Clarence Fountain, founding member and longtime leader of the iconic gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama died the morning of June 3rd in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was 88.
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.
Due to declining health brought on by complications of diabetes, Fountain stopped touring with the band in 2007 but continued to record with them when able. In 2017, Fountain sang on the Blind Boys’ latest album, “Almost Home.” That album grew out of the recognition that the band’s original lineup was down to just two remaining survivors: long-time group leader Fountain and current leader Jimmy Carter.
The Blind Boys of Alabama are a much loved and always welcome act at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest, where they last appeared in 2016.
“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. “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.”
Fountain is survived by his wife, Barbara.