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Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock
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Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  241 ratings  ·  69 reviews
The riveting, untold story of the "Father of Christian Rock" and the conflicts that launched a billion-dollar industry at the dawn of America's culture wars.

In 1969, in Capitol Records' Hollywood studio, a blonde-haired troubadour named Larry Norman laid track for an album that would launch a new genre of music and one of the strangest, most interesting careers in modern
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Convergent Books
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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  241 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'd never heard of Christian singer/songwriter Larry Norman, but since I love to read biographies of musicians, I was drawn in by the book's cover. You've got to admit, it's a great cover: An iconic rock star's pose...wearing black pants and dress shirt, long blond hair, holding guitar under the shot from behind lending a halo effect. The title of the book is on a concert ticket stub at the top of the book cover. I am drawn to rock stars, so of course I got sucked in. Still, I ...more
Steve Wiggins
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I discovered Larry Norman in college. I actually recognized his albums because my brother, who was a drug addict at the time, had them in his collection. This is somehow strangely appropriate. Larry Norman was a Christian rock star. Wait, let me be more precise—Larry Norman started the genre of Christian Rock. He was despised by most churches because he played rock. He was despised by many rockers because he was outspokenly Christian. Nevertheless, he was a true artist.

If you're not familiar wit
Jeff Raymond
This is a biography of Larry Norman, one of the forefathers of modern contemporary Christian music. A genre I have basically no knowledge of, I was hoping for a lot more from this book both in terms of insight into the genre’s creation itself and of Norman, presented here as an important cog in the CCM machine. We basically get neither – the book assumes a lot of knowledge about CCM that may be clear to fans of the genre, as you get basically no context for the genre itself or where it’s at alon ...more
Jared Wilson
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fantastic look at a complex figure. Larry Norman is perhaps the father of "Christian rock," but he's a lot more than that. He is really evangelicalism's Bob Dylan - rabblerouser poet, honorary questioner of traditionalism while still a traditionalist - but unlike Dylan, he's woefully unknown to contemporary audiences. As a Gen-Xer who came to appreciate Norman's work after his prime but during the prime of most of his first-generation mentees (77's/Mike Roe, Daniel Amos, Lost Dogs, etc), I ate i ...more
Ryan Linkous
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this well-written biography about the ups and downs of Larry Norman's career was like reading a part of my history I did not know I had. Norman and the Jesus Movement (essentially hippies for Jesus without the drugs) must have had quite an impact of my youth pastors and perhaps on 90's and 2000's youth ministry culture in general.

The biography is pretty well paced, but the last two decades of Norman's life get significantly less coverage. However, this seems to parallel the less remarkab
Alex Stroshine
I think there is a strong current of self-condemnation within evangelicalism. Much of this is warranted, as progressive evangelicals find themselves scratching their heads and wringing their hands that so many of the brothers and sisters in the faith have tilted towards the right.

But beyond the sociopolitical issues that threaten to increasingly fracture evangelicalism I think there is a streak of self-criticism surrounding evangelicalism's relationship with the arts. It's in the groans one utt
Bill Pence
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book about the singer/songwriter who was known as the “Godfather of Christian Rock”. The author was able to uniquely reconstruct Norman’s story through his letters, diaries, files, and tapes that he was given access to by the Norman family.
The author writes that Norman, who died in 2008, was often misunderstood and harassed, mostly by fellow Christians, and was often involved in controversy. He tells us that Norman pretty much did as he pleased. He sang about what he wante
Andrew Campbell
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
An absolute must for anyone considering the relationship between faith and art, Mr. Thornbury's book draws upon voluminous correspondence and archival material. Between that and his commitment to objective reporting, the writer is able to depict a life with the barest editorializing.

While I grew up in the evangelical church and was, shall we say, subjected to the CCM genre, I only knew of Larry Norman and could not have sung a single one of his songs. The witness of Larry Norman's life here neve
Nick Alexander
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For almost thirty years, I have had a deep curiosity towards the late CCM (Christian Contemporary Music) artist Larry Norman. His best work seemed to have come out within a six year timeframe from the late sixties to the mid-70s. His songs were raw, honest, brilliantly rendered, and thought provoking. They also didn't aim to attract the faithful, but reach out to the disaffected. It's a far cry from what passes for CCM (K-LOVE) today. ("Safe," it ain't.)

