I shared in the faith that meant so much to Larry, and I guess I don't really know what happens when we die, but I hope that the man who was "only visiting this planet" is now enjoying the rest that he deserves.
I first met Larry Norman in 1973 when he came to our local youth club that I sometimes helped out at. I was in a band called Gravy Train making records for the Vertigo label. I’d been saved 2 1/2 years, and I burned with a passion to share the Gospel from the stage, but was struggling with how to do it from within a Rock Band context, until I witnessed Larry at work that night.
For me it was life changing, almost as much as getting saved had been. The man was Spirit filled and was so obviously about his Father’s business – lives got changed, kids got saved. It started in me a deep desire to seek God and do the same.
I first played with Larry in November 1977 on an 8 week European tour, along with our dear friend Alwyn Wall. It was the first of countless tours, concerts and studio sessions that we did together, right up to the last time we worked together in a London studio in 1991. When email became available to us in the mid-90’s, we kept in touch that way. In all that time he remained a faithful, trustworthy friend who was incredibly thoughtful and considerate. He was generous and loving, putting Jesus before himself, whilst making some people feel uncomfortable when he saw through the insincerity and sometimes downright wrongdoing that dogged our industry for years.
Three generations of my family, my wife, son, daughter, grandson and me always loved him, miss him, and look forward to seeing him again, in Heaven.
In my opinion, all music should be like Larry's music. His songs were real and honest, and you could hear the compassion in them. When they came on you didn't have to ask "Who is that?" You knew. Larry had a voice, and in a day when so much music runs together in such a commercialized, calculated, sameness, that's saying a lot. It's probably his greatest legacy... that example he gave of courageously being himself. The brief times I was around him are cherished memories. All of us who came up through the ranks during that time owe him a real debt of gratitude. He'll be greatly missed.
Summer 1980: our honeymoon brought my wife and me to the Greenbelt festival in England. One of the announced top-acts was Larry Norman. There were many rumors before the festival whether Larry will show up or not. Finally he did. 20000 people expected a hot rock concert, but he entered the huge stage only with his old accoustic guitar (as always out of tune, one of his trademarks).
This night he was preaching more than he was singing, but the audience was somehow paralyzed and listening without moving. What a remarkable concert.
A year later we met the first time. ‘Friends on Tour’ hit Germany and I promoted 5 concerts. I got to know a very friendly person who always used to listen very closely. All the concerts had an apocalyptic touch. There were no encores and Larry finished every night with ‘I wish we'd all been ready’, ending with a brutal keyboard sound until there was no more applause.
Three years later I met Larry again at the Greenbelt festival. He brought a superb band with him featuring Dan Cutrona and Bob Somma. The audience enjoyed a tight concert with an angry singer and preacher, who tore his T-Shirt apart at the end. He felt limited because the promotor did not want him to preach. My friend Frank van der Gaag and I started right away to plan a tour which brought Larry in December 84 to England, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. One of the concerts has been recorded and some of the songs can be seen on the DVD ‘Face to Face’.
In the 90s I stopped my promotion activities because of my family and kids, but I never lost contact with Larry. We saw each other again at Cornerstone 2001 and it was incredible how close we both felt even after more than 10 years. It was fascinating, how many details Larry was able to recall.
In 2007 Larry came back to Germany to do his last concerts here. He was physically weak, too weak for a strong hug, but his mind was wide-awake. I knew that this was our last meeting. It was very sincere and personal. His physical weakness was blown away on stage. My son saw him the next night and wrote me a SMS right after the concert: ‘Unbelievable ... one of the best concerts I have ever seen’. And he has attended many concerts.
It is a colourful picture with many facets that remains: Larry, a guy that drove every soundman crazy, someone who loved children, who preached very clearly without getting dogmatic. An artist who loved his audience, who told funny stories which made you always laugh, who wrote brilliant lyrics and songs, who knew how to deal with irony and sarcasm. A person with many edges always motivated by his love for Jesus which he shared with his audience.
