Thinking Out Loud

July 25, 2014

When Heroes Lose Their Honor

larry norman bw
I do not believe I would be in the place I am today spiritually were it not for the great influence of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) and the role I got to play in helping introduce the genre to a nation that was hesitant to accept it.  The people I met, the songs and scriptures they were based on, the communities, the whole movement of it all; each of these contributed to my spiritual nurture in ways for which I will be forever grateful.

In general, Larry Norman is considered to have started the thing — referred to as the “father of Jesus music” or even “grandfather of CCM” — but it would be more accurate to say that he popularized it rather than birthed it.1 Larry passed away in 2008.

fallen-allenWhile I was aware that Fallen Angel, a documentary had been produced showing a darker side of Larry Norman there is a difference between knowing about a film and actually seeing it. Imagine! A popular Christian figure having personal issues. That had never happened before.

I think that too often we want to see the good in people and so we miss the clues that things might be wrong. One of Larry’s songs was Baby Out of Wedlock and it was so easy to see this as a piece of poetry, not a personal confession. That very I Corinthians 13 of us.

As it turns out, I still haven’t seen Fallen Angel, but last week we discovered 28 sections of it have been posted on YouTube; some of them have been there quite awhile. The user’s channel is Corrine M. and the documentary excerpts include a number of names I was aware of back in the day, promoters, managers, record company execs, past wives or girlfriends, and Randy Stonehill. Some of these I met through helping three different concert promoters bring Larry, Randy and Tom Howard to Canada, while others I met on a half-dozen extended holidays in Southern California. Collectively, they paint a rather sad picture of a person I could have easily hero-worshiped.

For his part, Stonehill is rather charitable, considering everything. He simply points out the disconnect between the person who led him to Christ and the personality idiosyncrasies about that person that later surfaced. The whole story is so very sad.

Growing up, my father was part of a music team that was associated with a popular Canadian evangelist and pastor who later lost his faith. Charles Templeton’s move from the Christian limelight to bewildered agnosticism is chronicled in many places, including the opening chapter of Lee Stroebel’s The Case for Faith.

One of the takeaways from my childhood that my father made sure I didn’t miss is that you can’t look to people to sustain your faith. They will inevitably let you down. Or take you down. We must instead look to Christ and Christ alone. He is the rock that never rolls.

larry norman in another land 25th frontElsewhere here at Thinking Out Loud:

1Supporting the idea that the roots of Jesus Music were much broader than what might be traced to a single “alpha person” is the YouTube channel Favorite Jesus Music. Scroll down to reveal some of the oldest posted songs. There is another YT channel like this as well; if someone recalls it I will add the link here.


  1. Saw it last week on youtube. I Did a little bit of research. The youtube movies you are talking about do match with an interview David Di Sabatino gave on Probably the only place where David Di Sabatino can sell his gossip. So who actually is a fallen angel ?
    By the way He started spreading gossip about Larry Norman from 1995 onward. Do your research and check out yahoo groups and google groups.
    More info on this, but backed up with evidence and not rumors

    Comment by Mark Scholten — December 15, 2014 @ 5:40 pm

    • It’s interesting that it’s taken over a year to get the first comment on this. There just are not a lot of people interested in the history of what we now call CCM.

      David Di Sabatino’s agenda is quite clear, but he didn’t exactly make up what the interview subjects were saying. Given that the people he interviewed are saying what they feel or what they remember, then I don’t see how this is gossip, per se. In my worldview, public figures — and this includes preachers and Christian musicians — have to be subject to a certain level of scrutiny. But you’re correct in that a person can get dragged down obsessing on all this; what filmmaker would want Fallen Angel to be their legacy?

      My own take is embedded in the piece’s title, and the closing paragraphs. Nobody likes to have the bubble burst. People don’t want to think that their pastor would do the things that have landed him on the front page of the local paper. We get star-struck, we get caught up in the celebrity Christian scene, and every time we do, we take our eyes of Jesus, and like Peter, we start sinking.

      I can read all the bad stuff about LN, listen to the people speaking on the documentary movie, and still enjoy Larry’s songs, still cherish to good memories, and not cringe when someone quotes him, thinking to myself, ‘If only they knew the whole story.’

      Truth is, each of has a ‘whole story’ we would not want the world to see or hear.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — December 15, 2014 @ 6:06 pm

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