The legendary Clarence Fountain, who started singing in the school chorus with the gospel choir group when he was just nine-years-old all the way back in 1939, has died at the age of 88.
During his stellar career, the man who was seen as the leader of the Blind Boys Of Alabama won five Grammys and countless other awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
With Fountain at the helm, the Blind Boys rose from humble beginnings to the pinnacles of musical achievement - winning multiple Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and an NEA National Heritage Fellowship, as well as being inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and performing at the White House.
In the early 1960s, the band sang at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and was a part of the soundtrack to the Civil Rights movement.
In 1983, they received national acclaim for their performance in the Off-Broadway stage production of Gospel at Colonus, a contemporary musical adaptation of the Greek traged Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles set in a black Pentecostal church
The 1990s saw the beginning of a creative rebirth for the band. In 1992, the group received its first Grammy nomination for the album 'Deep River,' produced by Booker T. Jones. The Blind Boys take on Bob Dylan's "I Believe in You" on that album set the stage for more covers of mainstream songs.
The Blind Boys signed with Peter Gabriel's Real World Record and the label’s initial release, "Spirit of the Century," won the band their first Grammy Award for Best Traditional Gospel Album in 2001.
They won consecutive Grammys in each of the next three years with "Higher Ground" in 2002, "Go Tell It on the Mountain" in 2003 and "There Will Be a Light" (a collaboration with Ben Harper) in 2004.
In 2009, the band was recognized with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Fountain and the Blind Boys recorded with an astounding array of artists, including Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, k.d.lang, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Susan Tedeschi, Aaron Neville and Mavis Staples.
"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," said Blind Boys manager Charles Driebe.
Let's celebrate the life of Clarence Fountain, a founding member of the long-running Blind Boys of Alabama who died Sunday in Baton Rouge at 88. https://t.co/FH3kCZXQuZ Part of the same band since the 1930s! pic.twitter.com/AKWsoVTZjk— Ted Gioia (@tedgioia) June 5, 2018
"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."