Monday, February 25, 2008

..."for me to live is Christ and die is gain"

"Christ is the most bountiful physician. Christ elevates all his patients:
he doth not only cure them, but crown them (Rev. 2:10).
Christ doth not only raise them from the bed, but to the throne;
he gives the sick man
not only health, but also heaven."
-Thomas Watson

I received a phone call late yesterday evening that early Sunday morning, my friend Larry Norman, had gone home to be with the Lord. Larry had been very sick for quite sometime; and though he will be sorely missed, what comfort there is in knowing that he is free from the suffering and pains of this earthly body and now is in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have known Larry since October 1972. We met the night he performed a concert at my home church; it was the same night I was baptized. It was through him and his encouragement that the Lord called me into music ministry. Larry was, in those early years, my mentor. We spent many days together penning songs, doing concerts, and enjoying each others fellowship, recording and ministering for the Lord and telling others about Jesus. Larry had me live with he and his wife Pam for a few months to disciple me and teach me the craft of songwriting. Though we hadn't spent much personal time together, except for the occasional phone call these past several years, I will always treasure those beginning years in ministry with him.

The album pictured here is my favorite of his. Larry had a unique way of capturing a thought in words. Time magazine also recognized this by calling him "the poet-laureate of rock music." He was a voice of faith for an entire generation and whom many consider the Lord used to bring about the last great revival in our nation called, "the Jesus movement."

One of my favorite stories about Larry happened years ago when Randy Stonehill and Larry were touring in the Wheaton/Chicago land area. In between concerts, they ended up staying with my family and I for a few days. As musicians are known for, they would stay up until 4am and sleep past noon. This didn't go over well with Mom at all. So one morning she woke them up at 7am and told them, "if you guys are going to eat my food, then you are going to do some work around here." She made them get up, rake leaves and cut her lawn. Larry wrote a song for her later that day called "After the Lawn." Classic Norman. He sang it that night at a concert they did - really fun! Through it all he and Mom became friends.

This is one of my all time favorite Larry Norman songs, 
originally written about Janis Joplin, 
"Why Don't You Look Into Jesus."

But my most vivid remembrance of the heart of this brother I witnessed was at Explo '72 in Dallas. Larry had just done an outdoor concert at SMU. He was heading downtown and several of us followed to see what "the troubadour" would do next. We saw him talking to some policemen. A few minutes later they were kneeling at that street corner with Larry, praying to receive the Lord Jesus Christ. I will never forget that powerful image as along as I live. Larry had an unmistakable evangelists heart and a burden for those that the established church either rejected or alienated. That revealed his compassion for the lost and really demonstrated the passion that drove the musician.

I will greatly miss Larry; but what wonderful hope there is beloved for the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ when "death by thee He calls." Amen?

This song below is the first song Larry and I ever wrote together back in 1974. I humbly dedicate this to his memory and his family today and pray it will be an encouragement to each of you as well.

I close with the words of the Apostle Paul:
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. -2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Homesick for Heaven,
2 Cor. 5:1-10


Detoured By Travel said...

Here is the link about the news his website, posted by his family:

Larry was greatly used in my life -- he was one of the ones who inspired me to witness boldly and to stand up for what I believed in the Gospel.

candy said...

Sad day for us, happy day for Larry. Larry Norman's music was the first Christian music I enjoyed, finding other music at the time rather insipid in comparison. All prayers and condolences to his loved ones.

Unknown said...

That news lends great perspective to Monday morning.

Finally called Home and finally healed.....such a great loss for us--and especially for his family that remain; but such a great gain for him.

May we all be ready......

Paul Fuller said...

Steve... It was after becoming acquainted with and blessed by your music, that I came to be aware of Larry's music. God has greatly used you both in my life. Thanks be to God for His incredible empowering grace in all of our lives!

Anonymous said...