I am very sad that one of the best and most important christian artist has gone away too soon, but the certitude where he is now is much stronger than all the grief. Larry, I thank you very much for all the concerts, meetings, telephone calls and discussions. These are precious memories for me.
When I first saw you
I just knew that it was holy ground
And when I looked I saw an angel
Come walking through the wall of sound.
You were visiting this planet
Now you’re in another land
It’s so long ago the garden
It’s so hard to understand.
We will learn to live without you
And say that word ‘Goodbye’
So farewell but not forever
We will meet beyond the sky.
Larry Norman was a very bright light for us "Jesus Freaks" back in the late 60's early 70's who left organized religion to follow a God that we believed existed - contrary to the way we were brought up. Some of us started our own communes, Jesus houses or had evening bible study/prayer meetings in our homes to satisfy our craving for a real true life of following Jesus. His music rang out in our ears and confirmed that Jesus could truly be our friend and that we could have a personal relationship with him. Larry will be missed by all who knew him. I am glad that we reunited via email in the last couple of years.
The release of Larry's first solo album "Upon This Rock" dovetailed perfectly with the bright morning of the Jesus Movement, so it was natural that Christians would forever associate him and his music with the Jesus People revival. A seemingly fearless young man barely into his twenties when we met, he burst upon the scene and into our hearts with the bold proposition that Christian music was anemic and needed a transfusion. He released three groundbreaking albums in rapid-fire succession while the Jesus Movement was at its peak, and gave the young revival its hauntingly beautiful theme song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready." The song set the tone for the prophetic message that was woven into all of his music, and (I've heard) tempted a generation of young guitarists to venture past the fourth fret.
In September, 1970, Larry volunteered to write a regular column in the Hollywood Free Paper called "As I See It." The banner for the column was a tightly cropped photo of Larry's bright, mischevious blue eyes twinkling under a fringe of California-blond hair. The feature became a favorite of readers because Larry never pulled his punches and his articles were always honest, brash and entertaining. Record executives "told me I couldn't sing about Jesus," he complained in an early column. "It would be too controversial and most assuredly ruin my career." Another time, he criticized record labels for "trying to reduce the spiritual revolution to a top twenty single."
Early in his career he opened for the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Countless photos and film clips captured Larry playing and singing on stage at concerts and festivals. But I like to remember the Sunday afternoons when he would suddenly show up backstage at one of our makeshift Jesus People Festivals at the Hollywood Palladium, unannounced and unscheduled but ready to sing his heart out for the thousands of kids assembled who had played his records till the grooves wore out.
On Spiritual Revolution Day in 1971, the public image of Larry was of the long-haired singer striding confidently forward with "one way" finger raised as we marched through the streets of Sacramento. One of our photographers captured a more poignant moment -- I don't think it was ever printed in the Hollywood Free Paper -- from backstage just as Larry began to sing. He was gazing with wonder at the massive crowd gathered near the state capitol building, astonished as we all were by what God was doing in our midst.
He warned us for years he was only visiting this planet. But for those of us who knew and remember our old friend Larry David Norman, his sixty year visit was all too short.
Having lived through his heart attack in the nineties, and not having had contact with him for several years, I was not too shaken by the recent news of Larry Norman's death. We all have to stand on our own eventually. I did know and work with Larry several times, as well as practically wearing out a few of his records and seeing him live many times. He was a brilliant writer and thinker, as well as a great singer and recording artist. He was perhaps the main pioneer of Christian Rock. As a fellow artist I found his art, wisdom, friendship, and prayers a great source of encouragement, strength, and self-acceptance in the Body of Christ. May he receive a rich reward in heaven.
I have known Larry since October 1972. We met the night he performed a concert at my home church; it was the same night I was baptized. It was through him and his encouragement that the Lord called me into music ministry. Larry was, in those early years, my mentor. We spent many days together penning songs, doing concerts, and enjoying each others fellowship, recording and ministering for the Lord and telling others about Jesus. Larry had me live with him and his wife Pam for a few months to disciple me and teach me the craft of songwriting. Though we hadn't spent much personal time together, except for the occasional phone call these past several years, I will always treasure those beginning years in ministry with him.
