Saturday, April 05, 2008

I read the news today, oh, boy.

  I found out yesterday that Larry Norman died at the end of February. Like any fan, I'm saddened that the majority of you have no idea who he is. He claims the title, as much as anyone could, of being the first Christian Rocker. Our lives intersected at a crucial time in my life, and, taking the same road made all the difference for me. He was 60.

I remember hearing my first Larry Norman song. There was a new church that had grown pretty rapidly, called Calvary Chapel, in Costa Mesa, Ca. I was invited to go with some older teens to the Saturday night concert - it became a regular event for many of us for a couple of years. That night, I don't remember who it was - other than the singer was blind - sang "U.F.O." I remember -the sound of their voice simply singing it. It was the gospel, presented on my terms, with brash honesty and love. I didn't know that it was one of his songs at the time, but the impact of the words still carries me to a sense of wonder:
"He will come back, like he promised, with the price already paid. He will gather up his followers, and take them all away. . .
And if there's life on other planets, well I'm sure that He must know. 'Cause he's been there, once already, and has died to save their soul."
There was a lot more. Larry was political, and I didn't always agree with his politics. But he was telling it like he saw it, and pointing out others who were taking advantage of the times to lead people astray:
"The Beatles said,"All you need is Love" and then they broke up."
-"Readers Digest"
These lyrics are from a song released in 1972. Incredibly sad that they mean so much, today:
"you are far across the ocean
in a  war that's not your own
and while you're winning theirs
you're gonna lose the one at home
do you really think the only way
to bring about the peace
is to sacrifice your children
and kill all your enemies"
-"The Great American Novel"
Larry and his converted friend, Randy Stonehill, sang the songs that touched my heart and fueled my passions for a very long time. I even begged Randy for an audition, once, I wanted to be a part of that group so much.
His most famous song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", was a powerful evangelical tool for a while, eventually over-performed into irrelevance as the age of sending teenagers already afraid of nuclear destruction to bed with the fear that the faithful were going to disappear all around them before morning if they didn't get right with God faded. Those were some scary times to be a teenager. As a fan, I see the whole "Left Behind" stuff as his legacy, even though I know that there's more to it than that.

Although I saw him perform as many times as I could, I never met Larry. I sent him an email, a couple of years ago, thanking him for his impact upon my life, never got a reply. My understanding of things is that he had relationship problems with a number of people over the years, with bands, etc. Part of his persona was that he was against whatever grain there was. As a fan, I can accept that - I never had to live or work with him - it was part of his art. His poetry, performance, and faith inevitably influence the things that I do and say. God Bless you, Larry.

"I've been knocked down, kicked around,
But like a moth drawn to the flame,
Here I am, talkin' bout Jesus just the same. . .
I've been rebuked, for the things I've said,
For the songs I've written and the life I've led.
They say they don't understand me, but I'm not surprised
Because you can't see nothin' when you close your eyes.
They say I'm sinful, backslidden,
That I have left to follow fame.
But here I am, talkin' bout Jesus, brother
Here I am, talkin' bout Jesus, sister
Here I am, talkin' bout Jesus, just the same."
-Shot Down