Larry Norman died on Sunday.
To me he was one of those real, principled, flawed, human people that you revere not because they’re perfect, but because they’re all too aware of their imperfections, and haven’t justified them nor succumbed to despair about them.
I wish I’d known Larry better. I just know that he was one of the most influential musicians of his generation, influencing U2, John Mellencamp, The Pixies… not to mention the entire Contemporary Christian Music industry.
He spent a lot of time dying. He nearly died in airplane accident in the late ’70s, he nearly died of heart failure in the early ’90s, and has been on the verge of death ever since. And yet he inspired countless musicians in deep ways. Chris Willman, senior music writer for Entertainment Weekly, said:
His influence outweighed his sales so much that it’s comical. He certainly had a heart for evangelism — almost to his detriment, I might say. He really could’ve been a star if he were singing about something other than Jesus.”
This fact gives me hope that the transcendent power of Jesus when transmitted through his followers can still dramatically influence this planet.
Certainly his influence on me personally and musically has been profound. I will never forget taking up the offering for him in Edmonton in 1994, or handing out handbills advertising his concert at a DC Talk show and answering “Who is Larry Norman” in five seconds or less over and over again.
Who is Larry Norman? He’s the Godfather of Christian Rock, man. He’s the reason you’re here, because the people you’re listening to are who and what and where they are because he paved the way for them.
Goodbye, Larry. We’ll meet again.