Here in the UK, throughout the 70s and 80s, Larry Norman was an icon. I remember him mounting a plinth in Trafalgar Square when thousands of Christians had gathered to worship and pray for the capital. His long blonde hair blowing in the wind, his guitar strapped across his shoulder.
He was a hero to many friends of mine, and his albums were collector’s items years before his sad, recent death.
Larry stayed with my wife Anona and I for a week, and like many public people, turned out to be quite private off stage. I remember taking him to see the great atheist turned Christian Malcom Muggeridge, and the Holy Spirit invaded the room after Larry had sung one of his songs.
We sat in the lounge of the Muggeridge’s home for what seemed like eternity, so tangible was the presence of God.
When it was time to go Larry and I drove a mile before he turned to me and said: “I will never forget that moment for all of my life.”
Well now he knows that “presence” which he occasionally touched, both in public and private.
What can you say about such a great songwriter and performer. Larry was a visionary when it came to songwriting, a true christian who always said this world is not my home. Larry knew what he was about, his words made you think. He made some of the most prolific albums. His songs were so well crafted, you can sing I wish wed all been ready today and it still has the same powerful influence on the listener. He was not of the normal establishment, he refused to be pigeonholed and are we glad of that. There has never been and never will be another like him. He is one of a kind. Larry, now He has led you to His Kingdom, that’s in another Land.
Larry certainly has left his mark – he became the symbol and unofficial spokesman for the Jesus movement of the 70’s. His definitive album “Upon the Rock” became the benchmark for contemporary Christian music – which I have often described as the Christian equivalent of Sgt Pepper. Despite all the frustrations we experienced with him behind the scenes during our MGO (Musical Gospel Outreach) years – his music and incredibly imaginative lyrics were an inspiration to a whole generation.
BEYOND THE STARS
i.m. Larry Norman
A celebration. Projected memories
and the sound of a scratched record,
the descent of the first man, Adam,
as song echoes against the casket.
Find the fragile path into the future
and wait for me beyond the stars.
Today I wrote nothing. There will be
no more words flying between us,
nothing developed as a metaphor.
Death is as easy as lying, as rumour
spread against you, around you,
stories you pretended not to hear.
At the limit of translation, you
reinvented the wheel. Practice
can be observed, evaluated;
what you did cannot. Take
that fragile path into eternity
and wait beyond the stars.
Today I wrote something. This
is not an obituary or a memorial,
nothing here feels deliberate
or right. In another future,
where you are fit and well,
we see you in a new light
and understand love's defiance.
© Rupert M Loydell
I met Larry the very same day that I met Randy Stonehill ~ around July
1971. My band Glass Harp played that day as did Lamb. I visited Randy
and Larry at the hotel and we became friends that day. We've kept in
touch over the years and participated in many concerts-especially in
the early days of the Jesus Movement. We also sang on Randy's song "We
were all so young". That was special!
People should know that Larry was a unique and gifted artist-an
extraordinary songwriter and producer. I am glad his suffering has ended
and he now rests in the arms of the Lord--no doubt he will be missed and
no doubt Larry will be inspired toward greater creativity in his new
home. A true legend has left this planet!
Here's to friends-who have traveled on before us: Larry Norman, Jackie
Street, Bruce Barr, Roby Duke, Rich Mullins, Mark Heard, Keith Green and
others--God bless them. There are others and some of you have lost loved
ones recently. God's peace be to you.
Have hope in Jesus~~with love
Larry left this earth last Sunday morning at 2:45 a.m., and the world has lost a prophet.
There are undoubtedly those who would challenge me on that last statement, but I will not recant. Sure he had enemies among his friends, and he created much of that. He was an enigma--an iconoclast. He could be so far off you wondered if he was only visiting this planet, but he could be so on the mark that you could only credit the truth and light of the Holy Spirit for it.
Indeed, the first verse of his song "Outlaw," could have as easily been written about him. No one knew where he came from, but many wished he would go back to wherever that was. He was an outlaw to everything established, and for that he embodied the renegade nature of Christ's first coming.
