Nov. 28, 1929
Clarence Fountain was a student during the 1940s at the segregated Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega when he and four friends formed a gospel singing group. They were first known as the Happy Land Jubilee Singers but later changed the name to the Blind Boys. They soon built a reputation on the gospel circuit, with Fountain as the leader. For decades, the group stuck to their gospel roots despite pleas from some producers to branch out. At the same time, their joyous noise attracted a following among major performers from multiple musical genres, including Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson and Aaron Neville. In the 1990,s the group began to spread its musical wings, covering songs by Reed, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Jimmy Cliff, among others. Fountain had a “deep, versatile voice that became weathered over the decades,” the New York Times said in his 2018 obituary, with a “sound as explosive as James Brown.” In 1994, the Blind Boys were awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Their “Spirit of the Century” record earned the 2001 Grammy for best traditional gospel album. The group went on to win four more Grammys before receiving a lifetime achievement award in 2009 from the Recording Academy. Fountain died of complications from diabetes in a hospital near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 88.
Read more at The New York Times.
For more on Alabama’s bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.