Then he passed away in 2009, and the follo
Hugh McKinney
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This brisk and engaging read about the father of Christian Rock is well worth a look. As a teenager in the 90s who had an interest in the Christian punk and indie music of the era, I had a loose understanding of who Norman was and why he was important, but not much familiarity with his story or most of his songs. Norman was a controversial figure, and the book does not shy away from discussing these controversies in detail, some of which do not come out portraying Norman in the most positive lig ...more
Ben House
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, music
Fascinating book about Christian rock singer Larry Norman. Norman was a pathfinder. He carved out a niche in the worlds of Christian music and rock music that did not exist. He was quirky, contrary, stifled at many points, rejected, praised, lauded, condemned, feted by the famous, attacked by friends, and more. He had all the zany characteristics we associate with more artistic types. (Hence, there are reasons for the stereo-types.)
In spite of ups and downs, he did seem truly determined from be
Tim Chesterton
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was a Larry Norman fan in the 1970s and 80s but lost touch with him after that. I heard stories about his failings, but was never really familiar with his story. However, songs like 'The Outlaw', 'One Way', 'Reader's Digest' and 'The Great American Novel' were permanently etched on my musical imagination and I continued to listen to the old albums with great enjoyment.

So I was excited when I heard about this book, and it did not disappoint. Larry Norman emerges from these pages as a real human
J.D. DeHart
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
At once working as a biography, as well as a historical retrospective, this book brought to mind the time I heard Larry Norman in the very early 2000s.

The book also speaks to the balance artists walk when expressing faith. How much is too much? Where is the line? Of course, talents makes a difference...but what else comes into play?

A really interesting read.
May 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography-memoir
A thoughtful and mostly sympathetic biography of the founder of Christian rock. I was never really a fan, as he was just slightly before my time, but the history of the movement was interesting. His story intersects with other artists that were more familiar to me, such as Randy Stonehill and Daniel Amos. He was complex man, full of contradictions— much like most of us I suppose.
Robert D. Cornwall
Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? That's a question that resonated as I traversed high school and college during the 1970s. Growing up on the Beatles, Moody Blues, and Three Dog Night, when I moved into a more evangelical context, the question before us concerned the music we listened to. We wanted the best of both worlds -- rock and Christian. By the time I came into this scene there was a burgeoning Christian music scene, ranging from Barry McGuire to Andrae Crouch. Keith Green san ...more
Gregory Johnston
I am a huge Larry Norman fan. So Long Ago the Garden was one of the first Christian albums that I listened to the whole way through. It rocked my world because I always thought that Christian music had to be sterilized copy of what the secular music world was doing. But what Larry Norman proved was that Christians could create music that was art – that said something and was not just Christian propaganda. That is a central theme throughout Gregory Thornbury’s Why Should the Devil Have All the Go ...more
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I grew up in the Christian church in the 1980s. We went to church two days a week, with Bible studies and prayer meetings on other evenings. I went to a Christian school, read Christian books, and loved Christian music. I both lived in the bubblegum Christian world that Larry Norman would have hated and reveled in the music industry that he helped to create. 

Larry Norman was an artist and a paradox. He grew up creating music while most kids are still playing pretend. He would put together comple
Phil Princey
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give the book 5 stars because the book masterfully chronicles the rise of Larry Norman through his ups and downs to his final days with intimate detail yet respectful and objective judgement. It has sentimental appeal bringing back to memory the early Christian rockers such as Stonehill and Heard, amongst others.

The author, having access to the vault of private Larry Norman 'files', doesn't hold back any punches nor skip over unpleasant details but not so to mark the man. He explains many mys
Corey Colyer
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Peter Blum
This was a frustrating book. Rather than offer a compelling portrait of a complicated man, *Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music* primarily offers hagiography. Its worth juxtaposing this biography with David Di Sabatino's equally frustrating biographical documentary (Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman). Whereas the documentary is clearly a mean-spirited hit piece, Thornbury's biography swings too far in the other direction. Setting the two side by side, I think, offers a critical view ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Unlike many rock stars, Larry Norman was not a creature of musical fashion. Most singers and bands have their day and then fade when styles change, but Norman (like Dylan) was just Norman. If your eyes were on the hit parade, you missed him. He was happily out of step in a side street: never quite connecting with the masses but always relevant to people who identified with his gospel message: good news for the down and out, bad news for self-righteous or kitsch-music Christians.

