I'm nearly a month late to note it, but George Scott of the Blind Boys of Alabama died March 9. If it's possible to be a hip gospel group, then the Blind Boys are the hippest holy men around—and deservedly so. I've seen them play twice, in 1997 and in 2001, and they're pretty much the best live act in the universe.
The core group, only two of whom remain today, started singing together in 1939; they were stars on the gospel circuit in the '50s, and they've enjoyed three waves of crossover success in the last 25 years. The first came with Lee Breuer's 1983 play The Gospel at Colonus, which reimagined Oedipus Rex as a black church service with the Blind Boys as the Greek chorus. The second followed their profile-raising record Deep River, produced by Stax organist Booker T. Jones in 1992. The third began when they signed with Peter Gabriel's RealWorld label in 2001, unleashing an amazing series of CDs that continues with the just-released Atom Bomb.
If you own their 2001 album Spirit of the Century, cue up track three, the old spiritual "Run On For a Long Time." That's George Scott on the lead vocals, sounding like a wizzened old rapper who's just found God. It's one of the best recordings of the new century, sung by one of the best singers of the last one. May he rest in peace.