When you think of it, a guy with shoulder-length blond hair who sang about "sipping whiskey from a paper cup," "gonorrhea on Valentine’s Day and you're still looking for the perfect lay," and "shooting junk till you're half insane," is probably not going to go over very well with the 11 o'clock Sunday-morning worship crowd, especially 35 years ago. But then again, he wasn't speaking to those folks anyway. And to his credit, he never adjusted, like the rest of us did, to the Christian culture that grew out of the movement he helped found. He never compromised for a living. He stayed an outlaw until his death.
For these and other reasons, I have always likened Larry to John the Baptist--a non-conformist living in the desert wearing funny clothes, eating weird foods and hearing voices no one else heard. After having the dubious distinction of being the one to baptize Jesus and prepare the way of the Lord, John lost his head for sticking his neck into King Herod's private life. Larry stuck his neck out lots of places where people didn't think it belonged. It's a wonder he hadn't lost his head sooner.
In a time of spiritual revolution, Larry Norman carried the torch. He was and will remain, through his enigmatic music, a voice crying in the wilderness. I celebrate Larry's final one-way trip to heaven, and if I know him well enough, I would guess he would want us all to make sure we were ready to leave ourselves.
One way, one way to Heaven, hold up high your hand.
Follow, free and forgiven, Children of the Lamb.
I had the privilege of working with Larry Norman during the late 1980s
when my company recorded and distributed his albums and promoted the Europe wide 'Rock in the 80s' tour. I had a really good relationship and a lot of fun when Larry and Charles stayed in my studio rooms for a couple of weeks and did a recording. It was amazing to work with him in concerts because of his powerful message, music performance and stage presence and also the fact that he became a good friend. His message was very strict and honest and also the fact that if there was any outside criticism he always listened. That was a good thing. You have to get to know Larry to find out where his heart is. It’s not open like a book, you had to extract his quality views on life.
I had organised for Larry to tour in Scandinavia this April with his old friend Andréa Crouch and others. Now I’m going to concentrate on making this event the best 'tribute to Larry Norman' tour from my heart. The terrible news of his death came as a real shock. He will be sadly missed.
Larry marched to his own beat.
He was Larry from the first moment I met him
to the last time I performed with him almost 40 years later.
He was one of those artists who was uniquely himself.
He will leave a space,
Where he once was, he is no more.
But he leaves us with his music
and with our memories of him.
For me, they are indelible.
Thank you Larry
for touching us with your genius.
To that degree we all carry a little of you with us.
and eternal joy to you
on your new journey.
Having just returned from the funeral, and spending time with the family, my thoughts are rich with memories of a 30 year friendship with Larry. We traveled the globe…spent too much time in recording studios, and I consider Larry my closest friend in music ministry. I will miss him, but am so happy for him. My heart aches for Charles and Kristin, the girls, Mrs. Norman, and Mike and Tiffany. They are family to me.
I have read so many of the “tributes” to Larry…most loving, and then some tinged with things less than honouring at a time when our words should be those of love and blessing. He was human, yes. We all are. However, the stones cast have been by those with sin, not without.
All I can say is that the Larry I knew was generous, kind, loving, fun, intelligent, and most of all, a tireless campaigner for Jesus. He was a revolutionary…a radical…a world changer. Those seem to be character examples of Jesus. He spent week upon week in our home…we would write, record, but most of all, talk about Jesus.
We shared similar health issues, and Larry was a prayer partner with me, as I was with him. The Bible says, “Pray one for another”, and Larry did this with great regularity. He was a gatherer...and encourager. Thank you, Larry…for paving the way…for looking at humanity from the perspective of the Mercy Seat, and bringing believers and non-believers closer to Jesus. That’s true worship. And those of us who understand the scandalous grace of Jesus, will proudly take the baton that you’ve left us, and run the race, hoping to hear what you did as you entered into glory…”Well done, good and faithful servant…and son”.
I love you, Larry. Kenda does too. We are committed to the remaining Norman’s. To God be the Glory!
