A Round of Applause for the Joy Givers: The Blind Boys of Alabama

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The Blind Boys of Alabama (www.blindboys.com)

HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! We always need more smiles, music and laughter. This fun series salutes those seriously unsolemn people, places and things that bring joy to the world. Starting during the pandemic, an oft joy-challenged time, readers are introduced to present-day joy givers and reminded of cherished joy givers of the past. Each salute will have online links to add more opportunities for happiness in the comfort of your socially-distanced home. Many installments of the series will include a salutary food or drink recipe to add another element of pleasure.

The “SHIELD THE JOYOUS” shields, which will be given to those honored or to their family, are inspired from a passage in “The Book of Common Prayer” (1662). Prayers are lifted to “tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying…and shield the joyous.” Joy givers are precious. Let us preserve them, protect them, treasure them, smile with them, laugh with them, tap our toes with them and give them A ROUND OF APPLAUSE.

PLEASE GIVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR: THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA

The Grammy Award-winning gospel group, THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA, also known as THE FIVE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA, began giving joy to the world together in a choir at The Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind in Talladega, Alabama in 1939. Over time the constellation of members has changed, but their joy-giving spirit has been an unchanged optimistic harmony expressed by group member, Ricky McKinnie, “Our disability doesn’t have to be a handicap. It’s not about what you can’t do. It’s about what you can do. And what we do is sing good, gospel music good.”

I first learned about THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA when I worked at The Alabama Library for the Blind (Talladega) in the early 1970s. And I was proud to be with them on a “60 Minutes” television segment hosted by Dan Rather. They were the ones on stage giving joy to the rafters for a jam-packed crowd, and I was beaming ear-to-ear in the audience being carried into the heavens with that jubilant, spirit-filled band of angels. These fellows are music classicists and innovators. One of my favorite songs they rock is a version of the old hymn, “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun.”

THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA have won five Grammy Awards including “The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.” These nationally and internationally treasured joy-givers have performed with Prince, Lou Reed, Bonnie Raitt, Ben Harper and countless other stars. The legendary talents are known in the music industry as “singers’ singers.” YouTube a performance of them joining falsetto-great Aaron Neville on the Christmas favorite, “Joy To The World,” when they performed at The Jazz Preservation Hall” in New Orleans and prepare to have your own spirit lifted. They’ve filled the White House with joy and hope under both Republican and Democrat presidents.

Here is just a short list of joyous songs THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA have recorded:

–BEAMS OF HEAVEN

–WHEN THE LORD GETS READY (You Got to Move)

–ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE

–I SAW THE LIGHT (performed with fellow Alabamian, Hank Williams, Jr.)

–FREE AT LAST

–MAKE A BETTER WORLD

–UNCLOUDY DAY

–TAKE THE HIGH ROAD (featuring The Oak Ridge Boys)

–IF I COULD HELP SOMEBODY

–BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER

–GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN (with Aaron Neville)

–THERE’S A REASON WE CALL IT CHRISTMAS (with Taj Mahal)

 

FREE YOUTUBE ROUND-UP OF JOY by THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA: “National Public Radio Tiny Desk Concert” (16 minutes); “I Can See Everybody’s Mother But I Can’t See Mine” (this is one of the group’s biggest hits, 3:34 minutes); “Spirit In The Sky” (their splendid version of the 1970 Norman Greenbaum hit, 3 minutes); “RIP Clarence Fountain, Lead Singer of The Blind Boys Of Alabama” (documentary with Dan Rather (13 minutes); a much more on YouTube including “full shows.”

Since it formed in 1939, this group has toured throughout the United States. Please join me in giving them “A ROUND OF APPLAUSE” and enjoy this recipe for:

BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA TOUR BUS BREAKFAST GRANOLA

stock photo/Pixabay

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg white
  • ¼ cup packed light-brown sugar
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ¾ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped, Alabama pecans
  • ¼ cup flaxseeds
  • 2 Tablespoons fine flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground, Hebrew cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Whisk egg white to frothy in a large bowl and then whisk in brown sugar, maple syrup and olive oil.
  3. Add oats, coconut, pecans, flaxseeds, flour, cinnamon and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. Line a 9” x 13” baking sheet or pan with parchment and firmly press the mixture into the pan.
  5. Bake about 45 minutes until golden and crisp.
  6. Let cool completely. Break into pieces.
  7. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to a week or freeze for up to a month.

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Ben South