Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Founding father of "Jesus Music" dies

There are two songs that to me are the epitome of peace, love and understanding: Get Together by the Youngbloods and I Love You by People!. I seem to hear Get Together all the time -- it's on the radio regularly and it's one of my most listened songs on my computer. I Love You is so rare that I can barely remember hearing it on the radio, although it, too, is also on a medium computer rotation. I still just an old hippie peacenik at heart and both songs kind of speak right to my inner being.

Driving to work Tuesday, I was blown away to hear People! singing their one hit from 1968 on KPFT’s Sound Awake program. After the song ended, the disk jockey said that singer Larry Norman had died at his home in Oregon at age 60. Larry Norman’s brother Charles Norman announced Larry’s death on Sunday, Feb. 24, on Larry’s Web site.

People! was a psychedelic rock group from San Jose, Calif., that released three albums between 1968 and 1970. The title track of the first album, released in 1968, was cover of a Zombies B-side from a couple of years earlier. I Love You went Top 15 in the spring and summer of 1968.

Norman left People! after the first album to become one of the founding fathers of “Jesus Music” in the late '60s, His record Upon This Rock in late 1969, which, along with Mylon LeFevre’s solo debut, marked the beginnings of the genre. Norman’s Only Visiting this Planet was a high-water mark for Christian rock. Hen was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Norman was born April 8, 1947, in Corpus Christi. His family moved to San Francisco when he was young,

In 1990, CCM magazine voted his Only Visiting This Planet as the greatest Christian album ever recorded. But Norman never gained widespread acceptance from the religious establishment, the Portland Oregonian reported in Norman's obituary.

"The churches weren't going to accept me looking like a street person with long hair and faded jeans," he said in an interview with CCM. "They did not like the music I was recording. And I had no desire to preach the gospel to the converted. I wanted to be out on the sidewalk preaching to the runaways and the druggies and the prostitutes."

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