News Articles

2 gospel music revolutionaries earn spot in GMA Hall of Fame

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (BP)–He was one of the founding fathers of so-called “Jesus Music” in the late 1960s. The other one created a musical legacy that was cut short when he was killed in a 1982 plane crash. Both men were considered music revolutionaries, not afraid to speak their mind no matter the cost. And on Nov. 27, the Gospel Music Association finally recognized their achievements by inducting Larry Norman and Keith Green into the GMA Hall of Fame.

“GMA, I am proud of you tonight for honoring Larry Norman, someone who is socially relevant and flavored Christian music,” said dc Talk’s Kevin Max during the Hall of Fame ceremony at The People’s Church in suburban Nashville, Tenn.

“Larry was into politics when politics wasn’t cool,” Max added. “You are a true Jesus freak.”

Max, along with fellow dc Talk members Michael Tait and Toby McKeehan, inducted the long, blonde-haired legend into the Hall of Fame.

“For an inner-city black guy to see someone like Larry Norman was scary,” Tait said. “But he shot straight and didn’t try to please anybody.”

Norman is recovering from heart surgery and was unable to attend the ceremony.

“Larry is my hero,” McKeehan said. “He got in the face of culture and we are proud of him.”

Norman left the Los Angeles-based band People to record his first solo album “Upon This Rock” in 1969 for Capitol Records.

The clearly Christian-themed album helped form the foundation for modern Christian rock music. His 1972 album for MGM/Verve, “Only Visiting This Planet,” is considered by many Christian artists to be a high-water mark for Christian rock. The album was recently named the No. 2 all-time album in CCM magazine’s book, “The Greatest Albums in Christian Music.”

In a 1998 interview with CCM Magazine, Norman said he wanted to change the music of the church by force.

“I had a high regard for hymns because of the doctrine expressed in the lyrics but the melodies seemed ponderous,” Norman said. “Outside of black churches the only other church music in the ’50s I was aware of were camp songs which seemed a bit naive and white gospel quartet music that seemed emotionally overbearing. I believed that my music was a new direction in the church politics, but that it also had to be so artful that even a non-believer would find it compelling.

“I apologize for having the arrogance of an 18-year-old, but my heart had pure motives and so I believe God used me in a small way to do something which had a positive effect.”

Green’s ministry lasted only five years, but more than 20 years after his death young people continue to be drawn to his music.

Green had a recording contract with Decca Records and became the youngest member of ASCAP at age 11. But his predicted teen idol status never emerged and he escaped into a reality of drugs and various Eastern religions.

In 1975 Green gave his life to Christ through the evangelistic efforts of Christian artist Randy Stonehill.

Green and his wife, Melody, began taking in “street people” during the early days of what would become their ministry, “Last Days Ministries.”

He recorded the groundbreaking “For Him Who Has Ears To Hear” for Sparrow in 1977.

Green’s musical legacy was rooted in themes of worship, testimony, devotion and evangelism. Pounding out passionate tunes on the piano, Green attracted many young Californians involved in the “Jesus Movement.”

“I remember signing his first contract in a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant on a napkin,” said Sparrow’s Billy Ray Hearn. “I heard him in a concert the night before and it was so packed I had to crawl down the aisle to find a seat. It was the most moving music I had heard.”

Some of Green’s exploits caused consternation among executives at Sparrow.

“He never charged for concerts or his albums,” said a smiling Hearn. “I had a problem with that.

“But Keith was someone who did not and would not compromise the gospel message,” Hearn added. “And I respected that. He didn’t want to charge people to hear the gospel.”

On July 28, 1982, the crash of a small plane took the lives of Green and two of his children, Josiah and Bethany. He was only 28 years old. Green is survived by his wife, Melody, and two daughters.

Green’s wife accepted the award and said she is amazed at how her husband’s music is still impacting lives.

“Everywhere we go, kids tell us that they listen to Keith’s music,” she said. “This award represents the scope of his ministry.”

“He loved Jesus so much and that is why he was so passionate in his singing and playing,” she said.

Renowned guitarist Phil Keaggy and artist Rebecca St. James honored Green with a rendition of “Love Broke Through.”

Soon a new generation of Christians will be exposed to Green’s music. Commemorating the 20th anniversary of his death, several artists have collaborated on a worship tribute to the legendary singer/songwriter.

Because of the profound impact and timeless quality of his songs, artists reportedly came out in droves to participate on “Your Love Broke Through: The Worship Songs of Keith Green,” according to CCM Magazine.

Contributing artists include Michael W. Smith, Michelle Tumes, Rebecca St. James, Twila Paris, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Paul Oakley, Jason Upton, Charlie Hall, Joanne Hogg (Iona), Martin Smith (Delirious) and Sarah Sadler. The songs are among Green’s most dearly loved worship tunes, including “There Is a Redeemer,” “Rushing Wind” and “Create in Me a Clean Heart.”

Prior to his death, he was working on a song titled, “There Is One,” which was never completed. Last year Michael W. Smith and Martin Smith finished the song, and Michael W. Smith recorded it for the tribute.

A remake of “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful,” which includes Green’s original vocals mixed with the voices of all participating artists as well as his two surviving daughters, Rebecca and Rachel, is set to be released on Jan. 29.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: DCTALK HONORS NORMAN, SON ACCEPTS AWARD, REMEMBERING KEITH and A THANKFUL FAMILY.

    About the Author

  • Todd Starnes