Larry Norman: The Original Jesus Rocker Goes to Jesus

02/28/2008


Larry Norman

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.


Comments(34)

Andy | 10:38 am on 2/29/2008

Enjoy your mansion, Larry! Rock out with the angels, dude! Down here, though, we'll miss you terribly! Thank you for letting us know that it's okay, in fact a good thing, to both love Jesus and rock your ass off. And thank you for not being afraid to piss off our parents.

All you rockers who love Jesus, keep singin' that sweet, sweet song of salvation, and let the tape keep rollin', dudes!

BRIAN GRAHAM | 05:00 pm on 2/29/2008

Larry Norman was amazing. He never compromised and always held the gospel high. He was honest and had no time for health, wealth and prosperity distortions of the gospel. We salute his memory.
Brian Graham. NORTHERN iRELAND.

Anonymous | 10:58 pm on 2/29/2008

"Several people in the Wittenburg Door family knew Larry well."

Really, who at the Door family knew larry well?

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Eddy | 01:07 am on 3/01/2008

Check out the New Music for the Church from the first Christian Hymnal: The Odes of Solomon. It helps those who sorrow.
http://theodesproject.com/

BJ | 11:34 am on 3/03/2008

Some say he was an outlaw
Who roamed across the land
With a band of unschooled ruffians
And a few old fishermen

I have a great appreciation for Larry Norman's music. During the ebb and flow of my life he has been a connection to Jesus that has remained constant. I'll never forget the sight of him stopping to preach in the middle of the crowd at an Icthus music festival years ago. Thanks Larry.

JW Hughes (Rev) | 04:05 am on 3/04/2008

Who was 'Larry Norman'?

Lots of comments about him it seems, and two articles, but it seems to me that unless you were in a certain part of the world he was just another charismatic church type man with a guitar.

beerbird | 09:25 am on 3/05/2008

JW,

Just another charismatic dude with a guitar?????

Now way. He was the first. And he was willing to teach others how to take care of the spiritual and technical side of being a christian musician. He tried to set others up for success. Much of his time and effort was in Europe.

Years ago, while I was in college Larry was one of the few rock n roll role models who spoke and sang about his faith. Most of the rest of the music scene was strung out on drugs. He was someone to look up to. Larry should be canonized.
Al Schubert

that calvinist doug | 09:29 am on 3/04/2008

So, let me get this straight...

For days now my comments haven't been posted due to something about their being "reviewed" and yet, Rev. Hughes continues to post unobstructed. Either I'm being persecuted or there's a glitch in the technology. Whichever, I'm calling in the ACLU to demand my free speech rights! What's that? It's not my right to post? Nevermind.

Linda Mundt | 12:46 pm on 3/05/2008

I bought my first Larry Norman album off the back of a truck in a church parking lot. It was in the mid '70's and I was in high school. Our church youth director had "connections" and shipped in a whole truck load of Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill albums. It was so cool to hear my faith expressed in rock and roll music, we felt so "radical." So long Larry, you will always have a special place in my heart.

Gary | 01:09 pm on 3/05/2008

I saw Larry play way back around 73 in Warren Heights Michigan.
Never forget how simple and how real he was.

Actually the guys at the center (Frank Majeski etc.) sort of kidnapped him from a nearby concert so Larry came in looking dazed and amazed. But he got the message across in no uncertain terms.

A true prophetic figure imo. He was never afraid to speak the truth even when it hurt. A lot of christain leaders didn't like him for it and made up nasty stories about him. But as he sang, "ya can't keep a good man down".

Larry was a pioneer rocker that influenced Pete Townsend and many other more famous players as well inspiring countless young "Jesus freaks" to pick up a guitar and rock out for God.

I used to play and sing his songs around eastern Canada back around those days on outdoor "witnessing" musical tours.

Here's to you Larry, and give my daughter a hug for me up there. ;-)

Bob | 08:50 pm on 3/06/2008

Did you ever attend the Fisherman's net, or know Alex the pastor, or Ozzie?

Anonymous | 03:41 pm on 2/26/2011

When I first came to the Lord back in the early 70's I went every friday night to the meetings that Frank held at St. Sylvesters church in Warren Michigan. My ex-husband and I were married by Alex. When I overdosed on drugs and was in a coma I think it was Randy that my parents got to come to St. Johns hospital and sit with me and prayed for me. God told him I would not die! They played a very important role in my young Christian life back then.