Larry was truly the troubadour for Jesus for those many early years of "christian" music. The times I saw him in concert, both powerfully displayed his lyrical gifts as well as his love for God. Another reason to make my "calling and election sure" to spend eternity with Christ and this blessed saint. Come Quickly, Jesus!

donsands said...

Wonderful tribute Steve. What a blessing for you to have such terrific memories of Larry.

He'll be missed, but we still have his music.

"Don't ask me for the answers I've only got one,
that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son."

Terry Rayburn said...


Some of us lost a man we loved through his music, though we never knew him.

You lost a friend, too, for which I pray the Lord will bring you comfort.

Waves of nostalgia are lapping at my feet.

I was listening to Fernando Ortega yesterday, and heard words I hadn't really caught before,

"My days are passing by
Like falling stars
That blaze across the night sky
Then they are gone"

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Ps. 90:12)

Thanks, Steve for the stories. Stories are powerful windows that can bring light into the rooms of our life.

This may not be the appropriate place to say it, but you must have hundreds of stories from the early days of CCM that would mean so much to us, even though you might take them for granted.

I would encourage you to tell more of them, not as a Hollywood gossip writer might, but as a chronicler of the HIStory of people and events that the Lord has used in so many of our lives.

Not to give honor to men, but to give honor to Him who works in them.


Terry Rayburn said...

By the way, a favorite song of mine was also co-written by Steve and Larry, called "Under His Love".

Like other great songs, simple yet so profound, and one of the most poignant Christian songs I've ever heard.

SJ Camp said...

To All

It was interesting that Larry coming out of the '60's - the cry of peace, pollution, revolution was then supplanted to be a voice for the Prince of Peace, to see people set free from the stain of sin through the gospel, and the call for true revival through a genuine move of God upon His people.

No wonder Paul Simon referred to Larry back then as "one of the most important songwriters of our time."

Thank you all for sharing your hearts today... What a joy to remember our brother and what the Lord did through him by His grace alone.

A stranger in a strange land,
Phil. 1:6

Michele Rayburn said...

When I was a new Christian, some of the first music I listened to was by Larry Norman, when Terry gave me some of his cassettes. And I instantly enjoyed it. I was looking forward to seeing him in concert, and hoped to meet him. But I guess it'll have to wait...

My condolences to his family, and our prayers are with them and with you Steve, during this difficult time.

I couldn't sleep last night so I played just about every song on YouTube of Larry's, and came across this song:

Good Bye Farewell from Larry.

I won't say goodbye to our precious brother Larry. I'll just say, "See you later."

In His Love,

John said...

Wow! I saw Larry in concert in Texas and he just stood on the stage and said, "What do you want to hear?" and played what the crowd shouted out.
My girls, 12, 10, 8, and 4 always ask me to "play Larry" when I turn on the ipod so his music lives on and so does our hope in the resurrection.

Unknown said...

On the website, they’ve posted a message that Larry Norman dictated Saturday afternoon (from what I gather from the introduction), in anticipation of his homegoing. I thought I’d post an excerpt, for those who may not have had the blessing of reading it.
Here now are the touching and courageous words from a faithful Pilgrim, who has the lovely vision of the Celestial City very near in his sights:

I feel like a prize in a box of Cracker Jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.

I'd like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again.”

A prize indeed.

SJ Camp said...

If you click on the album artwork in the post, it will take you to Larry's tribute page where you can read the entirety of his last words...

Des said...

some say He was the Son of God a man above all men
but He came to be a servant and to set us free from sin
and that's who i believe He was 'cause that's who i believe
and i think we should get ready 'cause it's time for us to leave ~ The Outlaw, Larry Norman

Donavon Hill said...

"why should the devil have all the good music" was always a lot of fun. i had heard larry's version but didn't really get into it until geoff moore's rendition. of course "...all been ready" was huge to me and the movie it was in scared the crap out of me. larry's influence came to me primarily through stonehill, camp and that whole era. rest in peace my warrior friend!

Anonymous said...

Terry--you wrote, "This may not be the appropriate place to say it, but you must have hundreds of stories from the early days of CCM that would mean so much to us, even though you might take them for granted."

