Filed Under:

Gospel's Blind Boys Meet Changing Times With Open Minds

Play associated audio

The men behind the new album I'll Find a Way may be in their 70s and 80s today — but they're still The Blind Boys of Alabama.

The original members of the gospel group met in the 1930s at at the Alabama Institute for the Blind. Since then, The Blind Boys have won five Grammys and plenty of other awards for their music. Jimmy Carter — the musician, not the former president — was there from the beginning.

"When the Blind Boys started out, we weren't even thinking about all these accolades and all that stuff," says Carter. "We just wanted to get out and sing gospel and tell the world about gospel music. But changes came and we had to change with the times."

That's no small undertaking, considering the times their music has lived through. They formed in the Jim Crow era, lent their voices to the civil rights movement, and have now witnessed the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

"I was never fortunate enough to meet Dr. King, but we were at some of his rallies and I hope that our music helped to change what was," he says. "We've come a long way. We've got a long way to go but we've come a long way — and I hope that we've been a part of that."

I'll Find a Way features some gospel favorites, but there are a few modern selections as well. That may be the influence of the album's producer, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

"I've been kind of on a roll doing my own thing for a while," Vernon says, "and I hadn't had that magical opportunity in life to sort of be tested by a great thing. Making a record with The Blind Boys of Alabama was that great thing for me, and I truly tried to step up to that plate."

For Jimmy Carter to work with a young artist is a wonder all its own: He told NPR a few years ago that he wasn't the greatest fan of contemporary music. Now, he seems to be coming around.

"I have an old saying," Carter says. "The mind is like a parachute: It works better when it's open."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit


Not My Job: We Ask The Choreographer Of 'The Lion King' About Lying Kings

We recorded the show in Rochester, N.Y., this week, which is home to the Garth Fagan Dance company. We'll ask acclaimed choreographer Garth Fagan three questions about really deceitful people.

Migrants Work To Hold Onto Latin Food History In Gentrifying D.C. Neighborhood

A restaurant in Washington D.C. that has long been a haven for Central American immigrants is adapting to gentrification in the neighborhood.

Bitter And Contested Elections In America's History

Presidential historian at Vanderbilt University Thomas Schwartz discusses the history of peaceful transfers of political power in American presidential elections, going back more than 200 years.

TIMELINE: AT&T's Merger With Time Warner Follows Decades Of Industry Deals

The $85.4-billion merger of a telecom and a media giants is the latest in the web of consolidation, spurned offers and spin-offs that are increasingly interlinking the two industries.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.