Tolman | 09:08 pm on 3/09/2008

Wow, I hadn't heard Larry died. Saw him twice in concert, bought my first Norman LP in 1977, but was singing "I wish we'd all been ready" since 1972 in Bible Study. Seriously going to miss him.
You mentioned Frank Majeski and I think that must be the same Frank Majeski whose witness helped bring me to Jesus in the spring of 1973. Never heard anything else about him till now

Rob | 05:24 pm on 3/05/2008

I am agnostic and loved Larry's music. I agree he would have been huge if he had compromised his message. Though I don't have the gift of faith, I found his lyrical imagery beautiful and pure. To me he is in a class with Dylan, Miles Davis and Merle Haggard. A renegade artist.

Sam | 10:59 pm on 3/05/2008

Larry Norman was a prophet in his own right.
HE reached people who never would have considered going to church.
HE took kids who would have been very violent outcasts, and right in the middle of their most rebellious period of life, showed them it was OK to love Jesus and be cool at the same time; he took our pain and turned it into love - which made our parents, peers, and professors absolutely crazy - which was kind of what we wanted to begin with.
HE took our "ME" focus from the ME-generation and placed our focus squarely upon Jesus.
There is no disputation of that.
HE took music that had been robbed from God, and gave it back to Him, and showed us that we could too.
For some of us, Larry was the only church we could go to because an LP doesn't judge you or think you're stupid. It doesn't smile at you to your face, and talk guff about you when you're out of ear-shot.
For some of us, his music was the only sermon we ever heard.
Larry knew that.

Larry, my big brother, although I'm glad you're with our King, I ache for missin' you.
Come back soon...

chad | 11:18 pm on 3/10/2008

Sam. That's a poignant thought and quite a tribute to this man. Very kind words indeed. Glad to have read them.

David Kellogg | 10:18 am on 3/07/2008

Thanks for this, and for reprinting the interview. I loved his music and loved Larry, my favorite evangelical (I'm an ex-e, now I guess a liberal episcopalian). But some of other links on this page don't work (it seems they just go back to this page!). Could you correct that? Thanks. Unless this is all a Door prank, in which case I've been punked. But you wouldn't punk us about Larry, would you?

Chilly | 05:57 pm on 3/07/2008

Larry would hate all this crap you're all writing about him. Ha!

Peace...

DAN UNGER | 10:44 am on 3/10/2008

AS EARLY CONCERT PROMOTERS DURING THE BEGINNING
WE ESTABLISHED A RELATIONSHIP WITH LARRY AND ALL
THE SOLID ROCK ARTISTS. IT WAS ALWAYS A PLEASURE
TO HAVE LARRY COME TO MINNEAPOLIS FOR A CONCERT, A
PLACE VERY DEAR TO HIM ONCE, NUFF SAID.

LARRY KNEW WHAT IT COST HIM, IT DIDN'T COST HIM A
THING, JUST EVERYTHING HE HAD.
HE ALWAYS GAVE BACK!
HE ALWAYS PUT JESUS FIRST

AND THAT'S REALLY ALL IT WAS ALL ABOUT BECAUSE WE LEFT
IT ALL SO LONG AGO, THE GARDEN

RonNewcomer | 12:02 pm on 3/11/2008

"Grab my foot take my hand, Lead me on to the promised land "

Ray Sievers | 06:42 pm on 4/06/2008

Goodbye friend. I shall mourn for years. Not without hope, but I shall still mourn.
His music kept me from dying so many times. And, while we knew that the signs were leading up to this, I would that he were still here.

Bill Ectric | 08:10 am on 4/21/2008

One thing Larry said that really caught my attention and made a difference in my life was to feed the poor. I can't remember the exact words, but he was saying how, sometimes a "panhandler" might really need help, and how the Bible says to feed the hungry.

Lee Schulz | 12:45 pm on 6/09/2008

Wow.... On YouTube tonight 5-31-08 I read on the Passing of Larry Norman. My heart was so saddened, as we have truly lost a GREAT LION OF JUDA.

In the 70's I helped with concert productions in Kansas City. I had heard preachers lash out at Larry from everything under the sun. Releasing a "Nude Album" cover, (So Long Ago The Garden), Larry not "Giving Alter Calls" and how he is an agent of the Devil.

Well the concert was a Larry Norman and Randy Stone Hill Gig.. True to form there was no alter call, rather in the back of the stage, stood Larry Norman, receiving each and every person that came back stage to speak to him. I sat and watched how he gave each individual "Special Time". Some he shook hands with and hugged. Others he heard and listened to broken hearts, which he consoled, and prayed with each and every individual. As I watched this, I could not help but notice the joy and tenderness in which Larry took. No one was rushed. He was at ease. He truly was taking on much more than an alter call, as he personally prayed and counseled with each and every person awaiting him.