In 1990 I could buy a CD of a Christian musician called Larry Norman which I didn't know before. I was fascinated by his music and interested in his life, especially his life with Jesus. And I found out that Larry was not only a great musician and songwriter but also a man who was grounded in his faith in Jesus Christ. My wish in the last 10 years was to see him once on stage, if possible in Switzerland. And if somebody asked me which persons I'd like to meet on this planet, Larry was always one of the names I mentioned. Then came the big disappointment for me when I heard that Larry had his last concert in the USA in 2005. Two years later Larry made a European tour to Germany and also to Switzerland. The idea of meeting him and making an interview for KIR Music was born. In may 2007 we met in Frauenfeld in a hotel. Larry took a lot of time to answer my questions and it was a meeting with a very impressive and wise man. When I heard about Larrys death I was shocked but also consoled because Larry is not only dead but has gone home to his, to our heavenly father. It's good to know. I will keep Larry in a good memory.
Roland Hämmerle, KIR Music AG, Switzerland
Now, Larry is the happiest and most creative ever...in the intermediate Heaven with Jesus, his friends and family that have gone on before us. Soon, we, who are born again, will be in our super human bodies at "the blessed hope" - the rapture - and will enjoy each other at The Marriage Supper of The Lamb – with Jesus, The Lion of the tribe of Judah!!
Larry and I were very close for several years in the 70's and early 80's when we toured Europe together, this included selling out a couple of shows at the Royal Albert Hall as well as the London Dominion Theatre. During these tours we became very close and most nights stayed up till 3am or 4am talking about "life" together.
Many people would say that Larry was a very difficult person to interview. I often witnessed this first hand. On one occasion I asked him why he couldn't be normal like me. He responded by saying that if he was normal like me, he would write songs like me!! He always could make me laugh!!!
Since Larry's death, I have been listening quite a bit to the music he created during the late sixties, seventies and even early eighties. He wrote so many “classic songs” during that time, that he stands alone in my book. He truly was the original pioneer of Christian Rock music.
As soon as I heard of Larry's death I knew it was important for me to go to the funeral. In the early 1980s Larry managed to drive wedges between me and some of my closest friends. Why he did this, I will never know. In recent years Larry and I have occasionally talked, but our relationship was never fully restored. However, when I was at the funeral, hearing about all the people Larry had led to Jesus, it was most inspiring and encouraging. The funeral actually lasted for two and a half hours, but it just flew by. Watching all the photographs and videos from the "glory years" brought back many fantastic memories and I felt this tremendous love and forgiveness for my old friend, the genius Larry Norman. No one at that funeral could doubt for a moment, the fact that Larry truly loved Jesus and impacted the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world in his lifetime.
For me, I will remember Larry's funeral as long as I live. It was a time when I felt I could let bygones be bygones and say "Farewell old friend, and see you soon".
I'm very sorry to hear of Larry's passing. He was a pioneer in reaching a
new audience with his music and love for Christ. He & Randy Stonehill were
encouraging to me as I began working in contemporary Christian Music
production, toward the late 70's. I'm sure he is joyfully singing with the
angels around the throne of God.
It's now three days since I stood beside the graveside of my friend and
brother Larry Norman. Sometimes I am consumed by grief at the loss. At other
times I am overwhelmed by relief that he is at peace at last.
I am fortunate to have lived in the same era as Larry Norman. I am
privileged to have known him as a true friend for so many years. Now being a
friend of Larry's was not something you drifted into. It took commitment. It
took patience. It took love. But what you got in return was one of life's
great experiences, as the unpredictability of genius took you on a roller
coaster of emotions. Someone else has said that he "zig-zagged his way
through life" and that is such an apt description.
Towards the end when he knew his days were limited, he gave away that very
thing that was most precious to him - time. He spent it encouraging the long
time friends and fans. He lavished it on people who just happened across his
path. He was more interested in talking to other people about God than he
was in talking about himself.
On the day of the burial, dark clouds drifted across the sky and it was
raining gently for most of the morning. But just as the short service was
about to start, the sun shone brightly on that part of the hillside and the
birds sang in the nearby trees.
I remember smiling at the time, and thinking that this was such an perfect
metaphor for Larry's life.
