'Blind Boys' Inspire Fans Worldwide

Blind Boys Grammy win i i

The Blind Boys of Alabama's members pose after winning the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance in 2005. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
Blind Boys Grammy win

The Blind Boys of Alabama's members pose after winning the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance in 2005.

Getty Images
Blind Boys performance

The Blind Boys of Alabama's members perform during last year's East Coast International Blues and Roots Music Festival in Byron Bay, Australia. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images

More than 60 years after they first came together, The Blind Boys of Alabama's members continue to inspire generations of music lovers with a message of hope, inspiration, and perseverance. The group got its start performing in the black churches, schools, and auditoriums of the segregated south, but now enjoys a huge mainstream following.

"We knew our place," says Jimmy Carter, a founding member of the group.

The group traces its gospel roots to a school for the blind in Talladega, Ala., where its members sang in a choir. In 1944, they branched out on their own as the Happy Land Jubilee Singers. After winning a singing contest, they later changed their name to The Blind Boys of Alabama.

Since a somewhat humble start, the group has earned four Grammy awards.

Although is known worldwide for its gospel classics, it's also reaching out to new generations of music lovers.

"Contemporary [music] is the music of today," says Ricky McKinney, who's been with the group for 20 years.

But Carter suggests that the group will always be most attached to its spiritual roots, noting that it once turned down an opportunity to sing secular music.

"We were designated to sing gospel songs," he says.

The men recently took their act to New Orleans for their newest album, Down in New Orleans, with a special message for people of the region who still struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"We don't know how to use a hammer and a nail, but we can bring hope to you through our music," Carter says.

Written and produced for the Web by Lee Hill.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.