Thornbury makes
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I wasn’t a huge music fan, I did grow up in the era of Larry Norman and I did love his album “In Another Land,” so I picked up Gregory Thornbury’s short biography of Larry Norman with anticipation.

The book was good, the author didn’t get too involved in mindless detail, and yet had enough detail to make it interesting, but when I finished it, I was left a little unsatisfied. Was Larry Norman the faithful Christian who challenged the church to shake off its lethargy and follow Jesus? Or was
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a five-star biography, and if you're a fan of Larry Norman, it's a five-star book. With an impressive amount of documentation, Thornbury chronicles a life that gives you a clear picture of
1. why Larry Norman was famous,
2. why Larry Norman wasn't more famous, and
3. how talent and artistic influence can sometimes be so wholly removed from commercial success.

Because of my age, I discovered Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Aretha Franklin long after their careers were well established, but I was
Wes F
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent question!--Why should the Devil have all the good music? I believe music, by its very nature, is deeply linked with our spiritual & emotional side. Good music coupled with intelligent, soul-baring and/or soul-searching lyrics (& maybe more questions, sometimes, than answers), can be a potent force--for both good and evil. Larry Norman oozed with good music that confronted, challenged, and questioned the status quo--and that pulled one toward the Light. The Light of the Son, spe ...more
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
At times fascinating, sad, and inspiring, this biography sheds light on some of the controversies from Larry's life with entries from his diary, business files, and letters. Includes a good overview of Norman's early years for which I could never really find much info. Thornbury really focuses on Larry's development, relationships and career--there isn't actually that much about the music! He reads Larry as a pioneer caught between the forces of a spiritual quest and influence in the wider cultu ...more
Daniel Keohane
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've been a fan of Larry Norman since the early eighties and this biography is exactly what I hoped it would be - a fair, relatively unbiased look at the man who effectively created modern contemporary Christian music, celebrated by the non-Christian music industry (and unknown among non-Christian music fans), and mostly reviled by Christians for his refusal to conform or accept what he saw as hypocritical living, especially among conservative Christianity. He was a major player in the Jesus mov ...more
Tom Taylor
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As a young “Jesus Freak” as they called us in the mainstream, I liked Larry Norman, the father of Christian rock in the days when right wing and Christian was an oxymoron. Although the moral majority was beginning to burp Norman represented personal relationship and was never enamored with church. Christian hippie music exploded with Norman, Randy Stonehill, Nancy Honeytree and a new type of music gave birth.

Norman was a complicated soul who started out hanging out in the LA Music scene with sin
Michael Ritchie
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even though I was steeped in pop culture and rock music in the 70s, the name Larry Norman was not familiar to me before I read this book. He was an early and important figure in the beginnings of Christian rock and was quite influential, though he never quite broke out into the larger culture despite being interviewed for a Time magazine cover story on the genre. This well-written biography tells Norman's story, warts and all. In many ways, it's the traditional rock star tale of scrounging aroun ...more
Jon Reed
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful, Humorous, Sad, a Tragic Tale.

Larry Norman's music moves me powerfully, this book did as well. I could hear Larry's music all the way through, but most importantly I could hear his heart. Larry loved Jesus and desperately wanted to make a difference and yet he was a tragically flawed individual. The reality of the situation is that we all are. This book is a reminder of that. Even as I read of Larry's struggles I couldn't escape my own In the midst of his however Larry continued to lov
Barry G. Simmons
Norman's Upon This Rock was one of the first CCM albums I bought when I was 16 years old. I was hopeful that this book would not only be the story of Larry as a pioneer in Jesus Rock within the Jesus Movement of the early seventies, but would also touch on the wider movement and some of my other musical heroes. I was disappointed. The book was no hagiography, and fully covered not only Norman's successes, but his flaws and both business and personal failures, including two divorces. To the degre ...more
Justin Martin
Jun 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
The best nonfiction books either complicate the seemingly simple, or simplify the seemingly complicated. This book marbles the frankly-silly concept of Christian rock, beaming its failures and hypocrisies and kindnesses through the dusty prism of its boy-faced, philandering, morally-superior source of genuine comfort, Larry Norman. He's never allowed to be more than a man - except in the moments where he really is - and never allowed to be seen as a grifting scoundrel, except when he is.

It's so
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