The ‘Father Of Christian Rock’ Larry Norman’s Battles With Evangelicalism

Larry Norman. Kristy Douglas/Courtesy of the Larry Norman Estate

By Sarah McCammon

Upon the release of his first album Upon This Rock in 1969, Larry Norman unwittingly created the billion-dollar industry of Christian rock. Author Gregory Alan Thornbury is sure that if Norman were alive today, the musician would have despaired at the state of the genre and evangelicalism.

Thornbury’s latest book Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock, out now, chronicles the life of the evangelical singer and his divergence from the audience he sought to reach.

Norman’s name is cemented among other famous evangelicals of the 1970s like Billy Graham and President Jimmy Carter. Even Vice President Mike Penceremembers “[giving] his life to Jesus Christ” at the 1978 Ichthus Music Festival in Wilmore, Kentucky, which Norman headlined.

“Over the years I’ve been listening to it, I’ve come to see Larry Norman’s voice as a machine for killing complacency in religious people, and it is my sincere hope that this book does the same,” writes Thornbury in the biography.

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