Larry Norman: Still visiting the planet

Larry Norman
Last Friday I had the opportunity to see, for the 2nd time, the legendary Larry Norman in concert. It was a surprise, at least to me. In fact, the circumstances by which I learned of the concert the night previous – involving a windstorm, a power outage, Christmas shopping and me catching a wildly blowing advertising banner – make a very amusing story. Too bad I don’t have time to tell that now. The important thing is that I did get to see Larry in concert.

LN is, I am guessing, about 60 now, and has been in ill health for a number of years. Apparently he officially retired in 2001. If you google “Larry Norman” you may come across an article in Christianity Today entitled, “Farewell, Larry Norman,” which tells the story of Larry’s “last U.S. concert” 18 months ago. Needless to say, I was surprised when, as we were driving by a local church, my wife read the banner hanging out front (it wasn’t blowing wildly at that moment), “Larry Norman in concert…”

I had been a fan of Larry Norman’s since the early 1970’s, and someone loaned me the “Only visiting…” album. I then bought “Upon this Rock” (which I still have on vinyl). Back when I thought I was a musician, I did a number of LN tunes, my favorite being “Why don’t you look into Jesus.” I had a slow, bluesy arrangement of the song (in 2 part harmony) that people absolutely hated. I didn’t follow his career after the Solid Rock days, but managed to see him once in 1986 in Downey, CA. Being the icon he was, I was glad to have the chance to see him again.

The concert was interesting, to say the least. For one thing, he had bronchitis and sounded like a cross between Dylan and Johny Cash. He mentioned that he’d been battling one strain or another of bronchitis for about 6 months, and he was running a fever. His left hand was cramping so he’d lose chords occasionally. His right hand was wrapped in a bandage, as he’d cut himself. He’d sometimes forget lyrics, and once asked the audience to help him remember a verse. At one point he stopped and said, “What made me think I could do this?”

The amazing thing was that he did do the concert, and that he enjoyed it (as did we all). Where most performers would be too frustrated at their limitations, Larry just simply enjoyed being there with his friends, especially after the band – including his original drummer, Denny, from People – joined him onstage. He seemed to become somewhat revitalized, singing a couple of blues-rock tunes, then shifting into Christmas jazz mode, singing new standards like “The Christmas Song” and Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime is Here” (from the Peanuts special).

Larry NormanWhat struck me the most Friday night was the fact that Larry Norman is a man at peace. You could see it on his face, in spite of everything he was dealing with. He hasn’t lost his acerbic wit or his very direct manner of calling things as he sees it. But, what I saw was a man who’s been near death (more than once, as I understand) and is just happy to be singing for Jesus and being with his friends. This was great to see, and it was better than the music. This was the Christmas message that I needed to hear, a reminder to count your blessings and enjoy what you have.

I can’t wait until the next last concert.

7 thoughts on “Larry Norman: Still visiting the planet”

  1. I would like to get a copy of just the music to our song OUTLAW. I have sung it in church one time before but without music this I would like to do it with the music.

    Thank you john

  2. Dear Alden,

    Someone sent me the address of Alden’s Blurt.

    I’ve been reading it for a few days.

    I appreciate your very kind concert review.

    I’ve got a fanzine that I put out once a year. I’d like permission to print your Alden’s Blurt site address, the article you wrote, the two photos you took of me and also I’d like to put the photo of the crow right at the top of the “re–print,” next to your name. I had a crow. I named him “Horace” because his voice was so hoarse. He lived with me for a couple of years. I had rescued him from the neighborhood cats who had broken his wing. Bird’s wings are hollow so they can never heal. I loved that crow so much. I missed him very badly when he died. You can see him on the front cover of one of my albums at:

    larry norman.com

    and the specific page is:

    http://www.merchantmanager.com/phydeaux/MM003.ASP?i=&pageno=27&start=31&aProds= and the “AMERICAN ROOTS” album is about halfway down the scroll.

    So I really love your photo of the crow. I’ve tried but I’ve never had much luck photographing birds. You seem to take so many amazing photographs. What kind of camera do you use . . . not that it matters. Ever since my Nikon F and later my Nikon F-1 got stolen I have become a terrible photographer. I don’t like these cameras that do everything for me. And I can no longer understand how the Nikon works.

    Is Alden Swan the name you would like to be identified with? I assume that’s your real name. But would you prefer any different identification?

    And is your site address

    http://www.smallvoices.net/wordpress ???

    or is it

    http://www.smallvoices.net ???

    I guess you live here in Oregon. I hope to meet you someday. I love your intelligent writing.

    God bless you,

    Larry

  3. Hi All,

    Amazingly enough, even though I’ve been a lifelong rock musician and a Christian except for the Hit “I Love You” on the radio – I had no clue who Larry Norman was (though I did hear DC Talks excelent version of “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” it didn’t occur to me it wasn’t theirs).

    I am a worship leader with church & outreach ministries & recently found out about Larry via some web comments and WOW… his music blew me away! I am a child of the 60’s so his songs and arrangements (and most of all enduring faith and commitment in reaching out to the lost) hit me deeply.

    My brother in-law, a pastor and also a worship leader very active in church & outreach was amused when I told him about this great musician I discovered “You just found out about Larry??!!… where’ve you been??” he asked incredulously (but with a grin).

    Larry is a blessing to anyone who wants to dwell in the true gospel message, and to anyone who respects a world class missionary/evangelist who also happens to be a musician of truly legendary talent at any age!

    God bless ya Larry!

    Keith

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