Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

Do you want to know what evangelicalism was like before the Christian Right came along and politicized it?  Check out Greg Thornbury‘s piece at The Washington Post: “What evangelicals looked like before they entered the political fray.” Thornbury has just completed a biography of Larry Norman, one of the founders of “Christian rock” music.  His book is titled Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock.

Here is a taste of Thornbury’s piece in The Post:

In spring 1978, a young man named Mike Pence did two seemingly incongruous things, almost simultaneously. During one moment, he fist-pumped at a rock festival outside of Lexington, Ky., and in the next he knelt to pray and “receive Jesus Christ into his heart.” One of the artists headlining that concert had unwittingly created a new musical genre called Christian rock. His name was Larry Norman, and little did he know way back in 1969 when he recorded an album called “Upon This Rock” and wrote anthems such as “Why Should The Devil Have All the Good Music?” he was pioneering what would become a cultural phenomenon and a billion dollar industry. Nor could he, as a person of faith making albums for secular record companies, have envisioned a time in which the majority of Christians thought of themselves locked in a “culture war” with the rest of society. Pence would go on to embody much of that culture war as governor of Indiana, and now as vice president of the United States. But less is known about Norman, the rocker whom Pence went to see.

Read the rest here.

I must admit that Norman came along a bit before my time.  I joined the evangelical ranks in the early 1980s.  Norman was still popular, but I never really connected with his music.  When evangelicals of a certain age think about Norman, his hit “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?” comes immediately to mind.  But as a young evangelical I was always more intrigued (and often time scared to death) by his “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.”  It served as the soundtrack to the cheesy (and frightening) 1972 evangelical rapture movie “A Thief in the Night.”  (The song picks up around the four minute mark):


One thought on “Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

  1. Wow, I wore out the grooves of my Larry Norman albums back in the day. What a fascinating figure. He was a genius musician, albeit one who stole styles liberally, but he pioneered Christian rock and was extremely charismatic in concert.

    Something happened to him later in life that made him change. He stopped making new music, kept reselling old songs. I heard him in a concert probably 20 years ago where he just talked, ranting about the government mowing people down with machine guns and crazy stuff.


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