Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Larry Norman Story

Many others have been blogging about the recent death of Larry Norman, the infamous early pioneer of Christian Rock-and-Roll. You can find all the details by googling Larry, or by following the links above.

I first heard Larry, or, more accurately, heard about Larry as a young junior higher going off to Bible Camp. The older kids had discovered this wonderful new thing called Christian Rock, with the likes of Keith Green and Amy Grant, and, most importantly, Larry Norman. But the camp director wasn't a big fan of Larry or his "music." So he confiscated all the Larry Norman tapes the kids had brought along (don't read too much into that - it was more of a joke between the director and the kids than it was any kind of power abuse. . .). And all week long the older kids called for Larry Norman songs at worship time, while we mostly sang John Fischer songs.

One day some of the kids got on the instruments and we all sang "Sweet Song of Salvation," and were getting into "Up in Canada" when the leadership shut it down and took us back into "Love Him in the Morning" and "Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?"

(Odd note: we also sang "One Tin Soldier" a lot, which, as far as I can tell, has no Christian message whatsoever, other than the "peace on earth" part)

This was all new to me - the Christian music around our home was mostly the Gaithers and Evie, with a little Don Francisco thrown in now and again. And, as so often happens, I went off to camp and found out this whole other world existed out there. Christian alternatives to worldly music. Instead of Madonna, I could listen to Amy Grant. Instead of all that metal my friends listened to, I could listen to Petra and Whiteheart.

Unfortunately (in some sense), I was too late to really get Larry Norman. By the time I found out about all this, Michael W Smith and Amy Grant were taking off, and people like Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy were set aside, followed not by the masses but by the fans they'd already made.

And somewhere, the pioneering spirit of Larry, Randy, and the rest got taken over by Corporate Media who saw a cash cow in front of them, bringing us to the day when they produce stuff like Jump 5 and a hundred Steven Curtis Chapman knockoffs (read: Casting Crowns, Mercy Me. . .)

But it all started with Larry, who passed quietly from the scene 20+ years ago, and who passed gently into the arms of Jesus last weekend.

And that's my Larry Norman story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's funny - I was talking to a friend about summer camp the other day and mentioned how we sang "One Tin Soldier" a lot and I didn't get why. I've never figured that one out.
I have to say that I love Casting Crowns... (Susan)