When the storm clouds gathered round him, as they did on so many occasions,
somehow he kept his eyes on the brightest light. And that light cut through
everything that sought to obscure his life and testimony.
To some Larry was a rough diamond, but to those who really knew him, he was
a precious jewel shaped by God.
I haven't been too secretive about the fact that I grew up in an overtly christian household. My dad was a pastor of a small church, and my childhood took place in an environment of conservative religious values and rather strict rules as to what was allowed inside the walls of our home. Most music and movies that my friends all experienced were outlawed for me.
Before my dad was a pastor, he and my mom were Jesus hippies. So while I had to go elsewhere to discover led zeppelin, at home I listened to much of their old Jesus hippy music on vinyl. Some of it was truly dreadful, but some of it was the purest, most honest and most beautiful stuff I’d ever heard at that point in my life. Standing amongst and above all the Jesus rockers was this tall blonde personality named Larry Norman with a somewhat shrill-yet-soft high voice that was, to me, hypnotic and impossible to ignore.
Although horrible cheesy christian films about the rapture would later mutilate Larry’s music in an effort to recruit scared worldly kids into church, there was a period of time when I couldn't get enough of those scratched-up albums with Larry’s eerie vocal cords and the dirty 70's rock and nylon string guitars enveloping them. I would eventually end up having a career inside of christian music for a while in my early adult years, only to discover that the honesty and spiritual expression on those old scratchy Jesus hippy records didn't exist much in the big business of selling gospel music.
The first song my band had an opportunity to record after signing a record deal was a cover of Larry’s anti-Vietnam war song, "six o'clock news", for a Larry Norman tribute album our label released. I had the opportunity to meet Larry and eventually perform with him when he joined my band on stage three separate times over the years to sing on our rendition of his old protest song. I treasured those moments like good dreams; equally so, the conversations and meals I was fortunate to have with him before and after those events. Inside, I always thought he was still a hippy and an idealist...and I looked up to him and hoped that some of his strange realness would perhaps rub off on me each time I was able to sit down and talk with him. I realize that many of you reading this have likely never heard of Larry Norman, but in many ways he was an iconic figure to me. Coming from the surreal and unique background I grew up in, he represented many things I wanted to be, as well as many things I wanted the world to be.
Larry died recently of heart failure at age 60, after suffering from very poor health for the last several years of his life. I feel sad...like a piece of my childhood is dead. A piece of my childhood that was, in a sense, sacred for me and that I was fortunate enough later in life to call a friend, as well an inspiration. I’ve never met another person like him in my life, and I’m confident that I never will.
I was with Larry in San Jose in October and we jammed on my friend’s porch for a while and visited for a few hours.
We both knew ''without saying it'' that this would be our last visit together on earth.
Larry was in a lot of pain and could hardly walk and could no longer see but he smiled and laughed as we sang and I played my harmonica for him and he strummed out some blues and we had a great jam.
Larry could not see the tears in my eyes as I played along, they were tears of sorry and joy knowing soon my dear friend would be with our Savior where ''He shall wipe away every tear and there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death'' Rev. 21:4
Truly a God-sent blessing to have been touched by Larry in ministry and music
situations in the 70s 80s and 90s. I am honored to have learned from him. A humble and powerful servant. Playing with his band in Belfast was an electric and Holy-Ghost-charged time.
Let more educated musicologists and theologians enjoy the process of digging deeper into what this man's music and lyrics are about .. ..... and that is truly a deep, deep well .... my thoughts of Larry seem more to be filled with the brief but inspirational times I was there watching this person try his best to stay tuned to the Holy Spirit, and live in the moment of what God was unfolding, sometimes those types of things that the rest of us let float by without noticing, sometimes on a stage, sometimes in a hallway or a street, riding in the car - to me it seemed all the same to Larry. Most of those times would shake something in me, hold it up to the Light, and challenge my heart. That's the mark of a prophet of God.
