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The Blind Boys of Alabama are known around the world as living legends of gospel music.
The original group formed back in 1939 at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind. Over the decades, The Blind Boys have traveled the world to perform. They've sung for presidents, recorded with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Randy Travis, Peter Gabriel and even Prince. They've been inducted into the Gospel Hall of Fame. They perform Friday night at the Berklee Performance Center.
Anthony Brooks: This group originally formed in 1939, more than 70 years ago. FDR was president. What keeps you guys going in this enterprise?
Ricky McKinnie: This is what we love doing. We love seeing the people come out and have a good time. And we brought up in the church so what keeps us going — the thing that people enjoy what we do and as long as people enjoy, we’re going to keep on doing it.
Jimmy Carter, you’ve referred to your voice, your singing, being an instrument of God. That keeps you going too, I guess.
Jimmy Lee Carter: It does. I think this is my calling. I was born without sight. My parents had six boys and all of the boys could see except me, so I wondered why. I questioned God about that. But I realized why I am like I am. I believe if I had been able to see, I wouldn’t be doing this. So this is what He wanted to do; this is what I’m going to do until He says that’s enough.
Tell us how this group came to be. The School for the Blind, where you were as a very young man, at first didn’t welcome the idea of the singing group.
Jimmy Lee Carter: They didn’t welcome it; they wanted us to get an education. We had to sneak off the campus. We had soldiers camped out in Talladega at that time, and every Sunday afternoon we would sneak off and sing to the soldiers — you know, they would give us money. But, you know, we were born to sing. This is a gift that God gave us, and this is just something we had to do — was no way around it.
This segment aired on March 23, 2012.
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