Well, for all of us with the group helping with the concert were waiting to go to dinner with Larry. I really cannot remember what time we left the theater, but it was well after all the restaurants were closed. The only thing still left open was Denny's.

Interesting enough there were 2 young men last to see Larry. They were from Des Moines Iowa, and had been introduced to a relationship with Jesus at a earlier concert Larry did back in Iowa. Larry greeted these 2 Hippy type guys like long lost friends, and of course invited them to dinner.

Well Dinner with Randy and Larry was a Gas.... Our crowd took up the whole corner of the Denny's. They were both cut up's and just full of fun and laughter. I cannot remember at what time we actually left Denny's but it must have been 3 or 4am. Upon everyone saying good bye, Larry asked the young men where they were going, and they said, headed back to Des Moines.

Larry said NONSENSE.... he said plenty of room in the hotel room, you come spend the night with us... So they left with Randy and Larry for the night.

A night to remember. Seeing Larry in action was so interesting. He surely lived his faith. Down to sharing his food and lodging. Sharing his time. Sharing his heart.

Thanks Larry.....

Your Brother...

Norman "Lee" Schulz II

Life was filled with guns and war,

And everyone got trampled on the floor,

I wish we'd all been ready

Children died, the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold,

I wish we'd all been ready,

There's no time to change your mind,

The Son has come and you've been left behind.

A man and wife asleep in bed,

She hears a noise and turns her head, he's gone,

I wish we'd all be ready,

Two men walking up a hill,

One disappears and one's left standing still,

I wish we'd all been ready,

There's no time to change your mind,

The Son has come and you've been left behind.

Life was filled with guns and war,

And everyone got trampled on the floor,

I wish we'd all been ready,

Children died, the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold,

I wish we'd all been ready,

There's no time to change your mind,

How could you have been so blind,

The Father spoke, the demons dined,

The Son has come and you've been left behind..

Randall Mooney | 04:12 pm on 6/11/2008

Larry kept us all young. I saw him last in New Jersey in the early 80's. When Christian music lost its way, Larry still remembered why God called him and used his gifts to share the ultimate gift with the world they both briefly visited. I hate that I just learned about this.

Andrew | 12:56 am on 4/12/2010

To read World Magazine's article about Daniel, Larry's 20 yr old son that Larry abandoned go to http://www.worldmag.com/articles/14180 also see the documentary trailer at www.fallenangeldoc.com

thanks Andrew

Derek Robertson | 04:53 am on 4/17/2010

See the truth about David Di Sabatino and the deception in his Fallen Angel Larry Norman movie.

http://www.failedangle.com

brambo_42 | 05:27 pm on 6/02/2010

What a treat to find the Door...albeit apparently defunct?

When I got to the page with the Joe Bob Briggs issue "Just Mailing!)from March/April, 2008, I thought, "That's my Wittenburg Door! Still a bit behind schedule!

Alas, and RIP.

Still, great to find surprisingly extensive archives!

jiniwaq | 03:16 am on 12/09/2010

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JFM | 03:34 pm on 12/28/2010

If Larry Norman's life could so directly influence my life in Lake Orion, Michigan -- through the threads of Randy Stonehill's two albums, the 1970s compilation "How The West Was One", and through YouTube more recently -- I can only imagine how his life must have touched millions to date. His directness and clarity continue on.
- James F. Mastromatteo, M.D.

trishna | 06:11 pm on 2/13/2011

He may have left us but his music would still be ringing. It is sad to learn that this great music personality has passed. May his soul rest in peace. thanks. beauty product store

jeremy | 03:57 pm on 2/24/2011

The life a righteous man pleases god. As it says sing a new song to the lord, sing with a harp and an instrument of ten strings. We should sing praises to the lord. He will never forget us in the down of our evening. Thanks. condos in evansville

mery | 02:38 pm on 3/16/2011

I am extremely glad to read about Larry Norman who was an American Christian musician, singer, songwriter, record label owner, record producer, writer, playwright, actor, photographer, and humorist, who is credited as "a key figure in the development of contemporary Christian music." He is no more with us but his spirit in the form of music still rules our hearts. Eviction Letter

sophie | 05:42 am on 3/22/2011

This is a wonderful post in memory of Larry Norman: The Original Jesus Rocker Goes to Jesus. How i love his music.

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