Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quotes about Larry Norman

Randy Stonehill:

"I knew Larry Norman perhaps better than anyone, yet to this day I'm not sure that I really understood him completely. For as brilliant and insightful as Larry was, I'm not sure that he understood himself completely. This issue became apparent in the way he consistently seemed to "derail" relationships through out his life. Larry is the man who introduced me to Jesus. He led me to the door of eternal life, and for that singular priceless gift I am eternally in his debt. In my relationship with Larry, I experienced the beauty of brotherhood, the richness of creative collaboration, the mystery of human brokenness, and ultimately the overshadowing wings of God's all encompassing grace. After 20 years of friction and distance between us that began around 1980, Larry and I realized that what united us in Christ was far greater than what had separated us in our personal frailty and pride. We worked together on the re-issue of the "Welcome to Paradise" recording and talked and laughed together over the phone from our respective homes in Seal Beach California and Salem Oregon. We stood together onstage for what would be the last time at the Cornerstone Festival in July of 2001 and it felt to me like being home. Then he "disappeared" into the mist. I wrote it off to the busy pace of life and his consuming health problems but I still couldn't help but scratch my chin and wonder. He graciously agreed to sing with me on my song, "We Were All So Young", for the "Edge of The World" project in 2003. We accomplished that performance process long distance through computer technology. Then he was silent again. I had hoped that in these last years we might continue to build on our recent reconciliation and even get together for some song writing and recording, sharing what we had learned about life and about our craft to offer something better than ever to the world. Death is so final..We are out of time, at least in this life. No more conversations, No more plans, No more songs. It's a strange sorrow that leaves you feeling hollow, like someone knocked the wind out of you. The light of hope, however, that lifts my spirit is the knowledge that Larry's profound contribution to the work of God's Kingdom is eternal and that his struggles with his own demons is over."

Glenn Kaiser,
Resurrection Band:

The two most influential comets that ever passed through my spiritual music solar system were Larry Norman and Keith Green. I mention Keith because in for me, he and Larry are the Christian musical "giants" in terms of real impact.

We lost Larry this past week. I knew him fairly well. Suffice it to say he was (in my view, only exceeded by Bruce Cockburn) the finest spiritual-core lyricist we have had. Keith was a personal friend and peer.

Larry was like many of us, a character who had his own temptations and often made rash, avoidable choices that I'm trusting the grace of God is sufficient for.

Perhaps Larry was more the direct evangelist, Keith the reformer of the Christian music scene. We needed and need a lot more of both.

They rankled a good many people for a good many reasons- but Keith's focus on holiness was huge.

Larry was in many ways a California loner. In any case, I trust he's home and I expect his long and deep impact, very different but in some ways similar to Keith's, will continue to inspire and haunt us in good ways.

Larry simply rocked when almost no other Jesus music person or band did. My fave lyrics of his are probably "The Beatles sang 'all you need is love'... and then then they broke up" and "You say we beat the Russians to the moon and I say you starved your children to do it". In-your-face realities that just didn't "edify" Christian hit radio, In the day, this the stuff I was so inspired by.

The need/lack of genuine, on-going accountability was and is in my view, the source of many troubles in -any one's- life, and there were times when my hero's surely could have sought, used and benefited with more of it. But I'm truly glad God shared them with us for I and many others learned and will continue to learn a great deal from them both.

Julio Rey, The Lead:

Larry Norman died on Sunday.

To many Christians who like their rock and roll with lyrics relevant to their lives he was Dylan, the Beatles, and the Stones rolled into one.

If not for him, I may never have pursued music in any serious way.

My school friend Al (he of Las Ovejas Electricas and King James and the Concordances) turned me on to Larry Norman's In Another Land back in early 1979.

I'd been writing songs and 'playing guitar' since 1974 and I'd been a Christian since 1977. It was that record which prompted me to write only lyrics with specific Christian themes and start thinking about getting them out (throw in a stylistic commitment to punk/new wave via the Clash in 1980 and a little Resurrection Band at an outdoor show in the 305 later that year and my path was all set).

I had heard and welcomed rock songs with Christian themes since I was 10 (in 1970). But as I got better acquainted with the Bible I realized there wasn't much true Christianity in things like Godspell.

In Another Land was a ... revelation: the music was uncompromising and eclectic and the message was true to the Bible and heartfelt. It was, and remains, a great rock and roll record. And, as I found out, this was a rarity in the growing racks of vinyl for sale at the Bible Center.

That Larry was a true artist was confirmed when Al gave me Something New Under The Son in 1981. Recorded in 1976, it remained unreleased for 5 years because Word Records deemed it too controversial.

Which inevitably and unfortunately meant that this was another great record: with its hardscrabble blues and Jon Linn's wall-of-sludge guitar, Larry had made Christianity's answer to Exile On Main Street.

Especially impactful was a willingness to face up to the Bad Things In Life in songs like Hard Luck Bad News and the chilling I Feel Like Dying.

But what impresses the most about Something New was its turning away from the prog-rock excesses rampant in the mid-Seventies (and present but employed with taste in In Another Land) and getting back to basics at about the same time punk was germinating. I can only imagine the impact this record might have had if it had been released when it was meant to be released.

In the mid-80s I got on Larry's mailing list and ordered three of his older albums to fill out my collection: Upon This Rock (1969), Only Visiting This Planet (1972), and So Long Ago The Garden (1974). Each one was a delight in its own way, If you don't know about them, that's why God made Google.

When the church band I was in played a rock set as a 4-piece in 1982, one of the songs we played was the Chuck Berry-esque Let The Tape Keep Rolling from Something New.

Later that year, I named my first real rock band the Visitors after Larry's 1972 album.

Born To Be Unlucky, also from Something New, was rehearsed by the Lead when we were starting out in the summer of 1984.

My fondest memory of the four trips I made with bands to Cornerstone Festival was meeting Larry in 1990. He wasn't performing. He was selling some white-labelled vinyl and drawing a cartoon version of himself with a Sharpie on each one.

I was with my friend Mark Eastman who ran VTO Records (of the Lead cassette rereleases). He knew Larry. I asked Mark to introduce me to him.

We exchanged pleasantries with me hemming and hawing about what his work meant to me. Stuff he'd probably heard about a couple of thousand times at least but I had to tell him anyway. Then he asked me:

"What kind of music do you play?'

So I told him "hardcore and thrash."

And then, to my surprise, I got hugged by Larry Norman.

Have fun, Larry. See you in another land.