Larry Norman: The Original Jesus Rocker Goes to Jesus02/28/2008
Much of the world scarcely noticed when Larry Norman passed away last Sunday at 2:45 a.m., but thousands of music makers, both Christian and non-, mourned and wept. He spent his last week dictating notes and new song ideas to his sister-in-law Kristin and his brother Charles, and much of that time laughing and praying. His last public appearance was in October in San Jose, a reunion concert of his pre-Christian band People!, which toured with The Who and had a No. 14 hit called “I Love You.” He was 60 years old, a year for each of his albums, had lived with serious heart problems since 1992, and had a defibrillator since 2001.
Several people in the Wittenburg Door family knew Larry well. Bob Gersztyn, who discovered his music in 1971 and knew him personally, tells who he was in a personal tribute, "Jesus and Larry and Me," that was wrenching to write. McNair Wilson, the earliest living contributor to The Door, interviews members of Larry’s musical family (COMING SOON), who came out of the same Jesus Movement of the 1960s that also spawned this magazine. The Door first interviewed Larry in 1976, and that interview is so on target with Larry’s feistiness and hatred of bullshit that we’re reprinting it here. We're also happy to share an article from one of Larry's contemporaries, musician John Fischer.
We’re also linking to several other reminiscences, tributes and comments by friends, as well as a crappy piece about Larry on the 700 Club website that we’re taking note of because we think Larry would want everyone to know that even as he died, he was still able to make the stiff necks nervous. The appreciation by Chris Willman on Popwatch is especially nice because he makes the case that Larry would have been a superstar if he’d been singing about anything except Jesus. Other people on the web talk about how Larry was the first mature Christian artist, and a pioneer in being the first to embrace CD technology and the first to have a multi-platform website. And still others talk about Larry’s weird side, because he had one. The San Jose Mercury News carried a brief summary of his career, and The Oregonian followed up with an interview with his younger brother Charles. Upon This Rock, which is regarded as one of the greatest Christian albums ever recorded, is described here, and an album that has yet to come out is offered by his latest label here. Quite a few informal performances have been posted on YouTube,. Pollstar talks about his influence on younger musicians like the Pixies and Modest Mouse. And on Larry’s own website, you can read his final post, in which he tells everyone “I’m ready to fly home.”
A public memorial service will be held tomorrow, Saturday, March 1, at The Church on the Hill, 2707 Maranatha Court, in Turner, Oregon, just south of Salem, where he was born and had been living since 1994.