Remembering the Work of Lari Goss

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Last known picture taken of Lari Goss, second from right. On the left, Wayne Haun.

We’re barely out of the first week of 2015, and already music legends are leaving us one after the other. First, it was Little Jimmy Dickens in country music. Next, Andrae Crouch just last week, about whom I was going to post this morning until Lari Goss passed away two days ago. Now my recent reflections on life and the passage of time are, eerily, doubly appropriate.

Lari Goss had a hand in a lot of the work that has formed my appreciation of southern gospel music. His involved orchestrations may not be every classical music purist’s cup of tea, but I’ve always taken the Monty Python approach: I may not know much about art, but I know what I like. And I know that Lari Goss’s orchestrations have made already great songs stick in my memory, no doubt many without my knowing it. His talents as an acappella producer should also be recognized. We have him to thank for the outstanding work of the Martins, among others.

While recognizing that this playlist barely scratches the surface, I present a few songs I’ve loved in no small part because of the Lari Goss touch. He will be missed. Feel free to name any other favorites that I forgot. I realize, for example, that I could have included the Martins’ entire A Cappella Collection, or practically the Cathedrals’ entire Symphony of Praise album. Though I resolutely refuse to add “Champion of Love,” because I hatehate that song, through no fault of Lari Goss’s production.

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7 thoughts on “Remembering the Work of Lari Goss

  1. Jan

    The Martins….oh how I love their stuff. The song you posted is one I frequently play as I’m driving. I’ve got the sound on blast level and I sing along. I had never heard of Mr. Goss, but found out a long time friend of mine, worked with him many times, and thought very highly of him as a professional colleague and friend. Small world. I am blessed with some very talented friends in the music business both in front of and behind the mic. The love of music is one of the Lord’s most precious gifts to me, and nothing touches me more than beautiful harmonies. I have an ear for them and love to pick out the harmony parts of songs and sing along..lol. I imagine Mr. Goss is hearing harmonies he never dreamed of this side of Heaven.

  2. Tad Kirkland

    He produced some great music that wasn’t just about the orchestration for the Nelons and surprisingly the Hemphills. My all time favorite is The Nelons’ Thanks recording (not just the song)–a work of art.
    Please elaborate on your disdain for Champion Of Love! Maybe you have and I just missed it. I know you’re opiniated, but with all the poorly-written, cliche-ridden, SG songs to pick on, why that one?

    1. I think I did before you became a regular. I’ll dig around and see if I can find it. But essentially, it’s a terrible hook. The whole concept of “introducing” Jesus like he’s Muhammed Ali is just embarrassingly cringe-worthy. Jesus is not a sports hero, he’s not a rock star, and it’s kitschy and cheapening to refer to him in that way.

      For what it’s worth, there’s a Phillips, Craig & Dean song that does a similar thing, called “Concert of the Age.” And of course, there’s Carman. So I’m not just singling out “Champion of Love” for this problem. However, I’ve mentioned it once or twice because it’s inexplicably been preserved and lauded as a classic in SG circles. As a piece of songwriting, it should have been quietly filed away and forgotten about with the likes of “Jesus Christ Superstar” long ago. Maybe without Lari Goss’s magic production touch, that’s exactly what would have happened.

      1. Tad Kirkland

        I’m not sure it’s any worse than referring to Him as a rock, strong tower or lion. Although it’s not a personal favorite, I think it is still in the upper echelon in terms of writing. And it’s one of the rare SG songs that actually drives people to worship Jesus rather focusing on valleys or heaven.

      2. You mean you don’t really see the extreme tackiness in a hook like “Ladies and gentlemen… here in this corner, I want to introduce to you… the champion of loooooove! *crowd roar* *cue Rocky theme music*”?

        There’s a huge difference between reducing Jesus to a sports star or a rock star and making an analogy to something in nature. When I think of a mosh pit or a boxing arena, I don’t think of something that inspires awe and reverence. It’s out-of-control screaming fans, fleeting fame, cheap glory, cheap beer. And the sports hero himself is almost exulted over like a piece of raw meat, not because of any true love, worship or awe. It’s not, “This man is honorable and worthy of praise,” it’s “Oooooh, look at his abs!” And the way the song reduces the characteristics of Jesus to physical attributes plays right into that very problem. Also, can you really look me in the eye and say you don’t cringe even a LITTLE at the line “His weight outweighs the world”? Be honest now. As my dad put it, “It’s Portion Control Jesus!”

        Furthermore, I doubt that when we are actually standing in the presence of Jesus for the first time, the tone will be anything like a sports game or a dance-off. I’m thinking less “It’s Jesus Christ everybody, BOO YAH,” and more, “Oh, @##$@#*, it’s Jesus Christ. I better get flat on my face and start confessing stuff.” Not in those exact words of course, but you get the idea.

        He’s not tame. But he is good. This is why there’s absolutely no comparison between comparing him to a boxing champ and comparing him to something like a lion, as Lewis of course does so beautifully with Aslan. Like Mrs. Beaver says, “If there’s anyone that can stand in his presence without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most, or just plain silly.” Any time a character comes in contact with him, they are hushed into silent awe. They’re not oooohing and aaaahing over Aslan’s physique, except in the sense that they feel terrified in the presence of this huge creature. They’re doing pretty well if they can so much as look him in the eye for more than five seconds straight.

        Suffice it to say that some people may be inspired to worship by “Champion of Love,” but the picture of worship and of Jesus that it gives me is so distorted that I’m far more inspired to shove cotton wads in my ear until the thing is over.

  3. Tad Kirkland

    Another I could almost see as a modern day “Thanks” was the Greenes final recordings, “Hallelujah”. Again, not just about the orchestrations.
    His keyboard playing was unmistakable (i.e. The Nelons [again] “Kelly Nelon Thompson & The Nelons” recording)

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