February 25, 2008

"We'll meet again somewhere beyond the sky" - Larry Norman, 1947-2008

Steve Camp reports that Larry Norman, arguably the finest Christian popular musician in my living memory, passed away Sunday.

I first heard Larry's music in 1992, thanks to a friend back home (and my former youth group leader), who was a big fan back in the day. Since my Christian music at that time was basically limited to Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, and Petra, hearing good Christian music that dated back to the early 1970s (if not the 60s) was like something completely new to me.

To this day, Only Visiting This Planet remains my favourite Christian album. Coincidentally, only a few days after hearing Planet for the first time, I heard Steve Camp play "Great American Novel" in concert in Sudbury. (Say what you want about Larry's politics - and he was probably a little too leftish for most Christians' tastes - but that is one fine tune.)

Larry Norman in concert, Oshawa, Ontario, Nov. 30, 1996I had the chance to see Larry in concert twice. The first time was in Toronto, in 1994 - just him and his guitar. The second time, my friend Reed and I drove from Waterloo to Oshawa and back one Saturday, where he performed his first set solo, and his second with full band. Despite the fact that thanks to age and chronic health problems he didn't look as youthful as on his album covers, just hearing him play those old, familiar tunes was like taking a trip back in time.

Actually, while looking for a good picture to scan and use for this entry, I came across the notes I had made of his set list; it made for a good bit of nostalgia.

  1. The concert kicked off with a quick "Testing, 1-2-3" and then Larry and his guitar opened with "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus."
  2. "My Feet are On the Rock"
  3. "Soul on Fire"
  4. "U.F.O."
  5. "God Part III"
  6. "Six Sixty Six"
  7. "Feed the Poor"
  8. "Sweet, Sweet Song of Salvation"
  9. "Great American Novel"
  10. "Reader's Digest"
  11. "Watch What You're Doing"
  12. A song I've noted as "Been Reading," but can't identify now
  13. After a 20-minute break, Larry came back and sang "Weight of the World."
  14. "Let the Rain Fall Down"
  15. At this point, Larry brought out his band, and they did "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus." (Again, I assume - it's been a few years!)
  16. "My Feet are On the Rock"
  17. "Soul on Fire"
  18. "Long, Hard Road"
  19. "The Rock That Doesn't Roll"
  20. "One Foot in the Grave"
  21. "Goodbye, Farewell" - Reed, a guitar player, scribbled down all the chord changes as he played.
  22. "Rock the Flock"
  23. "Elvis Has Left the Building"
  24. "Woman of God" ("Don't just go looking for a woman with a beautiful face and a great . . . job," he quips)
  25. "Outlaw"
  26. "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music"

Afterward, there was a reception (with cake), where I got Larry's autograph and asked a question about one of his songs, which he politely avoided answering.

The church has lost a treasure. He'll be missed. So long, farewell.