As a teen I questioned the Creator's existence...
for if God were alive & well in the 20th century,
where were men which God moved so mightily upon as found in the Bible?
Many years passed until I was privileged to see God at work in a
Christian Singer named Larry Norman.
While other Christian musicians mean well, Larry is the only one I've found who's message is inspired . . . as is his music. Larry also has the distinction of being the only Christian singer I like. His voice is that of an angel . . . Soft . . . Soulful . . . Convicting . . . Plaintive.
Larry grew up in a black ghetto in San Francisco, to which he credits his indifference for white music. He began playing piano and writing his own compositions when he was nine. When Elvis came along, Larry thought Presley was trying to steal the music from the church and he decided he should steal it back. He started with a band called People. They would practice for 5 hours a day and then do shows at night. One night a vice-president from Capital Records heard them in concert. He asked them if they'd like to record on Capital. After several revisions they signed a recording contract in 1966, Larry was only 18, and his father had to sign for him.
People had released their first album and their single was in the Top Twenty on the Billboard Charts. Capital had changed the band's first album title from 'We Need A Whole Lot More Of Jesus . . . And A Lot Less Rock And Roll' to the more commercially acceptable 'I Love You', and also changed the contents of the album without consulting Larry, he felt that he had no choice but to leave the label, and he did the day the album was released to the stores. Larry resigned as a solo artist with Capital records for 'Upon This Rock'. He signed a contract with MGM Records after making 'Street Level' and he released 'Bootleg' just before he began recording 'Only Visiting This Planet'. Larry has also run his own record companies, Solid Rock Records, Street Level Records, and Phydeaux Inc. to avoid having to deal with censorship issues.
When Larry was with the band People, they were on the same label as THE BEATLES and THE BEACHBOYS. They opened for THE GRATEFUL DEAD, THE DOORS, and JANIS JOPLIN. Pete Townshend credited Larry's own rock-opera, The Epic, for inspiring The Who's rock-opera Tommy. Time magazine described Larry as "the top solo artist in his field" and Billboard called him "the most important songwriter since Paul Simon". Larry has been credited as founding 'Jesus Rock' music and the press tagged him as "The father of Christian Rock". Yet his albums were banned by Bible bookstores for being "too rock" and rejected by secular stores for being "too Christian".
In 1990, Larry received the C.A.S. Lifetime achievement award.
A survivor . . .
Larry's life has been full of trials. In 1978 Larry was in a plane accident . . .
a hard landing of a 747 collapsed the middle section ceiling on his head, which injured his spine, neck and skull. The bi-polar trauma to his brain was described by Larry as "I could go shopping, I'd just forget to take the groceries out of the trunk". A man came up to him 12 years later, and told Larry that his brain wasn't connecting properly and he wanted to pray for him. Larry was miraculously healed.
Then shortly after when Larry and his brother Charles were in Estonia to do a concert. They were served a so called 'special welcome to Estonia dinner'. Actually the food was poisoned by the KGB. They both had full blood panel tests which revealed traces of an unidentifiable toxin in their livers. They were taken to their rooms by KGB nurses, and they were advised not to go ahead with their scheduled concert. Larry and Q-Stone did go ahead with the concert and during the concert the Soviet soldiers forcibly "escorted" them out of the gig and interrogated them. Larry and Charles took 18 months to recover medically from their Soviet experience.
Again, just as Larry's health was returning to normal, he was dealt another blow. Suffering extreme chest pains, Larry was told by his family physician he is simply having a bad case of indigestion . . . Later in Emerg, Larry is left in a room at the end of the hall to die because it is assumed he is simply another long-haired addict (screaming in pain) coming down from a high . . . When he is finally attended, Larry is informed he has had a major heart attack. "Praise God!" replied Larry, "I thought I was going to have indigestion for the rest of my life."
Later it was discovered that the pills Larry had been given by his doctor for a misdiagnosed case of pneumonia, had allowed water to build up around his heart, he was actually suffering from congestive heart failure. The heart attack was actually a blood clot that destroyed 40% of his heart. Larry was told to retire from touring. He has suffered several heart attacks since, and suffers from severe ventricular arrhythmia, which puts him in the category of sudden death syndrome. He may not survive another heart attack.
Larry lives in Oregon, and he feels that the prayers of his friends and family all over the world have prolonged his life. He may have to have an operation in the future to implant a defibrillator, in order to regulate his heart when it starts racing. The doctors feel that his health is such that he doesn't need the operation at this time, although at one time they felt it was critical. God is faithful and has allowed Larry to continue in his musical ministry. This past year he was even able to perform with a band again, on several occasions. Larry tries to take it easy, doing only a few concerts a year, he also works in the studio as his health permits, and values prayer support.
Larry's personal life has been the source of controversy over the years. He has had two failed marriages. Both, of his wives left him for other men, and have since remarried. Larry, has written songs about his suffering and his personal losses. Songs like 'Baby's Got The Blues', reveal his feelings of helplessness: "my baby's got the blues and I don't know what to do". His sorrow is expressed in 'Let The Rain Fall Down' when he sings, "My woman left me, she left me for another man . . . one morning there was a knock on the door and I found out we were through". Yet later in the song he sings, "The love that you have given is what matters in the end", and then praying "Heavenly Father, Thou who all doth see, You let the rain fall on the good and the bad, so let the rain fall down on me". Larry's son Mike is studying to be prison minister.
After a long courageous fight, Larry has gone home to be with the Lord.
Final words can be viewed on
Let us remember the charities he was passionate about (the children's charity Compassion.com was one).
His music and message lives on in his videos + cds -and in the memory of those of us who were privileged to see him in concert.
His CDs are available online at http://www.larrynorman.com/h/airstore.html If you have never heard his music, I recommend: 'Only Visiting This Planet' (In a new 1998 CCM poll, Planet was voted "the #2 best gospel album of all time."), 'In Another Land', or 'Live At Flevo'.
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