To best understand Larry Norman, you should realize that the man is a dichotomy, in the grandest sense of the world. While other rock stars existed to follow the prepackaged template to a tee—even if that meant punishing another seemingly innocent hotel room—Norman existed on an entirely different plain. He was the church boy holding his own in the decadent world of rock music, an insubordinate jester with a rebellious streak that stretched out long before the birth of punk, and a performer whose raw energy, spiritual force, and playful wit made him the endearing rock icon he is today.
In Norman you have it all. A man unfairly saddled with the hefty burden of the “father of Christian rock,” yet he is singer whose defiant lyrics and actions were shunned by the church-going status quo. Norman is a saint in a world of sinners, and at the same time, to some, he is a sinner amongst the saints. A man who fled the spotlight, yet still found himself performing in front of 180,000 fans, or selling out London’s Royal Albert Hall, The Sydney Opera House and The Hollywood Bowl. An artist who shared the stage with rock music’s greatest acts, performed on national TV and yet still never let go of his status of an underground icon. He rallied against politicians and their seething actions, yet was asked to play the White House not once, but twice. While other rockers spent their lifetimes trying to emulate Norman, they just couldn’t catch the man.
While rock stardom is often the product of the corporate-oiled pop culture machinery, where all roads lead to the same predicable results, Larry Norman fans come from everywhere. There are those who caught Norman fronting the dynamic People! as they overshadowed the likes of The Grateful Dead, The Doors or Janis Joplin. Or maybe it was Norman’s image splashed across the living room television—looking far more mysterious than any other singer out there—as the band performed on American Bandstand and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Or maybe your parents were the God-fearing folks who didn’t let their child come of age at rock concerts, or under the cathode ray glow of late night television. To you, and so many like you, Norman was a spiritual rock savior, meant to wean you off those sinning masses and towards a more righteous path where the Devil doesn’t have all the good music. Or maybe it’s none of those things; perhaps to you Norman represents the witty voice of political dissenter, unafraid to speak out against the death grip of the modern media, or the nefarious actions of our elected officials. Perhaps in passing one day you heard the line “You kill a black man at midnight just for talking to your daughter/Well my phone is tapped and my lips are chapped from whispering through the fence,” and your whole world just stopped right there in it’s tracks, and it was like your whole existence was building toward this moment. Of course, it’s probably none of these things and all of them at the same time, because to try and explain the appeal of Larry Norman in just one CD booklet page is an exercise in futility.
- J Bacca
-- Rolling Stone
-- Austin Chronicle
-- The Onion/A.V. Club
"Norman may be music's last hidden gem"
-- Portland Mercury
"A pioneer, heretic, saint and madman"
"A counter-cultural icon"
-- Cleveland Free Times
"He was a lone wolf. If you haven't noticed, you should"
-- Frank Black