Larry's Gone: I Wish We'd All Been Ready

The release of Larry Norman's first solo album "Upon This Rock" dovetailed perfectly with the bright morning of the Jesus Movement, so it was natural that Christians would forever associate him and his music with the Jesus People revival. A seemingly fearless young man barely into his twenties when we met, he burst upon the scene and into our hearts with the bold proposition that Christian music was anemic and needed a transfusion.

He released three groundbreaking albums in rapid-fire succession while the Jesus Movement was at its peak, and gave the young revival its hauntingly beautiful theme song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready." The song set the tone for the prophetic message that was woven into all of his music, and (I've heard) tempted a generation of young guitarists to venture past the fourth fret.

In September, 1970, Larry volunteered to write a regular column in the Hollywood Free Paper called "As I See It." The banner for the column was a tightly cropped photo of Larry's bright, mischevious blue eyes twinkling under a fringe of California-blond hair. The feature became a favorite of readers because Larry never pulled his punches and his articles were always honest, brash and entertaining. "[Record executives] told me I couldn't sing about Jesus," he complained in an early column. "It would be too controversial and most assuredly ruin my career." Another time, he criticized record labels for "trying to reduce the spiritual revolution to a top twenty single."

Early in his career he opened for the Doors and Jimi Hendrix. Countless photos and film clips captured Larry playing and singing on stage at concerts and festivals. But I like to remember the Sunday afternoons when he would suddenly show up backstage at one of our makeshift Jesus People Festivals at the Hollywood Palladium, unannounced and unscheduled but ready to sing his heart out for the thousands of kids assembled who had played his records till the grooves wore out.

On Spiritual Revolution Day in 1971, the public image of Larry was of the long-haired singer striding confidently forward with "one way" finger raised as we marched through the streets of Sacramento. One of our photographers captured a more poignant moment -- I don't think it was ever printed in the Hollywood Free Paper -- from backstage just as Larry began to sing. He was gazing with wonder at the massive crowd gathered near the state capitol building, astonished as we all were by what God was doing in our midst.

He warned us for years he was only visiting this planet. But for those of us who knew and remember our old friend Larry David Norman, his sixty year visit was all too short.

Godspeed, our dear brother. Fly high.

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