an artist, a prophet, a man

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 complex harmonies for his younger sisters to sing. After high school, he went into the music industry and cut his teeth on stages in the 1960s. He got to work with artists such as the Who and Janis Joplin. He worked in studios with some of the finest studio musicians and producers of his time. He wrote lyrics that were poetic and that honestly spoke of the political climate of the day. He wrote music that was moving and innovative. And he was a Christian. 

Norman never tried to hide the fact that he was a Christian and a musician. He wrote the best music that he could, believing that people would be drawn to the art. Then he would stand on stage and try to lead his audiences into a personal relationship with Christ. He never saw the paradox in that. 

His musical career spanned decades and resulted in a musical anthology that any musician could be proud of. And while he found a great deal of success through his music--and found fans in fellow musicians such as Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, and U2's Bono--he faced many struggles in his personal and business lives. He tried to create an artists' colony and a music production company, but he struggled to find any true partners. He had two failed marriages. But he created beautiful art and spent the last years of his life with his family, who he loved dearly. 

While his music reached audiences around the world, he also faced rumors and back-stabbing from people he thought of as friends and partners. The Christian music industry in America that he helped to start ended up rejecting him for being too edgy and polarizing. But he did everything he could to stay true to himself and the relationship with Christ that he put in the middle of his life and his work. 

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? is Gregory Thornbury's love letter to Norman. Named for one of the artist's most iconic songs, this meticulously researched story leaves no stone unturned in telling the whole story of Larry Norman's art and life. Alternately heartbreaking and triumphant, frustrating and moving, somber and joyous, this book takes you on a journey through the musical and political movements of the 1960s through the 1990s. While Larry Norman was alive, his work reached around the world and touched millions. Now, through this loving biography, it can reach even more.

I was drawn into this book so much more than I expected. It's beautifully written and so conscientiously detailed. It's also brutal in its honesty, not skipping over the challenges that Norman faced or the rumors that seemed to surround him. Thornbury doesn't shy away from the feuds Norman had with other artists, with the record companies, with his business partners, but he also tells the entire story from a place of love and respect, giving the book a perfect balance. This is a must for fans of all genres of music or anyone interested in the American culture of the '60s. It's a powerful story of one man but also of an industry and an era that left us all changed, whether we actually experienced the '60s or not. 

 

Galleys for Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? were provided by Crown Publishing through NetGalley, with many thanks.