GALVESTON — If you love good gospel music, make sure you get your tickets to a concert featuring The Blind Boys of Alabama on June 28 at The Grand 1894 Opera House.
The Grammy-Award winning quintet, which has been performing for 75 years, is in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame and is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. The group formed at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, Ala.
Jimmy Carter joined the group in 1944.
“My career began in 1944 when I started singing in the Glee Club at the school; that is where we all met,” Carter said. “I always enjoyed singing songs at church with my family. When I had the opportunity to sing with The Blind Boys of Alabama and bring a message to the people, I knew that was my calling.”
The group now includes Carter, Ben Moore, Eric “Ricky” McKinnie, Paul Beasley and Joey Williams, who sings and plays guitar. Clarence Fountain, one of the original members, doesn’t get to tour because of health problems.
“Our audience is our inspiration,” Carter said. “We’re hoping that people come out to the performance on June 28th. We want to make you move! Clap your hands, stomp your feet and jump up, if you want to. That’s what we’re all about. Who can ever get enough of that?”
While most people would think that blindness is a severe handicap, members of the group have a different approach.
“Ricky McKinnie, one of our other singers, sums it up best,” Carter said. “He says: ‘Our disability doesn’t have to be a handicap. It’s not about what you can’t do; it’s about what you do. And what we do is sing good gospel music.”
The singers have performed at benefits for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and for Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who invited them in 2010 to celebrate music from the Civil Rights Movement.
Combining their loose definition of gospel music with other genres that include rock, pop, blues, funk and folk, the group has recorded with Peter Gabriel, Ben Harper and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
“My advice to aspiring musicians would be to listen to their heart,” Carter said. “I would encourage them to create uplifting music that spreads cheer and fills out the soul with good music — whatever genre it may be.”
For the past month, the group has been in the studio working on a Christmas CD set.
“We’ve won five Grammys and four Gospel Music Awards,” Carter said. “We appreciate the accolades and we thank God for them. We had no idea when we started that we would make it this far. We will continue singing gospel music because that is what we love to do. And when you love what you do that keeps you motivated. It keeps you alive!”
Community news editor Angela Taylor-Wilson can be reached at email@example.com or 409-683-5239.
The Blind Boys of Alabama
WHEN: 8 p.m. June 28
WHERE: The Grand 1894 Opera House, 2020 Postoffice St., Galveston
TICKETS: start at $22. Visit www.thegrand.com or call 409-765-1894 or 800-821-1894.