Blind Boys of Alabama’s Clarence Fountain Dead at 88
Clarence Fountain, co-founder of the Blind Boys of Alabama, died in Louisoana at the age of 88, the band announced.
While no cause of death was reported, a statement said he’d been admitted to a hospital on June 1 before his death two days later.
“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,” the band noted.
Fountain entered the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind in 1937, where he and four friends formed the Happy Land Jubilee Singers, who went on to record the hit single “I Can See Everybody’s Mother but Mine” in 1948. The group changed its name soon afterward to the one that's lasted all these years.
Fountain continued to tour until 2007, when health issues forced him off the road, but he still recorded and appeared on the Blind Boys of Alabama's most recent record, last year’s Almost Home. “That album grew out of the recognition that the band's original lineup was down to just two remaining survivors: longtime group leader Fountain and current leader Jimmy Carter,” the statement explained.
“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," manager Charlies Driebe said. "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."
Driebe added that Fountain had once said that his “theory is do something good in the end and that will close out your longevity. After that, you can go on home and sit down."
Over the years, the Blind Boys of Alabama recorded alongside George Clinton, Peter Gabriel, Chrissie Hynde, Lou Reed, Richard Thompson and Tom Waits. Their version of Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" later became the theme song for one season of the TV show The Wire.