Only Visiting This Planet by Larry Norman (1972)

“Life was filled with guns and war
And all of us got trampled on the floor
I wish wed all been ready
The children died, the days grew cold
A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold
I wish we’d all been ready.”


The Jesus Movement began on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s and quickly spread across America and the world.  Members of the movement were called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks and its effect on evangelical Christianity was nothing short of revolutionary.  This movement included massive changes in the ways the gospel was communicated and how worship was expressed.  Larry Norman was one of the pioneers.

As Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

Only Visiting This Planet came crashing into a Christian subculture that was beginning to feel the effects of the Jesus Movement—a fast-growing revival among hippies, street people, and ex-druggies. The traditionalists, who sought to keep guitars, drums, and any kind of modern sounds out of the church, were fighting a losing battle against a younger generation who wanted to use the music they loved to sing about the God they loved. Norman was at the forefront of this movement, and his songs were an example of how music could be relevant and up-to-date while at the same time espousing a traditional evangelical theology. Clearly, Norman was less interested in inspiring and entertaining the faithful than in sharing the answers he had found with nonbelievers. Sadly, he was never fully embraced by either camp. He was too sacred for sinners and he made the saints squirm uncomfortably. So he forged his own artistic path.

Were you a part of the Jesus Movement?

How did it affect your life?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


Larry Norman

Larry Norman

Larry Norman was born on April 8, 1947 in Corpus Christi, Texas. At the age of 3 he relocated to San Francisco, California with his family and in the mid-’50s became fascinated with the music of Elvis Presley. During this time he also frequently accompanied his father on Christian missions to prisons and hospitals. At the age of nine, Larry began writing and performing original rock and roll songs at school, experimenting and incorporating a spiritual message into his music. In 1959 he performed on Ted Mack’s syndicated television show The Original Amateur Hour on CBS. Upon moving to San Jose, California, he began recording for Capitol Records with his band People! in 1966 and for the next 3 years performed concerts supporting The Doors, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, among others. People! scored a Billboard Chart hit in 1968 with a cover of The Zombies’ song “I Love You.” Norman left the band the day People!’s debut album was released. was one of the pioneers.

His solo albums recorded in the 1970s on his own independent label Solid Rock, and the albums of other artists he discovered and produced laid the foundation for what would eventually become the Christian rock music industry, a genre which largely shunned him and his music. According to Portland, Oregon news/radio station KXL, Norman’s early social positions caused a stir among many conservative Christians. His views against racism and poverty caused him to receive multiple death threats in the 1970s. A widespread ban on Norman’s music, which is largely still in effect today, existed in Christian stores. This ban was due not only to Norman’s social positions, but his preferred company as well. Said Norman in a separate interview, “The churches weren’t going to accept me looking like a street person with long hair and faded jeans. They did not like the music I was recording. And I had no desire to preach the gospel to the converted.”

Time Magazine once called Norman “the most significant artist in his field.” Over 300 cover versions of his songs have been recorded by artists such as Petula Clark, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Black, and Cliff Richard. His songs have also been recorded by contemporary Christian artists like DC Talk, Rebecca St. James, and Audio Adrenaline. He performed for The White House, twice – and in Moscow at the 80,000 seat Olympic Stadium. He headlined venues like The Hollywood Bowl, The Sydney Opera House, The Palladium and London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, which he sold out six times, once filling it twice on the same day.

In 2001 Norman was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame alongside Elvis Presley. At the time of his death he was working on a concept album with Frank Black and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse.

In a message he wrote on Saturday, Feb 23, the day before he passed away, Norman said:

“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 won’t be here much longer. I can’t do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help. My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. I’d like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be funeral information posted on my 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.”

“Goodbye, farewell, we’ll meet again
Somewhere beyond the sky.
I pray that you will stay with God
Goodbye, my friends, goodbye.”

Sources & Resources

LarryNorman.com

Howard, Jay R., and John M. Streck. Apostles of Rock. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1999.

Stowe, David W. No Sympathy for the Devil. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011.

———. “Only Visiting This Planet.” National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress. 2013. http://www.loc.gov/rr/record/nrpb/registry/essays/only%20visiting.pdf.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

 

Terry Glaspey

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.