PEMBROKE — The Blind Boys of Alabama have been performing concerts for seven decades.
Along the way, they’ve performed for three different U.S. presidents, earned five Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
The legendary performers will open the 2019-20 Givens Performing Arts Center Professional Artist Season on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $21 to $31.
The Blind Boys of Alabama have been called “pioneers” by NPR and they’ve been inducted in to the Gospel Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone called them “gospel titans,” TIME Magazine said “they’re always hunting for — and finding — the perfect note or harmony that lifts an old tune into the sublime,” and The New Yorker simply called them “legendary.”
Members of the group first met at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind, and in 1948, they released their debut record. Since then they have performed on more than 70 albums, at least 65 of them their own. Their collaborations have been with a veritable list of who’s who in music, including Prince, Tom Waits, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and Peter Gabriel.
“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,” Blind Boys manager Charles Driebe said. “But they’ve 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.”
GPAC Director James Bass said the opening performance of this season is an important one.
“The Blind Boys of Alabama have built a solid career of accomplishment and achievement despite their obstacles and limitations. It’s an honor to have them open our season,” Bass said. “We are committed to bringing shows of excellence to our region, and this also happens to be a region that loves gospel, and it doesn’t get better than The Blind Boys.”
In addition to their Grammy wins, the group has been nominated several times, including in 2017, for the Best Americana Roots Performance for “Let My Mother Live” from their album “Almost Home.” They received the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind in 2005.
The event is supported by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Robeson County Arts Council.
Other season performances at GPAC include Extreme Escapes And Illusions on Sept. 20 and “Queen Nation: A Tribute to Queen” on Oct. 11.
Visit www.uncp.edu/gpac to see the full list of shows coming this season or call 910-521-6361.