Thursday, March 06, 2008

Larry Norman

I still can't believe we lost Larry Norman. In the week-and-a-half since his passing, I have been contemplating what I should write about him. I'm not sure people quite realize the extent of the cultural impact of Larry Norman, not only on Christian music, but popular music in general. Even Frank Black of the Pixies has cited him as an influence, and Black was working on a project with him shortly before his death.

Growing up in the evangelical church in the 1970's, Larry Norman certainly had an impact on me. In particular, I memorized every groove of "Only Visiting This Planet," listening with headphones late into the night and dissecting each lyric, riff, and production technique.

In the 1970's, Christian music paled in comparison to what was happening in mainstream music, and there were no "Christian Rock" stations, because there was very little Christian Rock. Norman proved that Christians could create music with artistic merit. He was also not afraid to write about taboo subjects, and he ruffled quite a few feathers, especially in the mainstream church.

Of course, he was too "Christian" for rock radio and too "Rock" for Christian radio, and even though his debut album was on a major label, he labored in relative obscurity for his entire career. He should be celebrated as a bona fide legend by now, but CCM listeners do not venerate their elders. It doesn't help that very little of his back catalog is in print.

Let's hope that someday his genius will be recognized, and his back catalog released so that future generations can hear his voice!
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