Larry Norman Archive

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Father of Christian Rock: Musician Larry Norman, 60

Larry Norman, who led a San Jose band into the Top 40 before becoming a revolutionary force in Christian music, died Sunday in Salem, Ore. He was 60.

“He never tried to become the father of Christian rock,” says Charles Norman, a guitarist who toured the world with his older brother. “He was just talking about the world as he saw it.”

The Outlaw, by Larry Norman.

The man who asked the musical question, “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” moved to San Jose with his family as a child. In 1966, Mr. Norman formed the band People! with Gene Mason, Geoff Levin, Robb Levin, Albert Ribisi and Denny Fridkin.

With the band, Mr. Norman appeared on “American Bandstand” and toured the country with groups such as the Who. But as People! found success with its single “I Love You,” which hit No. 14 in Billboard in spring 1968, Mr. Norman left to embark on a solo career.

His first album, “Upon This Rock,” virtually defined the new genre of “Jesus Rock.” Mr. Norman’s rugged appearance and often gritty language appalled some conservative Christians as it galvanized countless young people.

“It was the best example of the fusion of faith and rock ‘n’ roll,” says David DiSabatino, a young fan at the time who is working on a documentary about Mr. Norman. “He was the icon of the Jesus Movement when you’re talking music. He’s their Bob Dylan character.”

Another early fan was Charles Thompson III, who called himself Black Francis when he led the influential rock band the Pixies. Thompson named the band’s first album “Come On Pilgrim” after a line of Mr. Norman’s.

The two later became friends and collaborators. “People might think of him as a so-called Christian singer or songwriter or whatever,” Thompson said in an interview last year, “but he’s an individual. He has his own kind of thing going on. He’s not all slicko, you know? He’s real.”

Serious health problems dogged Mr. Norman for decades. A plane crash in 1978 left him with brain damage, and he had his first heart attack in 1992. Yet he kept performing whenever he was able, through diabetes and congestive heart failure and diminishing vision that left him legally blind.

People! drummer Fridkin performed with him last year on a final tour of Europe. “He looked like he could have dropped over at any second, but then I’d get him up on stage, get the guitar on him, and all of a sudden he just came to life,” Fridkin says. “He was just filled with so much joy doing the music.”

Mr. Norman’s final performance occurred in October in San Jose when he reunited with his old bandmates as People! was inducted into the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame.

“He wasn’t in top form vocally, but just the fact that he could even get there and get up on stage was amazing,” Fridkin says. “I just can’t tell you how great it was.”

Larry Norman

Born: April 8, 1947, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Died: Feb. 24, 2008, Salem, Ore.

Survived by: Mother Margaret Norman of Salem, Ore.; brother Charles Norman of Salem; sisters Kristy Norman of Salem and Nancy Norman of Davis; and son Michael Norman of Salem.

Services: A public memorial ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Church on the Hill, 2707 Maranatha Court, Turner, Ore.

Larry Norman, Christian Rock Legend, Dies

Larry Norman, the man known as “The Father of Christian Rock,” has died.

Larry’s brother, Charles Norman writes on

4/8/47 – 2/24/08

Hello everybody.

Our friend and my wonderful brother Larry passed away at 2:45 Sunday morning. Kristin and I were with him, holding his hands and sitting in bed with him when his heart finally slowed to a stop. We spent this past week laughing, singing, and praying with him, and all the while he had us taking notes on new song ideas and instructions on how to continue his ministry and art.

Larry Norman- Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music?.

Several of his friends got to come and visit with him in the last couple of weeks and were a great source of help and friendship to Larry. Ray Sievers, Derek Robertson, Mike Makinster, Tim and Christine Gilman, Matt and Becky Simmons, Kerry Hopkins, Allen Fleming and a few more. Thank you guys. Larry appreciated your visits very much. And he greatly appreciated the thoughts, wishes, support and prayers that came from all of you Solid Rock friends on a daily basis. Thank you for being part of his small circle of friends over the years. Yesterday afternoon he knew he was going to go home to God very soon and he dictated the following message to you while his friend Allen Fleming typed these words into Larry’s computer:

I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God’s hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.

My brother Charles is right, I won’t be here much longer. I can’t do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help.

My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.

I’d like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again.

Goodbye, farewell, we’ll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.

– Source:, Feb. 24, 2008

Thank you to all of you who were so nice to my brother over the years. Kristin and I will post funeral information in the next day or two. Right now we’re not able to function very well, but the whole family is here… our mother Margaret, our sisters Nancy and Kristy, Mike Norman and his new wife Tiffany, and Silver.

We miss him beyond words. Thank you for everything.

Peace to you all in Christ,

Charles Norman

The Wikipedia entry on Norman states:

Larry David Norman (April 8, 1947 – February 24, 2008) was an internationally recognized American musician, singer, songwriter and producer. Norman’s recordings are noted for their Christian and social subject matter and he is often described as the “father of Christian rock music”. Norman has also been described as having had a significant influence on many artists, secular and religious.

Norman has long been associated with what has been referred to as the Jesus People movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, although it has been reported that “he did not particularly identify himself with the youth–oriented ‘Jesus movement’ of the time”.

Norman began recording in 1966 and recorded numerous albums. Norman’s first album, I Love You , recorded when he was the lead singer for the group People!, was released in 1968. The bands cover version of The Zombies song of the same name reached number 7 on Billboard magazines top twenty list in June of that year as a single. Norman left People! prior to 1969 and has since performed as a solo artist, appearing both on mainstream and independent labels.

In 2001 Norman was inducted into the Gospel Music Association’s (GMA) Hall of Fame as a solo artist. In 2007 Norman was inducted into the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame (San Jose, California), both as a member of People!, and as a solo artist. At that time Norman reunited for a concert with People!

Due to reasons of ill health, Norman performed on a very limited basis in recent years.[7] A documentary outlining his career as a troubled troubadour will be out in 2008.
– Source: Larry Norman, Wikipedia entry, Feb. 25, 2008