I agree.

Scott McClare said...

Steve, thanks for this. I coincidentally heard Only Visiting This Planet a few days before your concert in Sudbury, Ontario in the summer of 1992, where "Great American Novel" was part of your set. In a sense, you helped familiarize me with Larry's music (and vice versa), and I've enjoyed both ever since.

Joel said...

That song "Why Don't You Look Into Jesus" always made me think of Janis Joplin, but I never knew he'd written it specifically about her. I never met him myself, but his music sustained me through times in my youth when I would have walked away from Jesus otherwise. I know the Lord welcomed him home as an old friend.

Dave Samples said...

Isn't it funny how someone you've never met and never shared a meal or a conversation with can bring such feelings of loss into your life? I first met Larry's music as a young high school sophomore struggling to find my identity and worth in Christ. It was 1978 and I never dreamed that such music existed in "God's world". Larry Norman became the soundtrack for my high school years. Now, some 30years later, Larry has gone home but this pastor can still recite "The Great American Novel" in its entirety. I'm so glad I discovered that the devil doesn't have all the good music....or anything else worth having for that matter.

Anonymous said...

i can't wait to hear larry norman plaay with keith greeen up in heaven! i suppose you too might play with them when we are all together with the LORD!

SJ Camp said...

Keith was a friend; and I was with him one month before he went home to be with the Lord.

At that time, we were the only two artists in Christian music that had the gift of exhortation - more prophetic in nature. It's what knitted and bonded our hearts together in a unique way; though he was more Finneyesque and I from the Calvinistic belief.

Keith is most certainly a Calvinist now :-). I miss my brother dearly. Favorite song bar none: "Asleep in the Light."

Heaven will be a sweet reunion; but more importantly, we will be with the Lord Jesus Christ - face to face - with Him forever.


Rob Frazier said...

Larry Norman was truly a unique figure; probably more than any one individual responsible for what became known as Contemporary Christian Music.

Ralph Carmichael made popular music "safe" for the church, Andrae Crouch brought black gospel blended with R&B to the white church - and Larry did the rest.

His musical and lyrical gifts were genuine gifts from God that inspired a whole generation of songwriters and artists, including me. His was the first "Christian music" I remember hearing as a kid that sounded authentic and real, not warmed over "secular" music or derivative. All who walk in his train owe him a huge debt.

Until that Resurrection Day, his music will live on in his place. Thank you Lord, for Larry Norman.

Unknown said...

Bro. Frazier--Thank the Lord also for you, and your part in His answer to the Elton John and Bernie Tauplin combo.
As Keith Green used to sing, “I can’t wait to get to heaven.”

JustJan said...

Larry Norman's name brings back fond memories of the 70's.

I am thankful for Larry that he is now in glory. Sad for us.

Lockheed said...

oh man, i didnt hear till just now. Im in tears. God blessed me with Larry's music back in the 80s, when I got a record at Goodwill, NO KIDDING. I knew then he was special.


Ray Fowler said...

Steve, thanks for sharing some of your memories of Larry.

I enjoyed your "If I Were a Singer" tribute. I haven't heard this version before. I still listen to the earlier version from "Saying It with Love." It was my favorite song on that album along with "Song for Mom" and "Strong Love Strange Peace (with Diamonds)." Thank you for your ministry through music along with Larry's in my early walk with Christ.

I recorded my own tribute for Larry and put it on my site. It is a rewrite of "Small Circle of Friends" written back to Larry as a thank you for his ministry in my life. Here is the link if you are interested:

My Tribute Song to Larry Norman


Connie said...

Larry Norman was my FIRST exposure to contemporary Xian music--while I was still unsaved. It made a lasting impact on my thinking and MANY of his songs have played in my head over the years.

I've spent a good bit of time these last few days searching the internet and listening to his 'old' songs--still LOVE them, but understand them so much better now as a believer!

Michele Rayburn said...

