'Blind Boys of Alabama' founder Clarence Fountain has died at 88

Clarence Fountain was taken to a hospital on Friday and two days later he passed away. The star had been one of the co-founders of the Blind Boys of Alabama.

The gospel singing group announced the news of his passing via their Instagram page. The star is survived by his wife, Barbara.

Clarence Fountain died on Sunday in a hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana according to his manager Charles Driebe. Fountains family planned a private viewing on Monday at their church.

The public funeral will be on Tuesday at a larger church. During their career, the Blind Boys of Alabama won four Grammys, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship

They were also members of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 2007, Fountain stopped touring with the group because of complications from diabetes.

Despite this, he still sang on their 2017 album, Almost Home. The album came out of the realization that only Fountain, the group’s longtime leader, and its current leader, Jimmy Carter, remained of the original members

 

“These men were both raised as blind, African American males in the Deep South during the Jim Crow years, and they were sent to a school where the expectation for them was to one day make brooms or mops for a living. But they’ve transcended all that.”

Charles Driebe, Page Six, June 4, 2018

“The arc of their lives and of the band reflects the arc of a lot of changes in American society, and we wanted to find a way to capture their experiences in songs,” Driebe said of the band.

Fountain and friends started their first singing group as students at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega. This was where the late star was enrolled when he was 8.

Back then they called themselves The Happy Land Jubilee Singers. They would sneak off campus to sing for soldiers at a nearby training camp.

In 1944, the group left the school in their teens to pursue music. They were still called the Happy Land Jubilee Singers when they had their first hit single in 1948, I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine.

Their new name came from a double billing later in the same year.  An event they took part in promoted them against another group of blind singers called the Jackson Harmoneers.

The event called them Five Blind Boys of Alabama and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. The crowd loved them and the new name stuck.

In 1953, they signed with Specialty Records but left after five years because of the pressure to sing secular music. They sang gospel in the 1960s benefits for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. even as the genre became less popular.

The group won Grammy’s in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. Their lifetime achievement award came in 2009.

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