No. 57: Larry Norman And Sonseed
This year wasn’t a particularly spectacular one for Christian music—solid releases from Anberlin, the Myriad, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot, and the Classic Crime, but otherwise the key adjectives were “slow” and “mediocre.” Somehow, the genre’s biggest news items came from the ’70s and early ’80s, a time period that was swept under the rug by the advent of Christian Contemporary Music and the late-’80s rise of Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant, and Petra. Back then, there were some artists who just made music informed by their beliefs, similar to George Harrison writing a pop song about Hare Krishna.
On one end was the February death of Larry Norman, sometimes referred to as “the father of Christian rock music,” at age 60. Norman was a cryptic and eventually reclusive guy who rolled out a number of great albums, including 1972’s Only Visiting This Planet. His death only magnified the strange circumstances of his life; Idolator’s own obit sparked contention in the comments section, and as detailed in this October post, a filmmaker who’d fallen out with Norman three years ago is now planning a motion picture concerning the singer’s rumored illegitimate child in Australia.
Directly opposite Norman was a viral video of a Christian act called Sonseed performing on early-’80s television. Despite my initial reservations, Sonseed were 100 percent for real and providing a new set of laffs for a public confused by Christian music. It was hard to avoid “Jesus Is A Friend Of Mine” for a while there—and for good reason, since it has everything you could ask for in a YouTube clip other than a spaghetti-eating cat. Somehow, even in death, Larry Norman seems to be out of luck.