Ray, that was beautiful...your tribute song to Larry.

In His Love,

Ray Fowler said...

Thanks Michele,

I really enjoyed putting it together, and it is nice to be able to share it with others - especially at this time.

God bless,

Unknown said...

Where were you Steve? You weren't at the memorial service for Larry. Why weren't you there?

Unknown said...

You should have been there Steve!

Guido said...

In 1978 my whole Family got saved. Many things began to change for us and as kids we noticed that the "rules" were in the process of being redefined. My brother and I loved our rock music and like most jr. high/high school students had a lot of records. My parents began to sensor our music, posters... everything. They threw away most of our collection. I remember feeling un-faired against and went downstairs to the pool table room where my Dad kept his record player and country albums. I went through every one of them and setting aside any record that fell short of God's glory. I showed him the stack (95% of his collection)and told him that if he was going to throw away our records they should do the same with their own. And further more they should replace our music with good music. My Dad agreed and to the garbage can they went. He then let me pick out several new albums from the Christian bookstore. I remember this album with a long haired dude in the city and a lightning bolt through his name and bought my first of many Christian records. The name was Larry Norman "Only Visiting this Planet." He became a huge influence in my life along with Randy Stonehill, Steve Camp, Steve Taylor (all influenced by him as well) along with Phil Keaggy, Petra and many others. Today I am a Pastor, Songwriter, Musician and a small grape in the plentiful vineyard of fruit from Larry Normans ministry. He has played a huge part in my "Great American Novel" and will be missed. He will be among the first of people I will look up when I get to heaven.

Andrew said...

Hi Steve,
Maybe you can help .. would you consider putting on a concert for Daniel Robinson, Larrys son in Australia, to help raise funds for DNA and legal costs ? World Magazine have published an article about it, see

Thanks, God Bless Andrew Wallace
Newcastle Australia


lastdaysguitar said...

For those who weren't able to attend the concert July 12th 2008,
several of the songs of this memorable night have been posted on

Or a search of keywords "Larry Norman Keith Schwartz"

The concert featured 21 new arrangements of Larry Norman songs
created and performed by an excellent project band in what was to be
a "one show only" performance.

Calling themselves "LarryBoy & The NORMANIACS" the band played at
Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood, Minnesota to raise funds for
Larry's many sponsored underprivileged kids. True to the gospel
message, Larry Norman fed the poor.

Since this concert the band is weighing the options of playing a few
more of these events as opportunities arise - Larry's songs are
timeless and it was a blast!
Larry Norman is the father of Christian Rock and was a true soldier
of The Lord and is greatly missed in this old world... check him out

Also joining us for some incredible singing on several of Larry's
songs is Jesus Music pioneer Joe Markko, lead singer of the legendary
Jesus Music group: The "All Saved Freak Band" (

Hope you enjoy the vids!

Gods blessings in Christ Jesus,

Keith Schwartz

ChristFollower55 said...

Larry is very much missed. I just became a dedicated fan of his after returning to Christian music. And I also just found out he had died a few months ago. But he knew where he was going, so there may earthly tears, but the grave has been swallowed in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God bless you Steve and all of you at Audience One- Josiah

anw99 said...

Here is the link to the trailer for the new documentary "Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman"

The next screening is in San Jose California at the Cinequest Film Festival in Late Feb early March


sounddoctorin said...

Indeed Larry is greatly missed. Might enjoy my tribute done the night he passed on the sounddoctorin youtube site. I've been talking to the people at the uk site... trying to put together good information for a real bio. The Claims that Daniel Robinson is his son keeps coming up. I'm puzzled by the 'andrew' fellow above posting this. I'm talking to someone claiming to be the old drummer of People right now. However I really need to get real verification because certain people have been known to lie and play games. Do we have any reputable testimonies (ie. people who are willing to meet in person for interview, show ID, etc.) that this is true? Regardless, Andrew, contact me and let me know what good it would do at this point to raise money for dna testing? I'm baffled. -bob