But it seems to me, the heart of the matter is, so what is the essence of the character of this precious man? Well I can hardly describe it well except maybe in this little snapshot -- at 2 in the morning Larry can walk into a MacDonald’s full of bored teenagers and inside of half an hour he'll be talking with a group of them about Jesus... and loving them..... to me that sort of says it all.... how can you say more than that?
I can honestly say that Larry was always inspirational to me... But probably my most vivid memory was the first tour I did with him where I was a solo artist opening for him. Watching his set every night with his band featuring Jon Linn (who became a close friend of mine) was mesmerising to the point that it had me questioning deeply whether there any point in me continuing this vocational choice... He would finish with the song ‘Messiah’ - and every time it would give me goosebumps... Utterly astounding in its power, intensity and passion. This is what I have aspired to ever since.
I didn’t know Larry well, but I loved him dearly for what he brought to my life – music that was liberated, and liberating.... He was a maverick, a pioneer, a one-off, a legend. He will be missed.
Two events changed me forever in 1972. In September I met a young lady, Linda, who was to become my wife. Linda and I have been together ever since. In December I met a young man, Larry, who was to radically reshape my musical and spiritual perspectives. We have also, figuratively speaking, been together ever since. That is until his untimely passing this past February 24th.
Larry Norman really did change so much in me about the way I thought about things. I was brought up in a loving but fairly strict, conservative, take-no-risks christian household so when Larry came along I looked up to him, as did so many of us young acoustic guitar singer/songwriters in those days, as a trailblazing, say-it-like-it-is messenger of relevant issues confronting 70's kids, yet with an uncompromising message of God's love pervading everything. It was clear the very first time I saw him play that here was something special. What blew me away was Larry's ability to be a contemporary christian songwriter delivering a message in a format that us late teenagers and early twenty somethings who had come through the radical changes of the sixties could relate to. The message that accompanied the music was the same message of God's love that I had heard a thousand times in church, but because of the music style it had a much broader relevance. I had many non-christian friends who loved Larry's music.
It was obvious that the regular church didn't always know what to make of him or do with him, but Larry Norman continued to plough a furrow through the overgrown fields of staid, church tradition and normality. He planted seeds of hope and relevance that would soon manifest themselves in the lives of new, dynamic, actively engaged christian young people in general and new, dynamic, emerging christian musicians in particular.
I want to say a public thank you to Larry for doing that. Obedient to his calling in God? Yes. Courageous? Yes! Different and, for his day, radical? Most definitely, Yes!
Many abiding memories of his character and personality will remain with me forever. Larry had appeared part solo/part band at the Greenbelt Festival and despite a sound system malfunction which delayed his set until about midnight he captivated probably 15-20,000 people with just a voice and a classical guitar which wafted through the warm summer night like a refreshing breeze. I attended many Greenbelts over the years and never before or after witnessed anything quite like this. Larry had the undivided attention of every person there and his message was clear and provocative. God was in the house - literally. Everyone left the mainstage area feeling deeply spoken to. It was a special night.
In the early nineties I was talking to Larry about that performance and he told me that he remembered it as a special performance for him too and his eyes lit up when I told him that I had recorded the show on a flimsy hand-held cassette recorder (this had been 1980, remember). The sound quality was questionable, but I was delighted to be able to give him a tape of that show which he had never heard in all those years.
I am a richer person for having known Larry. He infused my life for more than 35 years in so many ways spiritually and creatively, one-to-one and at a distance. He is now in a way better place where his heart will not be beset by problems but will be uplifited by praise and where he has so much time to write some more awesome songs!
Larry, from my humble heart I say thank you. From our human perspective yes we'll miss you, but then we knew long ago that you were only visiting this planet.
Bless you, Larry
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THE ABOVE TRIBUTES HAVE BEEN WRITTEN BY FELLOW MUSICIANS, PROMOTERS, FRIENDS AND PHANS WHO KNEW OR WORKED WITH LARRY NORMAN. FURTHER MEMORIES INCLUDING ANECDOTES AND QUOTES FROM LARRY ARE SHARED IN THE PROPOSED LARRY NORMAN BIOGRAPHY WRITTEN BY ALAN GIBSON. FOR MORE INFO ON THE BIOGRAPHY EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org