For just over a month now I've been trying to come up with a proper response to the passing of Christian rock legend Larry Norman. Nothing's been adequate, so here are some memories instead:
The first time I ever played for a paying audience was as the opening act for a Larry Norman concert at Glad Tidings Church in Vancouver. My teen-aged brother was the concert promoter (now you know how I got the gig.)
To my brother Chris and me (and to many others), Larry was already a legend back then. We'd freaked out to "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", campfired to "Sweet Song of Salvation", felt dangerous and cutting edge to "Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music" and worn out our cassettes to "The Outlaw" and "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus". What blew our minds was that Larry agreed to stay at our house (which was our parents' house), and I have a particularly poignant memory of sitting on our couch watching Sesame Street and eating bananas with him.
Before Larry came my brother asked our extrovert mother not to chat him up. "He's a rock star," my brother warned. "Please leave him alone." Our mom tried to obey, but Larry took an immediate shine to her. He kept telling her he couldn't understand how she could have so much "bourgeoisie stuff" (like the Dresden figurines in our dining room) and "still be so cool". When Larry didn't show up for soundcheck, my panicked brother got him on the phone. "Sorry man," Larry explained. "I just don't want to stop talking to your mom."
Larry showed up eventually, thankfully, and performed in his usual brilliant, scattered way. Afterward he talked about the airplane accident that had left him sometimes disoriented and he spoke sadly (but, truly, graciously) about some of the broken relationships in his life. As an impressionable young musician, I was struck by his transparency, inspired by His love for Jesus, and deeply and permanently moved by his artistry. I am one of the countless many who is deeply glad he visited this planet.