Christian singer/songwriter Bebo Norman plays earthy, acoustic-based pop with religious lyrics. In Christianity Today a reviewer wrote, "Bebo Norman is clearly one of Christian music's brightest rising stars."
Born and raised in Georgia, Norman got his nickname as a boy, when his little sister couldn't say "big brother" and said "Bebo" instead. As a teenager he aspired to become a doctor, and entered Presbyterian College, hoping for a medical career. One of his outlets in college was performing with the Young Life ministry, and by the time he graduated, he found that his passion for studying had diminished and his passion for music had grown. After graduating summa cum laude, he packed his acoustic guitar and a few bits of sound equipment into his car, and hit the road to perform in coffee houses and colleges. His acoustic playing and poetic lyrics were not immediate hits, but in the late 1990s he got a break when he was chosen to tour with the Christian group Caedmon's Call. His first album, Ten Thousand Days, was warmly received, even if some listeners felt it was a little too mellow. A reviewer wrote in Christianity Today, "I think it serves as a real testament to Bebo's songwriting skills that [Big Blue Sky] can come across as fun and hopeful despite so many songs dealing with loneliness and wanting."
Norman's most successful album to date was Myself When I Am Real, released in 2002. The album reached the number one spot on Billboard's Heatseekers chart, and had two top five Christian radio hits, "Great Light of the World" and "Falling Down." Like his earlier albums, this one included many songs about the longing for love and the pain of loneliness. Although Norman said that the songs were about spiritual longings, Russ Breimeier wrote in Christianity Today, "Upon closer listening, I discovered some of the songs I originally thought were about spiritual love for Jesus are indeed about a longing for earthly romance, and vice versa."
Norman presented some of his thoughts on being single and feeling loneliness on the Christianity Today website: "Singleness hasn't been a decision for me. I am not that noble. I am not a spiritual guy who thinks it's just better this way. I have a ball and chain waiting at my house just in case the proverbial 'one' shows up at my front door sometime soon. I assure you I would waste no time tying myself down." He also noted that when he thought about being single, the things that bothered him most were thoughts of growing old and being alone.
A few months later he commented that some listeners evidently thought that singleness was his "platform," implying that if he were to find love, "suddenly my 'platform' would collapse and my career in music suddenly would be over." He noted that his fans' emphasis on his singleness and how much it bothered him might be justified; although he estimated that only 10 percent of his songs dealt with this theme, 10 percent were "fat with loneliness and ripe with fear."
In 2003 Norman won a Dove award for his song "Holy Is Your Name." As a result of this success, Norman was chosen for national headlining tours and European performances, and made the covers of CCM and Premiere magazines.
Another result of his success was less positive. Norman felt alienated and lonely as he toured to promote the record, going from city to city by himself. A high point of his life was talking to people he didn't even know after performances. As he commented on the Christianity Today website, "I had let those moments on stage and talking to people after shows become the intimate moments of my life, the end all and total of me sharing my heart." He had little time to find or develop any close relationships, and he spent time alone, pondering these issues and thinking about the place of relationships in his life. In an interview in Christianity Today, he said that during this period he felt "sort of a postpartum depression" and wasn't sure what to do next.
During this period he started dating Roshare Finecey, whom he had known for a long time, and in November of 2003 they were married. The marriage startled many of his loyal fans, most of which were female, as it altered their image of Norman as a sensitive, lonely, and perhaps available guy. In addition, Norman had become less open with fans at performances: as he told Andy Argyrakis in Christianity Today, "I don't always go out and talk to folks after shows anymore. I have to say 'no' to some of those things so I'm not just faking it." He also commented that as a result of his marriage, he realized that he had been using a very shallow approach to relationships, making a great first impression on people, knowing he would never have to follow it up with anything real. "I'd … say 'hey' to everybody with a big smile, knowing I didn't have to get any deeper because I'd be gone the next week." He added that his marriage had taught him "what commitment needs to go into a relationship—and how that affects how I love my wife right now."
His next album, Try, was fueled by these experiences of change. In addition, Norman used songs written by other songwriters for the first time, hoping they would give variety and range to his performances. He recorded the album with well-known producers Mitch Dane and Matt Bronleewe. According to a review on the Christianity Today website, these moves "helped Bebo capture the simple beauty that resides in each song." Norman added, "On this album, you don't hear the production, you hear the songs, and that's what I like most."
The Fabric of Verse, Essential, 1996.
Ten Thousand Days, Essential, 1999.
Big Blue Sky, Essential, 2001.
Myself When I Am Real, Essential, 2002.
Try, Essential, 2004.
For the Record …
Born Jeffrey Stephen Norman in Georgia; married Roshare Finecey, 2003. Education: Presbyterian College, graduated summa cum laude, 1995.
Released The Fabric of Verse, 1996; Ten Thousand Days, 1999; Big Blue Sky, 2001; Myself When I Am Real, 2002; Try, 2004.
Awards: Dove Award, for "Holy Is Your Name," 2003.
Addresses: Record company—Essential Records, 316 Southgate Court, Brentwood, TN 37027. Website—Bebo Norman Official Website: http://www.bebonorman.com.
The Christian Century, September 21, 2004.
"Bebo Norman," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/artists/bebonorman.html (January 25, 2006).
"Bebo on Being Bebo," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/interviews/bebonorman-1202.html (February 20, 2006).
"Class Acts," Presbyterian College Website, http://www.presby.edu/presby_main/freeform_template_t7_R1275.html (February 22, 2006).
"The Hand I've Been Dealt," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/singles/newsletter/mind20220.html (February 20, 2006).
"Myself When I Am Real," Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/music/reviews/2002/myselfwheniamreal.html (February 20, 2006).
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