A surprising number of blind African American singers came from the gospel tradition to influence not just sacred music, but blues, bluegrass, and popular music up to and beyond rock and roll. Host David Marash brings us the stories, music, and insight from the blind gospel tradition that transformed American song and gave it soul. Friday, February 15 at 9am on WEMU. This program features the Blind Boys of Alabama, Arizona Dranes, Blind Willie Johnson, Ray Charles, and the Reverend Gary Davis.
In addition to the Blind Boys and Ray Charles, lesser-known performers like Flora Molton—who survived by singing on the streets of Washington DC and became an anti-war activist–and Reverend Gary Davis whose “holy blues” influenced Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan made their contributions to American music. While their fans saw them as mystical, larger-than-life figures, these performers spent much of their energy just trying to survive in a sighted world.