Christian rock pioneer Norman fondly remembered
Return to digital BC Christian News

By David F. Dawes

LARRY NORMAN, a solid rock in the history of Christian music, passed away February 24 at age 60, in Salem, Oregon. He had been battling heart problems for several years.

Norman, who virtually invented ‘Christian rock,’ released more than 60 albums. His most influential work was ‘The Trilogy,’ consisting of Only Visiting this Planet, So Long Ago the Garden and In Another Land. Some of his more important songs were ‘Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music,’ ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready,’ ‘I Am the Six O’clock News’ and ‘The Rock that Doesn’t Roll.’

According to Assist News, Norman was for several years “a permanent fixture on Hollywood Boulevard – where, despite being a star with Capitol Records, he would spend his days and nights sharing one-on-one with the lost youth of Hollywood, about the love of Jesus Christ.”

Assist also noted that Norman was “also credited with inventing the ‘One Way to Jesus’ finger-pointing sign.”

In a statement announcing his death, his brother Charles said: “We spent this past week laughing, singing and praying with him; and all the while, he had us taking notes on new song ideas and instructions on how to continue his ministry and art. Several of his friends got to come and visit with him in the last couple of weeks, and were a great source of help and friendship to Larry.”

Just prior to his death, Norman dictated a message which read in part: “I feel like a prize in a box of crackerjacks, with God’s hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home . . . My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside.”

 B.C. musicians Michael and Donnie Gossett, founders of Salvation Air Force, knew Norman for well over three decades. They considered him a mentor.

Continue article >>

“I first met Larry in 1972 when I attended a musician’s conference in Dallas,” said Donnie. “After hearing one of Larry’s entertaining and informative sessions, my brother contacted Larry to ask if he was interested in hearing my songs – including a hard rock cover of Larry’s own ‘The Last Supper.’  We then met Larry for about two hours, where we traded songs and ideas . . . Five months later, our band opened for Larry at his first concert in Vancouver.”

Norman, he noted, “advised us on every aspect of the music business – from stage attire, to answering questions with the press, to songwriting, and the presentation of our art to cross cultural and language barriers.  

“Larry also enjoyed our sense of humour, and we spent many hours discussing and laughing over the peculiar balance of spiritual issues in a changing cultural environment.”

 His mentor, Gossett said, “was a complex person who wrestled with complex issues and was unafraid to speak uncomfortable views – but, along with that boldness, he sometimes made mistakes . . . Larry and I had more than one falling out over the years.”

However, he added, “Larry taught me so many profound lessons . . . that his loss – though anticipated for some time – still has the sense of loss that one can never prepare for.  Larry was one of the most intelligent, insightful, colourful, upsetting and fascinating people I met in my life.”

Just prior to meeting Norman, Michael Gossett heard his Upon this Rock album. He recounts: “I had hoped that he was as radical as the record suggested, and in person he didn’t disappoint. His hair was even longer, and he was very bold in his stage attitude . . .

“Mentally, he had a brilliant mind, like a steel trap – and when he was on his game, he was very difficult to argue with.”

Norman was also “fun, playful, kind, gentle and warm.  He really was a servant in his attitude, and generous to a fault.  When he wanted to, this guy went out of his way to encourage and support others.”

Finally, Norman’s last words to his fans:
Goodbye, farewell, we’ll meet again.
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God.
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.

– Larry 

March 2008