Blind Boys of Alabama' leader dies at 88
The sun has set on founding member and longtime leader of the iconic gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama. He was aged 88 and lived a full life when he and his band were vocally active. He started singing while in his teens and did not stop until he was way older.
The on founding member and longtime leader of the iconic gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama, Clarence Fountain is dead at the age of 88. He was receiving treatment at a hospital in Baton Rouge, LA. The news was relayed in a statement by the group’s manager, Charles Driebe, on June 3.
Fountain was born on November 28, 1929, and was raised in the church where he started exploring his talent. At age eight he was enrolled at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega, where he joined 5 other boys to start a singing group.
Jazz at Lincoln Center mourns the loss of Clarence Fountain, leader and founding member of the Blind Boys of Alabama.— Jazz at Lincoln Center (@jazzdotorg) June 5, 2018
At our 2005 gala concert, they put on an unforgettable performance that helped make our album United We Swing possible.https://t.co/M8jNYHKuZN pic.twitter.com/NbPaFdgobm
The group, named Happy Land Jubilee Singers, snuck out of school one day to perform at a nearby military training camp. They got paid and their music was so well received that they decided to leave school for good. They were still in their teens at this time.
By the late 1940s, they were touring full time. They performed their hit song, "I Can See Everybody's Mother But Mine” that got them in competition against another band of blind singers, Jackson Harmoneers. They were billed as the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. As Fountain told it, "The crowd loved us, the name stuck, and things took off for us."
Clarence Fountain, a foundational American gospel singer and the last remaining co-founder of Blind Boys of Alabama, died June 3 in Baton Rouge, La. He was 88. https://t.co/udUbt0u9Uv pic.twitter.com/FYv0LQFN1i— NPR Music (@nprmusic) June 4, 2018
Driebe said this of his talented group;
"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 transcended all that. 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."
The group won four Grammys, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, and were members of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Fountain, who stopped performing in 2007 because of complications from diabetes, is survived by his wife Barbara.
May his soul rest.