News that Larry Norman died last Sunday — at the very young age of 60 — was shocking. He was a true pioneer of what grew into the popular genre known as Contemporary Christian Music.
In 1969, Norman recorded his first (and the first) “Christian Rock” record. His long hair and loud music were not widely received in most conservative Christian circles.
But Norman knew he had an audience. He was once quoted as saying: “I had no desire to preach to the converted.”
Yet many of us young Christians in the ’70s embraced both the new hair and musical styles.
(My ever-judging Tennessee Temple friends back then assured me that Jesus and his disciples got short haircuts by using Roman helmets like some rural folk once used soup bowls. Such scholarship!)
Norman threw open the door for many others such as 2nd Chapter of Acts, Andre Crouch and the Disciples, Keith Green, The Pat Terry Group, Dallas Holm and Praise, Honeytree, Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart, and David Meece.
Their records (real records, LPs) spun on the turntables in our dorm rooms and their 8-track tapes boomed in our cars.
My music tastes have changed since then. And 14 years of campus ministry provided all the chorus singing I may ever need.
But I am grateful for those like Larry Norman who look for new and creative ways to express their faith.
Shortly before he died in Salem, Oregon, early this week, he said: “I am ready to fly home.” Apparently, his faith endured to the end.