âHis influence outweighed his sales so much that itâs comical,â Willman said. âHe certainly had a heart for evangelism, almost to his detriment I might say. He really couldâve been a star if he were singing about something other than Jesus.â
Normanâs 1972 Only Visiting This Planet album is regarded as one of the top contemporary Christian music albums of all time. His many hits were cutting edge, said Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College.
âThe song âWhy Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?â was one of his enduring trumpet blasts against the stogie, old Christian establishment,â Eskridge said. ââI Wish Weâd All Been Readyâ fit with the end times, apocalyptic feel that was in the air at the time.â
âI Wish Weâd All Been Readyâ was also featured in the 1972 end times film A Thief in the Night. In concerts, the singer would give his trademark “One Way” gesture, pointing an index finger toward heaven. Eskridge said Norman was an icon during the Jesus People of the 1960s but distanced himself from the movement when it became a fad and eventually faded.
Norman became less prominent on the music scene after suffering head injuries in an airplane accident 30 years ago, and later he had severe heart problems. He dictated a message to a friend just before his death.
âI feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with Godâs hand reaching down to pick me up,â Norman said. âI have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.â