The history of Gospel music is rich in the South and Mississippi was the training ground for a premiere group of Gospel singers named the Five Mississippi Blind Boys. Started in 1936 with students from the Piney Wood Mississippi School For The Blind, located near Jackson, MS, the Mississippi Blind Boys got their start singing at local weddings and church revivals. Decades later, they are one of the most enduring Gospel groups in the history of the genre.
One of the first Gospel ensembles to hit the Billboard R&B charts, they have sung in 48 countries, received accolades – including two GRAMMY Award Nominations, and shared the stage with Bobby Womack and Stevie Wonder. Now the group is continuing the legacy with a brand new single from their upcoming X-tratainment, Inc. CD, Traditions. The first single from the forthcoming release is called “If We Had Love”.
Taking the classic sound of the quartet ensemble and merging it with a contemporary style and instrumentation, “If We Had Love” has a message focused on unity. The rhythmic, up-tempo track is led by Mississippi Blind Boys member Willie Moody, who is also the song’s writer.
“As I look at the crime rate and the terrible things happening in this world, it’s heartbreaking. What we really need is more love; love is the key. If we had more love in our hearts, the world would be a better place.” The song was initially penned as a jingle for a politician who was running for office. Moody took the core message of the song and expounded upon it. The popularity of the tune led it to ultimately become the CD’s lead single.
In addition to “If We Had Love”, the 11-track release, Traditions, contains old-time Gospel songs and fresh approaches to some popular tunes. “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”, an inspirational classic, gets a musical facelift from the Blind Boys and songs like “Getting Better All The Time” and “Motherless Children” will find the traditional Gospel music lover clapping their hands in praise. Produced by members of the group, the new project is expected to drop in February 2014.
Showcasing smooth harmonies and spine-tingling performances, the Mississippi Blind Boys still maintain the dynamic presence and vocal prowess they had when the group started. The ensemble includes members Sandy Foster, Curtis Foster, Leroy White, Willie Moody, Darnell King and Terry Davis. Sandy Foster is the group’s spokesman and a 43-year member. When asked about the purpose of the Mississippi Blind Boys, Foster doesn’t flinch.
“The group’s goal is to save souls and spread the love of Jesus through song,” shares Sandy. Curtis Foster, Sandy’s brother and a former member of the Blind Boys of Alabama, concurs. “We love sharing the Gospel. Sometimes when we go to a foreign country, we don’t know the language. Sometimes they don’t understand us and we don’t understand them, but when we say the name ‘Jesus’, that name transcends every language.”
Spanning over seven decades, the Five Mississippi Blind Boys were originally named The Cotton Blossom Singers. Later they became known as the Jackson Harmoneers and then the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Now known as the Mississippi Blind Boys, all of the original members have passed on. But today’s group members carry on the mission of the founding singers.
Influenced by the Soul Stirrers, the guys were known for songs like “I’m Not Going To Shut Up”, “Leave You In The Hands Of The Lord”, “When Praises Go Up, Blessings Come Down” and “Thank God For Mama”. In addition to their two GRAMMY Award Nominations (in 1974 and 1976) and the Stellar Award they received, they have been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. In 2013, the ensemble received the Gospel Music Workshop of America’s Pioneering Award.
Sandy Foster is thrilled about the new release and believes it will bless the listener. He says, “I have been with the group for 43 years, and I think this is the best CD the group has ever made”. More information about the Mississippi Blind Boys can be found at www.mississippiblindboys.com and on Facebook and Twitter (@BoysBlind).