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Arena Rock Recording Company

No games allowed

Music | Norman didn't fit the industry mold

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

Larry Norman, who died last month at the age of 60 after years of heart problems, was the founder of Contemporary Christian Music. Long before Bob Dylan, he was releasing overtly evangelical albums on major labels (Upon This Rock on Capitol in 1969, Only Visiting This Planet on MGM in 1972) and would probably have become fairly big as singer-songwriters go had he not been temperamentally unsuited to music-industry games.

He wasn't much suited to Christian-music-industry games, either. In many ways he was the quintessential enigmatic artist: Creative and talented, his most pivotal decisions distanced him from the spotlight and alienated his friends.

By 1981, the CCM rockers Randy Stonehill (who credited Norman with leading him to Christ) and Daniel Amos, both of whom had recorded landmark, Norman-produced albums, were among his ex-associates. He estranged Amos by needlessly delaying the release of his music. He estranged Stonehill by marrying his wife.

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Norman often blamed the messiness of his private life on the side effects of brain damage he suffered as the result of a freak airline accident in 1978. In later years he seemed to take greater responsibility for his sins, admitting onstage at the 2000 Cornerstone festival that he hadn't really understood how to trust fully in God and, as a result, had often been too "negative."

In the 1990s he launched a website carrying dozens of his recordings, "classic" and recent. He performed occasionally despite failing health. And he remained a mystery, insisting to the end that it was Jesus whom people needed to know, not Larry Norman.

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