Longtime Blind Boys of Alabama singer Ben Moore dies at 80

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Singer Benjamin Moore, Jr., a lifelong musician who spent 14 years as a member of the Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group, died last week on May 12. He was 80 years old.

Representatives of the Blind Boys of Alabama confirmed Moore’s death, adding that he died of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His bandmate, Ricky McKinnie, said: “The Blind Boys family is deeply saddened by Ben’s passing. He was an integral part of our group, not only as a talented singer, but also as a kind and reliable friend. Although he will be greatly missed, I am grateful for the years of memories.

Moore joined the Blind Boys of Alabama in 2008, though he arrived with decades of musical experience under his belt. Born Aug. 7, 1941, in Atlanta, his father, Benjamin Moore, Sr., led the gospel group Echoes of Zion, and young Moore was singing and playing guitar at age 14. Some of his early gigs were with the Moore family band. , who performed around Atlanta, including a few gigs for Martin Luther King, Jr.

From there, Moore played in various R&B groups, such as Jimmy Tig and the Rounders, as well as Ben and Spence, which he founded in 1968 with Spencer James. In the mid-’70s, famed songwriter Dan Penn introduced Moore to James Purify, and he eventually replaced the “original” Bobby Purify in the soul duo, James and Bobby Purify. The couple made two albums together and toured in the 80s.

During this time, Moore also came out as a solo artist, sometimes recording under the name Bobby Purify and sometimes under his own name. Moore released an R&B album and three gospel records, and in 1983 his song, “He Believes in Me”, was nominated for Best Soul Gospel Performance – Traditional at the Grammys (though he lost to “Precious Lord” from ‘Al Green).

However, in the 90s, Moore’s eyesight began to deteriorate and she eventually disappeared due to glaucoma. His musical career exploded and, as a 2014 profile in the Tampa Bay Weather noted, he also lost his home. Moore received support from friends, who welcomed him and encouraged him to start playing music again. A friend, a blind drummer and businessman who sold software for the blind, even put Moore in touch with his longtime client, Ray Charles.

“He said to me, ‘Don’t sit still, you have a voice, use it! ‘” Moore recalled. “And you know what? I think his words took me out of this deep thing I was in, this fear where I wouldn’t even leave the house.

In 2005, Moore reunited with Penn, who produced a new Bobby Purify album, Better have it. Several years later, he was lucky enough to audition for the Blind Boys of Alabama, and in Moore’s account, he secured the spot by singing “There Must Be a Heaven Somewhere” by Dr. Lawrence B. Hicks in all the keys of the group leader. , Jimmy Carter, called.

For a final act in an already long career, Moore’s stint with the Blind Boys of Alabama was successful. He sang on five albums with the Blind Boys of Alabama, the first being in 2008 Down in New Orleans, which won the Grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album. He toured frequently with the band, and in 2010 was able to perform at a special White House event celebrating the music of the civil rights movement. Moore was still singing with the Blind Boys of Alabama during their recent tour with Afropop band, Amadou and Mariam, which just wrapped up earlier this month.

In this Tampa Bay Weather interview, Moore opened up about his love for music, suggesting he might keep performing “until I hit the stage”. He added, “For the rest of my life, man. Singing is all I know, and I love making people laugh and cry, jump and scream.

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