When we take the words “art,” “music,” “movies,” “radio,” etc. and tack “Christian” before each one, the expectations toward each medium change drastically depending on the reader.
Phil Long once mused to me he wished more Christian music festivals left out the “Christian” in their title. “Why not just call it a ‘music festival?’” Thinking it over, I could see his point. How do we create music to appeal to everyone, not just a specific audience which already knows and believes in the gospel presented? How to explore the medium without being limited by producing what everyone expects to be “Christian?” What of the explorations in song and music of contemporary issues, of non-kosher things the average Christian and Non-Christian experience in day-to-day life? There the hard balance is sought.
Brant Hansen and his producer Sherri Lynn interviewed Gregory Allen Thornbury on their Oddcast awhile back. Thornbury recently wrote Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? The book is about Larry Norman, one of the pioneers of Christian Rock music. Norman sought the hard balance all his life. Thornbury details Norman’s struggles against the Christian anti-rock music movement, the influence he had on many secular artists, the yearning to produce quality music without turning to bland, everything’s-hunky-dory themes as many Christian songs seem to follow, and so on.
As important as he was, the book also explores his many failings and humanity. He, like many other artists of the 60s and 70s, was not shy about criticizing the government as well as church culture, adding to the friction. Scandals involving his friends and family dragged his reputation down. He argued with his closest allies, resulting in long feuds at times.
Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? is an important account of a man hoping for change, bringing change, and struggling with fallen human nature in himself and in others. Anyone seeking to create art and spread the gospel thereby could do well to read it.
Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock was written by Gregory Alan Thornbury, published and printed by Convergent Books in 2018, and it contains 292 pages.