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


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 rock. Having spent the bulk of the 1960s playing on bills with acts like the Who, Janis Joplin, and the Doors, Norman decided that he wanted to sing about the most countercultural subject of all: Jesus.

Billboard called Norman "the most important songwriter since Paul Simon," and his music would go on to inspire members of bands as diverse as U2, The Pixies, Guns 'N Roses, and more. To a young generation of Christians who wanted a way to be different in the American cultural scene, Larry was a godsend--spinning songs about one's eternal soul as deftly as he did ones critiquing consumerism, middle-class values, and the Vietnam War. To the religious establishment, however, he was a thorn in the side; and to secular music fans, he was an enigma, constantly offering up Jesus to problems they didn't think were problems. Paul McCartney himself once told Larry, "You could be famous if you'd just drop the God stuff," a statement that would foreshadow Norman's ultimate demise.

In Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music?, Gregory Alan Thornbury draws on unparalleled access to Norman's personal papers and archives to narrate the conflicts that defined the singer's life, as he crisscrossed the developing fault lines between Evangelicals and mainstream American culture--friction that continues to this day. What emerges is a twisting, engrossing story about ambition, art, friendship, betrayal, and the turns one's life can take when you believe God is on your side.


I have to admit that I had never heard of this person before reading this book. As someone who is into all types of music, I got into Christian Rock in the late ’70s and through the ’80s. Even then Christian Rock was still not looking at something part of the service or even a way to connect to anyone who listened to rock music. Going back and looking at the writers of the songs of the music I still have I noticed his name associated or credit to as the writer. So I thought that I would give this book a read and I was not disappointed. I thought that he followed his beliefs and even after he turned his life to Christ the people that are not to judge did just that and the ones that you think would be upset for him leaving the rock scene respected his decision. Even his choice to turn down a roll in the play Hair for it dealt with sex and drugs. The author does a good job in showing all parts of his life and the times when it was not going so well also. I think that this would have been a difficult book to research, but yet the author made it interesting at times. Overall a good book. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 4 stars Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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